A while ago, a friend and I got into a discussion, wherein he seemed to be defending a lot of the chaos that exists in life in India, as a good thing; with the argument “India is a functioning anarchy”. Why should one be apologetic about it?
Today, I revisited some of the points I had made at the time, which I thought were worth sharing. I had titled my response thus:
My problem with the Chaos as virtue theory
Chaos works well in Nature. But even in nature, you find umpteen examples of order amidst the chaos: birds flying in formation, schools of fish, the regularity of the seasons, night and day, etc etc.
I am afraid that chaos in the human species more often than not implies a lack of courtesy, a lack of respect for the fellow being, & for society. This is what upsets me greatly.
Take for instance your own example (the IFFI event). The latecoming, the talking on phones while a speaker is addressing the gathering, all point to a complete lack of courtesy and of respect, a breakdown in civic sense which we are alarmingly accepting as "normal".
Same goes for our street scenes: unruly traffic with its disorderly flow, overtaking from all sides, leaning on horns. All this signify no respect for authority, for the next guy/gal on the road, whether pedestrian or motorist, or resident in the locality being traversed. Let’s not even get started on the garbage problem. Symptoms of the same broad underlying malaise: a lack of courtesy for the next guy/gal.
All this adds to everyday stress. Just the noise angle is the subject of so much medical research and study. I am looking into this myself, as it seriously is contributing to collective deafness of urban populations. I kid you not. It is difficult to measure and quantify, but it is very real.
This chaos, this lack of civic sense, percolates into everything. Our offices, attitudes of politicians, and other public figures. Here it gets even worse, as it now becomes a lack of respect for whole groups of people (religion, caste/class, language, insiders/outsiders).
To me this is not a virtue, but quite the opposite. It is a national shame.
Just because something is "normal" in a place, or country, doesn’t make it "OK", and something we should have to live with, just because "hey, this is how we do things here". If it implies a lack of respect for someone else, it isn’t OK, and shouldn’t be considered as such.
Because this seems to be the defiant defence of a lot of us here: We are like this only.
It is one thing to be proud of our roots, but to be irrationally proud of things that do us no credit, is false pride at best. Worse, it is overcompensating in response to the colonial era. So now, anything that "we" do, is so much better than what the "West" does.
This is true a lot of the time, but I have to draw the line when we cross acceptable levels of noise (health, safety, and sanity) of 80 dB, almost everywhere in the urban setting.
I have to draw the line on unsafe driving, which endangers everyone. It can’t be a cultural "trait", certainly not one to take pride in, even if it is?
I have to draw the line on not respecting another’s right to a quiet environment in a cinema, or a concert hall. That the opposite happens, as a "norm", doesn’t make it "normal".
The bottom line in all the above (and in the garbage problem) is a lack of respect or courtesy for the next person. And if this is a national trait, then it certainly makes me wish I belong to some other nation.
My hunch is that this, like so many other things in India, stems from the caste system. In the millennia gone by, it was acceptable for upper castes to do what they liked. If they littered, or waved someone aside, who cared? The lower guy was always there to clean up, or would get out of the path.
With upward mobility, the underdog now is in a position to behave like the "above" dog :-)
So everyone chucks something out the window, for the "other" guy to clean up. Everyone hurtles down the road, expecting the "other" guy to move out of the way.
So in effect, we are all "upper caste" and the "other guy", whoever it may be, is "lower caste". An untenable situation, and certainly not an enviable one.