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The disaster of ‘me, me’ by S Gurumurthy


This happened in Mangalore as February 14 — now marketed as Valentine’s Day by traders to sell their wares — was approaching.

Upset with public drinking by boys and girls, a freak by name Pramod Muthalik got mad. He got some of them in a pub beaten up like their parents would do, but unlike them. He had informed the media about his show so that the news cameras were in place to telecast the Muthalik action everywhere. Thus the Muthalik show was a joint venture between him and the media to keep away the state police, which could spoil the show. Predictably, the whole world pounced on poor Yeddyurappa who heads the BJP government in Karnataka for allowing Muthalik to take the law into his hands. The BJP, ever torn between its love of Hindu culture and its desire for a modern image, was greatly embarrassed. With the BJP in power in Karnataka, Muthalik knew the publicity value of his show. Had he enacted his theatre elsewhere, like when the Shiv Sena raided pubs years ago in Mumbai and Pune under the ‘secular’ Congress rule, it would have been far less noisy.

More. By just one mad act, Muthalik turned many, including a minister, into full-scale lunatics. Renuka Chowdhury, a minister of state, supported a “pub bharo andolan” to take on Muthalik, thus openly encouraging young boys and girls to take to mass drinking in public. And believe it or not, her portfolio is Women and Child Development. Came an even more mad response to Muthalik’s take on Valentine’s Day. “I support every kind of love, heterosexual, transgender, marital, extramarital”.

This is Arundhati Roy sermonising to youths. Why she left out incest from her catalogue of love is not clear. Now, take the secular media. It quickly equated pubgoing with individual rights, and held Muthalik as an offender against human rights. Evidently, the mad act of a freak Hindu in a distant corner of India is sufficient to turn the whole of secular India into lunatics. Now move away from this trivia to the danger to which Renukas and Arundhatis expose the nation’s economy.

The current Indian discourse on individual and human rights, which tends to smuggle in even gay and lesbian rights, apes the West. As India attempts to copy the West, it clearly misses the serious economic issues that confront West, thanks to its obsession with unfettered individual and human rights. Many in the West now seem to realise that continuously undermining the moral and social order has led to the present economic crisis. The West did not slide overnight. Beginning from the late 19th century, the Anglo-American West gradually moved away from a relation- based lifestyle to a contract-based lifestyle.

While culture and tradition govern relation, law and rights inhere in contracts.

And this move from relation to contracts became almost complete in the second half of the 20th century. With law overriding relations, even parents could not curb the rights of their wards once they legally matured.

It is the other way. If they acted against their wards, the law would punish the parents for child abuse. So contracts replaced relations, and rule of law substituted for moral order. To what effect? The rise of unfettered individualism and undefined feminism have led to the erosion of families and a rise in divorces, singleparent families, unwed mothers, lesbians, gays and almost the collapse of traditional families. Over 50 per cent of the first marriages, 67 per cent of the second marriages, and 74 per cent of the third marriages end in divorce in the US. Over 40 per cent of births are outside wedlock. Almost half of the families are headed by a single parent.

The number is more in most of Europe. It was seen as cultural erosion first. But slowly it has turned into an economic disaster.

The contract-based model undermined families and led to low or no household savings, high personal debt, credit card based living, outsourcing of household functions including kitchen work. The erosion in relation-based lifestyle soon imposed a huge social security burden on the state because the family mechanism that supported the unemployed, infirm, aged and the rest and the state had to step in to aid them. Thus the family functions were taken over by the state. The families were nationalised. The overburdened state consequently had to shed its traditional functions, like public works, and privatise itself.

The socialisation of family functions obviated the need to save for a rainy day and led to even lower savings. With the growth of individualism to the exclusion of kinship and relations, corporates and the state alike promoted unrestrained consumerism.

Result, some 110 millions US households have some 1.2 billion credit cards, almost a dozen cards per household.

As the people saved less and spent more, they got into trillions of dollars of private debt; and as the government spent more, it also ran into tens of trillions of dollars of public debt. The result is that the government is bankrupt and so households are insolvent. More, the US, the largest creditor nation of the world three decades ago, is today the number one debtor of the world, with $12.5 trillion of debt.

A quick survey shows this: all individual- centric economies are deep in debt; but nations more family-oriented and less individual- centric, like Japan, China, India, and generally Asian nations, account for over three-fourths of global savings; the individualist West lives off the savings of family-centric Asia. Today the West says that, in the present crisis only Asia, which has huge savings thanks to family orientation, can save the West, which has almost lost its traditional family lifestyle.

So the idea of unbridled human rights and unrestrained personal freedom that have led to social and cultural degeneration are increasingly seen as the cause of the present economic crisis. Weeks ago, Thomas L Friedman, a leading economic journalist, wrote in the New York Times that he had told those eating in a restaurant that they could no more afford to eat out and they had better cook and eat at home. But how will they cook and eat at home unless families are re-created? If they do, how would the US compensate for loss of employment if restaurants, which exist because households have closed their kitchens, shut down? There seems to be no solution within economic laws to the present crisis of the West. Amoral economics once yielded higher returns. It now yields negative returns.

Here Renukas and Arundhatis advocate unbridled individualism that has undermined families and morals and dynamited the economies of the West. Renuka questions the idea public morals. Arundhati advocates amoral living. Both seem unaware that an economy built at the cost of family and social morals, too collapses on the ruins of the morals it has brought down. QED: morality supports economics; lack of it ruins economies


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