Indian Pink papers and Dalits

30May07

Here is a brillient article sourced from Guardian for readers benefit. The article is not direct on India but it acts us a cue to question the objectives of emerging economies like India. In a pursuit of blitz economic growth, all is not going well, the marginalised are thrown again on margins.

Last week, Prime Minster of India criticised heavily the Page-3 behaviour of affluent entrepreneurial business class in India. It is  disheartening yet hardfact that the economic growth is fueling economic disparity and it is increasing manifolds. Mittals, Bacchans and Mallyas can throw$ 10million on lavish marriage parties whereas Dalit in villages find $1 a day difficult to earn. Coming back to the article, though it is written in international flavour, it has many lessons  to take specially for increasing Indian millionaires here and in abroad. They should concur at earliest on test that checks the strength of  National economy backbone. A singular test to check that strength. The test is economy should benefit and produce welfare of all sections. Otherise economic liberty will be overtaken by class conflict.

Everyday ‘banana economist’ belonging to Indian pink Newspapers like Economic Times, Bussines Standard etc appreciate the wild  consumption pattern while presumming that such a thing would be helpful in soaring sectoral output. They conclusively argue that India Inc should not be regulated in investments or India Inc should not be asked to pay more from its bulging profits; sometimes more than 500%.  They even comment that States role should be assumed on fringes; it should be limited to administration. For which they quote free market models and suggest views of International economists in their preference. Thus indian business Newspapers are seeing to run short of true scholarships that could portray real picture of Indian Inc and economic problems of dalits in India. Looks as if many of them are plastic toys at the hand of chief editor or some may be paid for their articles. Shocking, while taking delight in their own arguments, they even afford missing important readings from famous economists like Richard Easterlin who makes ‘experts’ in sophisticated liberal growth theories look miserable in his 1974 paper “Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?

“Academics and shrinks may not like it, but as a nation, we are in surprisingly good mental health”, says Neg Cohen, author of the article. Readers, please go through the article and comment.

In 1974, Richard Easterlin , a California economist, examined hundreds of surveys that asked Americans how happy they were. His conclusion so shocked his colleagues he gave up his research. He found that the explosion in wealth created by the postwar boom had not made Americans happier. Levels of misery and contentment were the same in 1974 as 1945.

easterlin.jpg
pic01: Richard Easterlin, gifts Paradox in economics

Fellow academics laughed at him because his findings challenged the assumption of economists and politicians that populations got happier as national wealth increased. In the end, the joke was on them because no one now disputes the truth of the ‘Easterlin Paradox’. Once poverty, hunger, thirst and fear of violence have gone, rises in average prosperity have no effect on average levels of happiness. Money can buy satisfaction for individuals, but as status-seeking humans compare themselves against each other, one man’s gratification is another’s mortification as often as not.The diffusion of Easterlin’s insight into wider society explains much of what the green movement and David Cameron are saying. Indeed, so far has the world come since 1974 that journalists and therapists now insist that prosperity not only doesn’t produce happiness but it makes us insanely wretched.

The papers couldn’t fill their pages without their lamentations. More food brings obese children. Obsession with fashion brings anorexic women. Longer hours for higher wages destroy families and our willingness to pile up debt may yet destroy the economy. In a new book, Affluenza, media psychologist Oliver James says we are facing an epidemic. ‘Affluenza’ is a disease which he defines as ‘a contagious, middle-class virus causing depression, anxiety, addiction and ennui’. Affluenza hits Americans harder than anyone else, he claims. We’re next, while socialistic Scandinavians and the simple but happy peoples of the poor world are exemplars of mental health.

I confess to a prejudice against his writing style . He seems left wing (Tony Blair is always ‘Blatcher’ – Blair=Thatcher, geddit?), but the apparently radical condemnations of consumerism conceal a reactionary aversion to modernity. ‘Female emancipation became a cracking good stunt for increasing the size and quality of the workforce and enabling employers to smash the unions,’ he rages. ‘Democracy became the right to vote for people who would make you richer and better able to pleasure yourself.’

Leaving aside that unions had many women members before their power was broken, there is something indecent in a privileged Englishman opining that democracy and feminism are swindles when there are so many ultra-right forces ready to repeat his cry.

Just because he sets my teeth on edge doesn’t mean James is wrong, however. If and why psychiatric illnesses are increasing remain good questions. A cynical answer is that we have so many psychiatric problems because we have so many psychiatrists. Americans suffer particularly because American analysts are finding new sicknesses daily. Conditions people once regarded as commonplace miseries are now pathologised. In itself, the extension of therapy’s empire may not be as bad as it sounds. The other day, I had the pleasure of meeting Simon Baron-Cohen , the psychologist who has revolutionised thinking about autism. He told me he thought the fears about a rise in autism (which produced the MMR hysteria) were nonsense. Doctors were now putting on the autistic spectrum children they would once have dismissed as shy and a little odd. The real level of classic autism hadn’t changed, but he saw no harm in pushing the boundaries. If the diagnosis was accurate, it could help parents and teachers.

Is what has happened to autism happening to mental illness? Are the middle classes really going potty or is their alleged affluenza just a byproduct of a society awash with therapy? James doesn’t seem to know it, but there is a huge amount of reliable evidence that might have helped him find an answer. In the early 1990s, economists at Warwick University rediscovered Easterlin’s work. They used the statistical technique of regression analysis to a put a price on people’s unhappiness. Much of the misery they found had nothing to do with affluence. The effect of unemployment was terrible, for instance. The grief it brought was out of all proportion to the actual loss of income. The unemployed didn’t rationally trade the loss of wages for more leisure time, as free market theory insisted, but sat at home racked by a disproportionate misery.

But equally, the happiness economists provide scant comfort for those who blame consumerism for creating an insane society. Andrew Oswald of Warwick University reviews Affluenza in the New Scientist.

He describes James as ‘ranting and sensationalist’, but concedes he may be right to say that levels of mental wellbeing are falling. Researchers at University College London believe they can show that they are, although they focus on childhood poverty rather than the inner torments of the affluent uppermiddle class.

However, other researchers, most notably Jane Murphy at Harvard and Eugene Paykel at Cambridge, can produce equally compelling figures that show the number of depressed people has barely changed.Maybe they will win the argument, because the thrust of the evidence is that the mental health of modern societies is surprisingly stable. New vaccines don’t cause an epidemic of autism. Increases in national prosperity don’t make nations happier, but nor, perhaps, do they push them into a materialistic mania.

If governments can avoid mass unemployment and a general fear of violence, levels of unhappiness should stay constant. It may sound eccentric to say it, but we’re not as mad as we look.



One Response to “Indian Pink papers and Dalits”

  1. 1 DR V.V.BARTHWAL

    Uneven growth of Indian economy and wide inequality prevailing in Indian society id root cause of poverty n India. Inclusive growth is essential for providing the benefit of progress to our all sections of the society.


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