Tayzwi

Should be reading more and writing less, but well...

Monday, February 21, 2005

 

Manufacture of Consent?

Currently a very heated discussion is on in the IITB.general newsgroup here at IIT-Bombay. The topic is somewhat pertaining to the lack of academic and research interest of undergraduate (UG) students (as compared to postgraduate (PG)), and their building interest in extra-curricular activities. Replying to the "IIT-B.Tech-praised-by-press-across-the-world" comment by some UG, one of the professors replied that both the Indian and the US presses are biased and self serving, or serving some kind of big-brother of sorts. These presses want go glorify BTech education in IITs, and not bother about MTech and PhDs, and esp any form of research conducted in IISc, and IITs. Why is it that we never hear about IISc in the Indian Media? Is it cuz it is sub-standard? Think again!

I have put the entire text of the professor's IIT newsgroup posting in this blog entry. Make sure you read the last section about Indian Media, and self-censorship. The posting was titled "Mysterious sedition on part of Indian Press," and here is the full text.

After reading that, followed by summaries and excerpts of Manufacturing of Consent, I was put into some deep thought regarding what I personally think are cool in this world. Here are a few questions that I asked myself:

- Why do Star Movies/HBO rarely play non-American movies (with English subtitles) ?

- Same applies to TV series on AXN/StarWorld/etc

- Why do I know the Fifth Ammendment of the US consitution? (courtesy TV series - The Practice)

- Why do I care about Mardi Gras?

- Why am I charmed by NYC so much?

- Why do I understand the American accent better than I understand, say British?

- Whatever happened to Varsha Bhosle and Rajeev Sreenivasan and other columnists of that ilk on Rediff.com?

- How come European sites never get listed as frequently on Google's search results as are American sites. Trust me, this is more common than you'd notice, and you wouldn't notice it probably cuz of the what you are reading right now.

- etc. etc.

I do not deny the non-American influence on me, and of course, the native Indian/Kannada/Bangalore/Family influence on me is perhaps the strongest; but the proactive pro-American influence on my thinking, actions, personality and what I spread as my sphere of influence on others, is incredibly high, done subtly and is very effective - startling!!

I really need to rework myself. Never knew that I, as an individual, had a ghost of an elder brother.

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Comments:
maga....tumba khushi aaythu e post odi.
 
http://my-own-boss.blogspot.com (Samba) commented:

Well ... Amigo.
I've repeatedly warned you against profound stuff. However, you seem hung up on it.

But this is a post that is thought provoking, not only to you. It's true that the widespread Americanization makes other cultures and other ppls feel like dark horses. It's a real old phenomenon, which nevertheless doesn't fail to disturb.

A lot of us know a lot more about John Wayne westerns than we do about Shankar Nag movies (altho the latter is arguably better at acting and movie-making). And no. I ain't being no KAnnada fanatic in here, despite being one at the heart of hearts.

In acads, we do case studies on Coke and IBM and General Motors and not on Reliance and Infosys, despite the fact that the latter are rich in terms of what lessons they can teach.

Donald Trump is frequently our swashbucking business icon and not Vijay Mallya.

We are bigger fans of Friends than we used to be of Crazy Colonel.

We read The Da Vinci Code and rave about the style and research that's gone into it. (By the way, I seem to know more about pagan and Jewish religions than Dan Brown does.) Seldom do we treat Mankuthimmana Kagga or Tha Ra Su's AAkasmika the same way we treat Da Vinci Code.

We know more about Jack Daniel's than we do about Remy Martin.

We are more comfy with burgers than we are about Burritos.

The list is endless.

I have a feeling (tho not an awfully educated one) that the answer lies in economics.

America is a deficit economy. So, American companies (which make up the biggest corporate segment in the world) make a lot of their moolah selling stuff to the American populace. And yes. The Americans are a consumer marketer's delight. They consume more than what they need to and what they can afford to. The deficit economy also has made America a wonderful destination for exports. And corporate America, with it's mammoth size buys everywhere and sells everywhere. The American consumers and corporates together form a formidable buying group (who obviously have to be pampered).

The deal is somewhat like this. American corporates like to pamper the American consumer. If they can sell the same stuff (entertainment, food, autos ....)elsewhere without having to reinvent their products and mktg strategies, they'd love to. That's precisely what's happening. Look at Baywatch. Rupert Murdoch can sell the skin of Pams and CJ to the Indian (sex starved) public, without changing anything at all. When we don't whole-heartedly accept stuff that is sold the Amrican way, the American corporates will look at localizing their offering. For example Chicken Tikka at KFC. In addition, Indian companies who sell things to the American public or the American corporates find it pragmatic to adjust themselves to the American culture. When companies do this, so do their employees, who form a big part of Urban India. This is especially relevant in BPO/IT sectors but is applicable to anything export-oriented. We all do this, how many of us haven't tried to cash in on the hobbies or other cultural moorings of our managers?

Even language helps the process Americanization. All former British colonies are Anglophone. So, the non-English speaking Europians can't sell their culture as easily as the Americans do. The French are going to have a tough time selling their movies or music or ads to English speaking peoples. Thus, when language is involved, the Anglo-American stuff sells best. Moreover, the culture in Europe is not as business oriented as in America. Even in this globalized era, German employers love to hire Germans and British employers love to hire the British. French govt loves to save French companies and French products, even at the cost of being protectionist. So, Europe is far less attractive a target for exports than it should have been. As a corollary, Europe can't heavily influence cultures abroad.

Americanization apart, I met Ramesh Ramanathan, the founder of Janaagraha and an alumnus of Yale. Pretty impressive guy. He does think too highly of himself. But that's OK. So do I anyways! There's one thing I envy in him. He has made his money, a handful crores and is now into Community Service full time. I had previously thought this might have been a platform for him to network with politicians for tangible/intangible gains. But no. When I asked him if Janaagraha has a revenue model, he firmly said NO and that he is out to spend the money he has made and have fun, while successfully handling the challenge of doing tangible, measurable community service, which is more challenging than corporate management. He also gave an interesting piece of business calculation. Janaagraha is dedicated to make sure that the public (govt) money is well spent. Bangalore's budget is about 1000 crores an year. I and my wife have put in about 5 crores into founding and running Janaagraha. If the money, manpower we have spent makes sure that atleast 100 crore of the 1000 crore in public money is well spent, we have done a good job. In my entire finance career in citibank, spanning 9 years, I haven't seen a business that churns out returns at the rate of 100 crore an year for 5 crore of initial capital. Only this 100 crore return is social and doesn't incur to an individual.
 
US rules bcoz history is (re?)written by the victor. Hear the mocking of Russian cosmonauts as some kind of substandard jokers in the media these days? A hundred years later, it will become a fact. Hitler was right atleast here. My take on this is America is desperate for an identity; its still a brash teenager trying to find its feet. Thats why the romanticization of the bloodthirsty Greeks and Romans. The Buddha with his inclusive philosophy would have been a better example to follow.

Indians are uncouth because they have no sense of history, and we will be condemned to repeat it until we learn to be proud (not spking abt egoistic pride). My country, my people need a dream so bad. And someone to sell that dream to the people. Chandrayaan? When Vidya and me had been to Egypt, I find the ppl proud of their history. Quietly proud. We are blessed with so much history that we forget it. But then when millenia of history doesnt help you meet ends, what use is to me? Survival is my priority, what do I do with a dream? It just makes my life tougher. Shashi Tharoor starts off the Great Indian Novel saying our civilization is not backward but highly evolved in a high state of decay. Strokes my inherent ego and boosts my identity, but I wonder whether what he says is true. Hv to read the entire book to find out.

At the end of the day, the mind will always try to move on when it is not satisfied (Matrix anyone??) Europe, from what little I have seen of it, is so well balanced. They dont have millenia of history so they just have enough to be proud of it.
 
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