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BW Businessworld

Analysis: Living With Choices

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Essentially, in my mind, there are three parameters around which the dilemma to ‘serve the chicken or throw it’ revolves. Evaluation partly fuelled by education, evolution triggered by the milieu in which one lives and economic impact.

Let’s begin with education. Broadly speaking, anyone who spends two decades of his life ‘learning’, is expected to be more discerning between ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. It can also be concluded that an educated individual will likely do more ‘right’ than an uneducated person. Right? Not exactly.

The basic problem here is that there is no fixed parameter to define ‘right’. So, while the current education system certainly helps develop lenses through which one can tell ‘right’ from ‘not so right’, the problem is that what one person considers ‘right’ may not be so for another person. Ironically, the barometers for defining ‘right’ vary from society to society, by time, and indeed by social strata.

Besides, there are extraneous factors overriding the inputs delivered or expected to be delivered by the education system. Every child in the country is encouraged by his elders to be the best in his class, and since success is based on a comparative scale, the general tendency among most educated Indians is to benchmark themselves against fellow mates.

Ironically, the elders giving advice to these children are being coached to be good team players in their workplaces. No wonder one often hears in global corporate circles that Indians are excellent individual contributors but poor team players. Therefore, to just blame the education system for the ‘dilemma’ may be fashionable but not comprehensive.

Societies evolve over time. More importantly, governance mechanisms mature with time. The critical thing to note here is that human behaviour is dynamic and generally improves over a period of time as the benefits of mutualism become visible.

And finally, it is all about the economics of the choices to be made. For most situations, sheer common sense and some basic education is enough to differentiate ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. However, in most cases, the decision is more around the economic impact of the choice. Vatsa, with his high ethical standards, may have compromised on the quality of the bigger lot to achieve the economies of scale but he might have satisfied his ethical ego by rejecting a smaller unfit lot.

The jury is still out on drawing a correlation between standard of ethics and degree of fulfilment of physiological needs. So, while being coached to maintain high ethical standards in life, many of us have seen our role models stutter, stammer and falter in high-impact situations.

I think that as every child grows up to take on the world, besides the education system, which within its own limitations is expected to convey the acceptable ethical and moral standards, there are several external situations and interventions that exposes the child to the dilemmas of the real world and, in some sense, sets their value systems. It is the same education system and society that created both, a Kundu senior and a Vatsa.

The concept Raman brings out on inculcation of dealing with ‘grey zone’ is an interesting one! I think it is time that our pedagogy evolves to the next level of teaching through experimentation and explorations. So, while the young citizens are taught the societal extent of acceptability through textbooks, they are also made aware that life is all about making the choices and living with them.

I do agree with Raman on his theory of evolution. I think as our democratic system of governance matures, ‘realism’ would tend to get closer to ‘idealism’ as the community gets exposed to the benefits of honesty, trust and faith in each other.

I believe a lot of it is also linked with our economic situation. As the country prospers with better schools and improved literacy standards, there will come a day very soon when our college students would throw the dropped chicken in the garbage bin because at that point everybody would be doing the same. Inshalla!

The author is a CFO for global applications business for CSC . He has over 20 years of experience, including at GE and HUL


(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 26-08-2013)


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