As a middle-aged man, I possess enough stoicism to survive my wonderfully absurd nation, more so its systems, but last week I learnt that India can always surprise you with more.
As a person with deep interest in biology, and a deeper apprehension that India is missing the biotech bus, it is a sector very close to my heart. So, when I noticed an opportunity to work on a biotech project, I was hugely excited.
After putting a lot of effort in preparation, when I walked in to present, good old India suddenly hit me hard on my face. Someone somewhere in the system had carefully designed that, out of seven odd billion people inhabiting this planet, one specific individual should be barred to participate in the process, and there is no prize guessing who!
As I walked out of the room silently, I wasn’t angry, as we all have been there and done this. India is a land of vengeance and fragile egos. So, if there is a problem worth pondering over, it was not why-me, but why we all hold personal grudges and believe in getting even.
One (now a bit outdated) psychological model is to link such getting-even behavior with inferiority complex, a term coined by Alfred Adler.
Adler opted to break away from Freudian notion of looking at sex as the driving force for human behavior and look at social identity as a powerful modifier of human behavior. In Adlerian model, inferiority complex often manifests as a rebound superiority complex that causes an individual, especially with access to power to constantly posture vengeance-fully to seek internal self-reconfirmation of higher social standing.
The homespun wisdom provided to every woman to judge a man by how he treats the waiter is just an extrapolation of the same idea of inferiority complex based posturing and it does work in giving a good idea about the mind behind the façade.
We like it or not, but all of us seem to have some deep-rooted streak of inferiority complex that drives us to get even. If I do a really honest self-analysis, this article can also be an expression of the same desire to get even buried deep within my psyche.
So, the bigger question before us is, what is the way to rise above this seemingly common cultural trait?
As a third world country that has suffered prolonged enslavement and is ravaged with abject poverty, it is not difficult to find reasons for a collective sense of inferiority; but, instead of being self-critical, we need to find a practical solution to this problem.
I feel that it is more common to see such posturing in India because our systems are weak and hence they allow a lot more individualistic expression. Our system designers appear to be so worried about rigidity of a system to cause injustice that they allow human interpretations and interventions at every level. The net result is, from peon to president, office bearers of every Indian system constantly use the platform available to them for personal posturing.
I feel that our policy-makers now need to recognize that allowing individualistic expression is not a boon but a bane because its success depends on the state of mind of the person involved. Systemic rigidity, however scary is likely to be far better than allowing expression of whimsicalness that we all possess.
Let us understand that a new India of the young is rising, and it is not conditioned to accept systemic absurdities like the gen-past. We need to change or they will start looking for opportunities abroad where they feel that system-driven governance has allowed individuals to succeed.