For the Americans and the rest of the world
Education’s one more duty!
To impart optimism to a people!
Just now, we read through a longish book review in one of the international journals. It is about the latest two new books on American history. The 20th century America and to be exact the first 10 years of the 21st century, have given America lots of self-doubts. This is because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shattered American self-confidence and the subsequent attack by George Bush of Iraq. The first war in Afghanistan, yes, defeated the Taliban and yet the subsequent events showed that though Iraq war was “won”, the Afghan involvement is proving too costly.
Barak Obama and his style of governance raised hopes for the rest of the world and inside America his regime is viewed with many expectations but at the same time with some self-doubt as well.
Why this is so?
You can give as many explanations depending upon whom you are and what is your own self-interest in this question!
A recent visitor to the Sanfrancisco has come back with this experience. He, a young Indian entrepreneur and a highly educated one and yet he, an Oxford graduate entered into the IT industry and made a success of sorts and what he has got to say about the Americans and Sanfracisoeans in particular?
Americans are driven by a sense of what the Fortune magazine calls an “insane all-American optimism”! Yes, this optimism and enthusiasm and the Silicon Valley culture of innovation and start-up ventures and a culture of daring with a crazy idea and the idea getting transformed from start-up to final product and a successful business by just selling it up later for a huge price.
This is called the “nine-digit idea”.
Every American city has its own favorite topic of conversation. But in Sanfrancisco it is all about this start-up culture and venture capital funding and in the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, “it is all about the guy who just turned 30 and received 300,000,000 in dollars for his little company that didn’t do anything different from any other company except that it made Goog so nervous that Serge and Larry (founders of Google) had to buy it out just to sleep at night”!
Yes, the Silicon Valley culture is uniquely American and it can happen only in an ecosystem of innovation and coming up with ideas!
This can happen only in that part of America and that is only giving the Yankees the supreme confidence.
But why then the current despondency?
There are reasons, weighty enough for others to ponder over.
I just now saw and heard the programme conducted by the International Social Studies Institute of University of Berkeley in which Prof.Timothy Gorton Ash, a Fellow of St.Antony’s College, Oxford, a Guardian columnist and a writer of books on the Eastern and Central Europe.
I heard him speaking about his latest book and the book is a collection of short essays, in fact, newspaper columns collected into a book titled as “Facts are Subersive”, A “decade without a Name”.
Now, Ash is an Englishman committed to a European Union, he calls himself an English European.
He is obsessed with Europe.
But then does Europe has a future?
That itself is a serious question to ask.
This question has to be asked by someone and I think, it is the sort of question or questions, we in India, must be asking!
These Americans, starting from Barack Obama himself to others, from the Europeans themselves, from Ash the historian to the interpreter of the current decade, it is the rise of China, I would say, the supposed rise of China that holds the attention of the Americans as well as the Europeans.
Or, is it a self fulfilling wish or a day dream.
India, Indian democracy in particularly doesn’t rank high in Ash’s rambling roundup of the countries around the world, mostly democracies and even some dictatorships and military regimes, Ash himself had covered in Asia but he for once doesn’t come to India.
I have a doubt that these Westerners, these self- appointed guardians of the democratic virtues and values, don’t consider India’s success of democracy as a serious achievement and it stands as a great contrast to the dictatorship, a blatant dictatorship, a Communist variety about which so much ink Ash wasted in the course of his almost three decades of travelling and writing!
Also, there is this imperialist legacy.
The two books about which I read are about the recent American history.
One called “The Icarus Syndrome: A history of American hubris” and another, American Dreams: The United States since 1945.
What they say?
America is obsessed with its own success. In Iraq, it went with great confidence and won the war and yet once won, it becomes an addication! Like the Icarus-like (bird) America believes it has wings and so it flies, soars so high that it meets the sun and its wings melt!
This is America’s hubris, the invasion of Iraq, the author, a liberal, himself supported in the first place! The second book says the USA in 1945 was standing high alone. Now? Now, there is self-doubt. Collectively there is a self-perceived decline, recession is one reason, and yet the individual American dreams remain undimmed.
The rise of China is disturbing to the Yankees. Here too, they don’t look to ideals and visions for a collective faith of the mankind to pursue a more fairer world, where oil and energy, much else would be fairly shared and self-consumption is controlled, climate change and carbon emissions reduced!
Education is all about this or these thoughts as well!