Liberal Grace

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Those who think the world is flat need to break from the guided tour.

When you live overseas -- rather than just visit -- the world doesn't seem so flat.

VIPs visit India and get the grand tour of the best schools and the new high-tech developments but do they ever live in the villages or walk the slums in the big cities as I have done?

I am optimistic for India but, frankly, I cringe at many of the predictions about India that I hear from the "experts." It's amazing what people are saying about India that doesn't get challenged.

Recently I was watching a political talk show with a couple who have spend more than fifty years in south Asia and when one of the pundits said that Indian schools are now better than American. Nobody on the panel challenged him!

I recognized the skepticism on my hosts faces. I asked them about it and we both suspected the same thing: when these VIPs visit India they are shown the best Indian schools which they compare in their minds to the average American of British schools.

I can accept that the best schools of India are better than the average school in the west. But is the average Indian child better educated than the average western child? I've never researched it but it just can't be true.

The average child in India is abused, poorly educated and stuck in poverty. I don't mean the kids in the fancy schools the VIPs tour -- I mean the average kid on the street or in the villages.

Abuse of Indian children 'common'

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused, according to a landmark government study.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the study says 53% of the surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse.

This is the first time the government has done such an exhaustive survey on the controversial issue of child abuse.

Abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, is rarely admitted in India and activists have welcomed the study.
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With this kind of levels of abuse, it's not India-bashing to have doubts about the educational system. As every teacher knows, abused children are not usually good students.

Foreign money: Love it!. Foreigners? No so much.

I often hear VIPs predicting that India is the future of globalization with America turning into a nation of poorly paid Wall Mart workers.

I'm sure Wall mart is working hard to make this happen but I have my doubts.

The South Asia I know is highly traditionalist, resistant to change and more than a little xenophobic. Is this the cultural trait of a "global" nation? Again, I'm not talking about the new modern urban Indians working at the call centers that the VIPs get the grand tour of. I mean the hundreds of millions of Indians filling the big cities and toiling in the villages

Perhaps you notices the stories below, just because they were so odd:

Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere start riots

LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Demonstrators in Delhi have burned effigies of Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere after the Hollywood actor kissed the Bollywood star on the cheek at a charity event.

The 'An Officer and a Gentleman' drew the 'Celebrity Big Brother' winner into an embrace, kissing her hand and cheek several times at an event to promote Aids awareness.

But public displays of affection are largely taboo India and the Gere is thought to have insulted their culture.

Groups of men across northern and central India have been shouting "Down with Richard Gere", burning effigies of him and kicking away the smoking remains.

Some have even burned Shetty's posters, while shouting "Death to Shilpa Shetty."

Elizabeth Hurley Faces Legal Action Over 'Illegal' Indian Wedding

Elizabeth Hurley has been threatened with legal action in India, by a man who claims her wedding to Arun Nayar was illegal. The model/actress wed businessman Nayar in Jodhpur on Friday, but local Vishnu Khandewal is claiming the traditional ceremony broke the law - because Hurley is not Hindu.
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India is a country where a goofy kiss by a foreigner can set off nation-wide riots. It's a society where a modern wedding can get you arrested for violating traditional values. It's also a nation where expressing your faith can get you killed. external link external link external link

Does this sound like a nation ready lead globalization?

A country active in globalization needs to not only except foreign money -- it need to accept foreign ways of doing things and foreigners themselves -- with tolerance of their customs, beliefs and religions. America, the nation of foreigners, is in a far better social position to participate in globalization.

America certainly won't and can't remain economically dominant but don't write her off so fast. We desperately need proactive, future-leaning progressive leadership which we haven't seen since the conservatives took over. Hopefully that is changing.

I want to be clear: I'm not India bashing; I love India; I believe India is on the rise and will play an important role in the new global economy. I just don't believe all the hype by the VIPs.

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