Claudio Grass (CG): In such a vast and incredibly diverse country like India, can top-down measures and centralized policies like affirmative action or caste-based economic incentives effectively force social change and economic equality? Or can they be seen as merely symbolic moves, or perhaps just political maneuvers? (Note: Click here to read Part I of this interview)
Jayant Bhandari (JB): The government should get completely out of the business of social engineering. Even under a purely meritocratic system, India would be desperately short of leaders and competent bureaucrats. For example, India needs good doctors. Today, the best doctors emigrate, the second-best work for the Indian private sector, and those who know nothing, who usually get a certificate because of affirmative action policies, work for the public health system. This predicament is the reason why even the most impoverished Indians prefer to go to private hospitals, where their treatment costs might end up being more than what they earn in a year. Those who make, say, $50 a month, still find a way to send their children to private schools. The same dynamics are reflected in all institutions and all sectors. These policies have caused unimaginable destruction in the economy and in society at large.
You cannot elevate people, make them proud, self-respecting, and honorable by giving them free stuff and handouts. That way, you merely normalize begging and make it socially acceptable, thereby disincentivizing work and creating a permanent underclass. Decades of these policies have proven that you cannot force change from above, nor can you dismantle the caste system with a top-down approach. You can, however, make it lot worse and create new problems on top of the old ones, which is what the Indian government actually achieved. Today, free food, free electricity, and affirmative action in jobs, promotions, and university admissions have become such an integral part of the Indian state that they cannot be scaled back under India’s democratic setup.
So, what can be done about the caste system? As I said, tribalism afflicts the whole of Indian society, of which the caste system is only a part. Tribalism can go away only through an awakening in society. And that brings us to an extremely uncomfortable question: how to awaken people?
I returned to India in the early 90s, after my studies in the UK, hoping to participate in the Indian growth story. While I had a very successful career financially, and I contributed to bringing some well-paying jobs, I must admit that I failed to change the thinking of any Indian. How do you change people who are entrenched in materialism and hedonism? They have no interest in philosophy, in improving themselves, and in becoming a better member of society.
In this regard, the British were a blessing for India. Christian missionaries worked very hard, in challenging circumstances, to help awaken Indians, who were wallowing in magical thinking, superstition, the deeply entrenched caste system, and extremely backward social norms and customs, including the savage treatment of women in following the “sati” practice, i.e. the ceremonial burning of widows in the funeral pyre of their husbands.
A massive social shift happened in India under British guidance, mainly what is known as the “Bengal Renaissance”, which managed to make the sati system illegal, challenged the caste system, and encouraged great cultural, intellectual and artistic growth. Today, unfortunately, Bengal has erased all this progress and reverted to being a backwater, stagnant and regressive, mostly run by Marxist ideology.
Without the values the British brought and the work of the missionaries, the budding enlightenment fizzled out. I guess, even if the British had stayed put in India, there was a limit to which India could have been enlightened. Enlightening a society is not an easy job. It cannot be done in a couple of generations or even a couple of centuries. Europeans achieved very little cultural change in more than 300 years of their stay in India.
There is no moral and rational force present in the country today that can get rid of its tribalism. The vilest elements of India now run its institutions. It is this no wonder that tribalism is getting worse and all signs point to continuing degradation, eventually dragging India all the way back to its pre-British tribal dark ages.
If I had to make a recommendation, it would be to end all state-driven affirmative action policies in India altogether. The job of the government is to ensure law and order, not to force top-down social changes. The moral and legal boundaries set by a rational state, as was the case during the British times, would provide the right incentives and the structure for social awakening. But this is a utopian expectation, for how can you find good people and how can they reach positions of power, in a country where everyone votes on a tribal basis?
CG: In the Western world, we’re currently facing an extremely charged political climate, with protests, riots, and demands for change. Many of these demands are focused on the idea of different social and economic policies for different groups and on dividing society based on race, gender and other characteristics that one is simply born with and had no power over. Do you see a parallel there with the caste system?
JB: There certainly are a lot of parallels, except that the caste system in India is real, whereas racism in the US is very different from what it is made out to be. We simply cannot realistically compare the problems and the “lack of opportunity” one faces in US, no matter what the color of their skin might be, with the challenges that the majority of Indians face on a daily basis. BLM, Antifa and their ilk are idiotic movements run by losers who have no purpose in life, no skills, and who seek the thrill of destruction and abuse of others. Unable to build anything themselves, they derive a feeling of accomplishment by destroying civilization and its accumulated capital.
The radical Left has massively restricted freedom of speech in the US and the rest of the West. Anyone who does not go along with them is branded as racist and can expect to lose his job and social relationships. As a result, reasonable, sane people are afraid to speak up, to express their views or even to explore the validity of the claims made by BLM and similar groups, for they immediately risk getting “doxxed,” ostracized, and becoming a victim of “cancel culture.”
BLM, Antifa, and the radical Left are simply anti-civilization. Their members, by themselves, would have been ignored as nobodies and their ideas dismissed as lunatic. However, collectively, they managed to instill a climate of fear and intimidation and get tacit support from a sizeable part of the US population.
America is the greatest country on the planet. Life there is not perfect, but people who move to the US still see it as the land of opportunity. And it is. It is the most generous and open-minded country. Regardless of your skin color or your gender, you are very likely to get equal, or even preferential, treatment everywhere in the West, and particularly in the US. I have benefited hugely from this, and so have many people of color I have known.
The West is as good as it gets. I wasted many years of my life planning, and sometimes scheming, to get to the West. I can hardly think of anyone from Africa, Latin America, or the Indian sub-continent who would not sell himself into slavery or sell a kidney or two (if the latter were possible) just to get to the US.
Having lived in many different parts of the West over the last thirty years, I still cannot shake off the feeling of how much I could have achieved in life had I been born in the West. I feel sad for those who were extraordinarily lucky to have been born in the West, but still wasted their youth whining and fixating on its real or imagined failures to achieve total, utopian perfection, as if that is a realistic expectation.
As I mentioned earlier, affirmative action policies in India have achieved precisely the opposite of their stated goals. We see a parallel here with the situation in the US. The destruction of black families and incarceration among blacks has increased very significantly since the same sort of policies took hold there too, and since the adoption of a culture of low expectations from blacks and other people of color. Indeed, the worst kind of racism I have ever experienced is precisely this deeply offensive prejudice and this condescending assumption that I could not and should not be held to the same standards as everyone else. I find this attitude truly repulsive and I consider those who adopt it as hypocrites of the lowest order, as they like to cloak their racism in “good intentions”.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that there is likely no European today whose parents or grandparents did not suffer during the two great wars. Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians were interned during WW-II. Japan, as a country, was flattened by the US at the same time. So was Germany. How many Japanese do you know who live in the US or Japan who still blame the US for what they did? Proud people move on, develop competencies, outgrow limitations set by other people, and emerge victorious. They certainly don’t blame their failures on the real or imagined sufferings of their ancestors.
CG: You are in the rare position to have experienced the reality on the ground and the problems in both the Indian and western society. In your estimation, what are the biggest problems facing the US, Canadian or European society? Is it inequity and discrimination, or do we have other challenges that are perhaps being ignored?
JB: 41% of Canadians and 49% of Australians are first- or second-generation immigrants. 46% of Americans are of non-European origin. A vast majority of ethnically non-Europeans tend to vote for the Left and for the nanny state, with its promises of free stuff and control over the lives of other people. Many simply fail to understand in their hearts what western civilization is. They are merely interested in the fruits of western prosperity. But without the roots, the tree that bears the fruit will eventually disappear.
I cannot see how the US can avoid a civil war once Trump is gone. In fact, it might have already started. What is, even today, the best country in the world will take a sharp turn to the Left once Trump is gone. The best-case scenario would be that the red states will revolt and secede. This will, of course, not be the end of the problem, as the blue states, being non-productive and dependent, will still ask for reparations and tributes. As for Canada, I cannot see how it can stand on its own feet without the support of the US.
Over in Europe, there is still some hope that people may wake up and realize the political and economic implications of the disastrous immigration policy of the last few years. Of course, I am not suggesting that they should not help out refugees, but this must be done rationally, with a realistic plan and with an understanding that even refugees who have suffered hugely from oppressive regimes can still bring that same virus of totalitarianism and intolerance with them. Once these toxic ideas enter the body politic and achieve a critical mass in a democratic system, they can present a very serious threat to the western culture, its values and its moral foundations.
CG: In our last conversation, you mentioned that you’re more optimistic about East Asia, rather than the West, in your long-term view. What is the reasoning behind this position and what are the advantages you see there, especially from an investment point of view?
JB: East Asians have the highest average IQ in the world, they have an impressively strong work ethic, while civility and respect for others are ingrained in the culture and this is very clearly seen in everyday life. In Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, if your child is out by himself late at night, it is not a problem. Crime is virtually non-existent. In Singapore, for example, women leave their purses on the food court table to reserve their places while they go to pick up their order. These societies are incredibly polite, safe and respectful.
Social conformism is a part of their culture, but then, they are not busy-bodies. Their governments, quite in contrast to a wrongly held belief in the West, are largely non-intrusive. Overall, people there want to avoid confrontation and picking a fight as much as they can. No wonder I often feel freer in East Asia than I do in the West.
Also, technologically, East Asia is more advanced than the West. Hard work is a virtue, which is strongly encouraged, while begging is looked down upon. Complaining and expecting free stuff is seen as a sign of a lower culture, as it should be.
Although East Asians haven’t necessarily imported the philosophical values of the West, a lot of what’s good in the region, especially in a more practical sense, is a direct import from the classical western civilization. Ideas around work, productivity, personal responsibility, law and order, respect for other people and their property, all formed a solid foundation that has produced healthy societies and economies, and this is why I consider East Asia to be the safest and most productive home for my money.