Friday, January 16, 2009

Value Systems, Satyam, Rape & Terror

Do we, as a society have a weird sense of "values"? A couple of articles in different publications caught my attention over this past week as they seemed to link into each other.

This column in Mint seemed to suggest that the Satyam scandal was a manifestation of market induced greed affecting values: "The tragedy of the Raju brothers is that they are also victims of our society’s evolving value system, as we worship the gods of material success.

But from this piece in the ToI about a rally being planned in support of disgraced Satyam boss Ramalinga Raju, you get the sense that our value system is willing to forgive robbery if it's of the Robin Hood variety: "The populace of the district still assert that Ramalinga is an enterprising and highly educated entrepreneur with a sense of social responsibility and that his aberration to tamper with balance sheets could be ‘ignored’... they are willing to condone his manipulation of accounts as part of business strategy ..."

The fact that Raju's clan is willing to stand by him and overlook his crimes is similar to the noted sociologist Dipankar Gupta's analysis of 'bhaichara' (Gupta incidentally is the author of a book on corporate ethics in the Indian context written while he was a KPMG fellow): "Rapes are just for a hoot, and after all, boys will be boys. Listen to their mothers, and this is what comes through. As long as they do not offend clan morals, nothing else really matters."

It looks like we've decided to adopt the worst of both worlds as far as our value systems go ie. the greed of the Wall Street types mixed with the disdain for law outside of the clan. I still remember being fairly disgusted with the rampant cheating during examinations that would take place even in a so-called prestigious institution like St. Xavier's College, even as some of my friends studying overseas were taking tests with the honour system.

Well, in the end it all comes around. The same value system ensures that corrupt customs guys will let RDX be smuggled onto our shores, or passport officers will sanction fake IDs which terrorists will eventually use or that the coastal police will let any boat that pays up go through. A society with this kind of value system probably deserves its fate!


  1. Nicely put, Abhi.
    There is probably no doubt about the difference in the perception of morals in the East and the West. I remember being surprised the first time I was handed over a 'take-home' assignment - a concept which would've failed miserably even in, I am sad to say, in the IITs!

    The question then arises how do we change these deep rooted values? I do believe there is a need to change. Any thoughts on how?

    Whatever the answer be, nothing will be achieved overnight.

  2. Hey Abhimanyu,

    This is an interesting read and presents a slightly different stand on the issue you have raised.

    The last 3 lines I feel are especially relevant to the discussion you raised and underscore the need to have transparent and clearly defined processes.

    Change will not happen overnight, but can definitely be accelerated by aligning our society together for a cause which supercedes individual greed and ego.

  3. A very well written post; brief and to the point. The ending (A society with this kind of value system probably deserves its fate) is absolutely correct.

    We hear a lot of things about politicians and leaders who represent us in the parliament. But people so easily forget that they get what they choose. The rise of smaller political parties with narrow regional interests is also an example.

    We are a partially functioning mobocracy where there is little place for morals.

  4. Very well written.Our youth also show no COURAGE even in America. Have we had any worthwhile INVENTIONS LIKE THE JEWS DO? We have companies in silicon valley making money.But real invvention. NO.
    They will play around with white girls but come to mama's cholie when seelcting their brides.

  5. really sad state of affairs.
    depressing. i wish had an answer to this. a solution.

    anyway, i must play my part in repairing this as much as i can.

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