The humiliation of "Emerging" … the pride of "Real Re-emerging" …

All through the years I grew up through school and college, I always felt personally humiliated to have India first included in the list of “Developing Countries” and then in “Emerging Economies”.

A civilization that gave the world the meaning of life away through Gita, Budhism, Sikkism, Jainism … a country that won it’s independence through an almost infeasible strategy of fasting+prayer (“satyagraha”) and non-violence (“ahimsa”) … one of the most vibrant and complex democracies that actually gives voice to it’s people, even if they are uneducated … and a visionary country that subsidized it’s higher education when she has limited educational resources …

… India being termed as “developing” or “emerging” seems silly.

Economist wrote about a milestone in the history of the world today. “LAST year the combined output of emerging economies reached an important milestone: it accounted for more than half of total world GDP (measured at purchasing-power parity).” “The developing countries also have a far greater influence on the performance of the rich economies than is generally realized.”

The part of the article that I felt particularly happy about was when they wrote “Perhaps some of these countries should be called re-emerging economies, because they are regaining their former eminence.”

In a way that fixes the public humiliation issue for me. But, there’s more to this that what Economist or CNN write.

More puzzling thought those years is not that “international” media referred to us as “developing” … but our own textbooks in school called ourselves that, our economists taught us that and we the people even believed that. I won’t argue that now having JetAirways to beat up Indian Airlines or an Airtel destroy the myth of a phone being a luxury of the rich … is not “emerging” or “development”. It is progress.

But, it raises a more fundamental question about our continued “Intellectual Slavery”. Why are “capitalistic” metrics like GDP or PCI that grow easily with mindless consumption the only criteria for progress? Is this another form of intellectual slavery to believe our success as people can only measured by gasoline burned through cars per person or useless cell phone minutes burned per month per citizen or number of shrink hours per Indian?

It’s a game for sure. Why don’t we play this game at our terms … at least now.

What about things like number of children in school that start their day with meditation & yoga? What about number of elected ministers who are graduates (and in merit based colleges)? What about number of “inter-caste” or “inter-religious” marriages? What about number of companies that are run by independent boards? What about lowest divorce rates in the world? What about toughest corruption laws in the world? What about having the lowest smoking rates in the world? What about highest primary education level in the world? What about toughest pollution laws in the world? What about highest number of patents in the world? What about being #1 in every “spontaneous” team sport (Soccer, Cricket, Hockey etc.)?

I’d feel real proud if we “re-emerged” or “developed” in any one of those metrics … it’s a game worth playing.


Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here. (Author: Sridhar Turaga)

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Author: st

A dad. A partner. A son. A problem solver. A learner. A teacher.

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