I think nothing better reveals character than things that a person gets worked up about and is upset by. Perhaps that holds good at the level of the collective as well. I believe that people are more propelled to act on their revulsions than their attractions because the former protects them from harm and has survival value. People more often take to the streets against a negative (or a perceived negative) than for a positive. What brought this to mind was a recent column TIME magazine column by Joel Stein.
It seems many readers were sufficiently provoked to write to TIME about their displeasure, and in response TIME added a post script to the piece saying “We sincerely regret that any of our readers were upset by Joel Stein’s recent humor column “My Own Private India.” It was in no way intended to cause offense.” Stein added, “I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people,” and explained that he was uncomfortable about how Indian immigration to his hometown Edison NJ had changed it.
I too would be upset if my hometown was taken over by a bunch of immigrants who were not people like me. That’s human nature: we like people like us. So I can easily understand where Mr Stein is coming from. That he expresses his xenophobic thoughts in his column read by tens of thousands is surprising and refreshing in an age of hyper-active political correctness.
Here’s the odd part: the vast majority of people — including those who took offense at the column — will feel the same way if they were to put themselves in Mr Stein’s shoes. So, I think it is at least a little bit hypocritical that they are throwing stones at him. They could empathize with him and get on with their lives.
Instead, they are demanding that TIME remove the column and Stein apologize. (See this news item in The Pioneer of 7th June for more. I should mention that the item heading — “TIME apologizes to Indian-Americans” — is misleading. TIME regretted that the article upset some people; it did not regret the publication of the article. That distinction does make a difference.)
Anyhow, there you are. People not happy that someone has expressed an opinion that makes them a wee-bit uncomfortable. I suspect that there’s more than a little bit of truth in what Stein claims, and that is what is upsetting about the piece.
In the list of things that one should get upset about, Stein’s column must rate very low. His was just an opinion frankly — although a bit awkwardly — expressed about a matter of fact. If you consider the matter for a bit, Indians are immigrants in the US in such large numbers because they seek economic opportunities not available to them in India. The reasons for India’s backwardness and poverty should be the primary concerns of Indians and there’s where all the upset and outrage ought to be.
I don’t know why we Indians don’t get outraged by reports of massive endemic corruption by politicians. Why isn’t there huge popular protests about that? Why do people tolerate that? Why don’t Indians refuse to vote corrupt and criminal people into political office? Why does the country as a whole tolerate a despicably dishonest man as the prime minister who takes his orders from an Italian woman?
The reason India is poor is because the collective wisdom of the Indians elects “leaders” who are incompetent and cannot make choices that would create wealth. Immigration to developed economies is a way out for a tiny minority. They do that despite facing many hardships — including vicious attacks against them in print and in person.
We have to get our priorities right and get outraged by what the politicians are doing to the country, not by an opinion piece by a columnist who is merely pointing out that his hometown is not what it used to be.