In a post last month in which I asked when will we be able to distinguish treachery from fidelity, I wrote —
There is something deeply depressing about a nation that does not recognize merit, that is unable to distinguish between loyalty and treachery. We have a long way to go before we become a modern civilized nation.
To which a friend emailed me saying, “You hit it. We’re not a modern civilized nation. Not only do I think we are not modern and civilized but I think those qualities are declining. The Indian state is made up of the same people that constitute Indian society. Ergo, how is endogenous change possible?” I wrote back in reply and here’s my response, for the record.
How is endogenous change possible is a great question.
I think that generally humanity advances not in lock step but in a staggered fashion. There are sections of the global population that endogenously advance in terms of becoming more civilized and more modern (both words being appropriately defined.)
Once that advance guard has established a camp, the laggards slowly move to that camp. By then, those who led would have moved further ahead. For the trailing segment, the change is catalyzed exogenously. We see others and even the dullest of us can figure out eventually that some ways of living are superior to other ways.
Let me illustrate that process in a different domain. Some societies develop and adopt the science and technology that push the boundaries.This is endogenous advance. The other societies which did not participate in the development adopt the technologies with some lag. So in time, regardless of who developed the technology, everyone adopts them.
The most accessible illustrative example of this phenomenon is certainly the adoption of information and communications technology.
Parts of the world are somewhat civilized and are continuing the journey. Other parts will eventually catch up. I believe that in about 100 years, all of the world will be at least as civilized as the currently most civilized parts of the world today. However, some parts of the world will still be more civilized than other parts. But there will never be uniformity — in any area.
I think that in 100 years, there will be no poverty though there will be rich people and poor people (relative to the rich, of course.) Poverty will decline and eventually disappear. In a similar way I believe that even the most uncivilized parts of the world today will become civilized (though they may never become stellar examples of anything at all.)
That’s how I feel. Therefore that’s how I naturally think. Which is what I usually do: feel first and rationalize later.