Article (December-2018)


Of contradictions, boundaries and business

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Designation : -   Internationally Acclaimed Management Expert. Chairman, DK International Foundation

Organization : -  


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The contradictions of human life and expressions are strange. The strangeness includes the organised nature of these contradictions. It is also unusual that people walk through these contradictions, accepting them in an unthinkingly. One almost said, people live them in an organised manner. Consider some of the popular statements of wisdom. I produce two, one from the domain of folk belief and statement and another from corporate operations. The first is a statement 'He slept like a baby'. The statement is supposed to imply that he slept well. The truth is, as every parent knows : a baby sleeps only in fits and starts, waking up ever so often. How does then sleeping like a baby become a symbol of good sleep?   The second example is about a cheque. One makes out a cheque for a sum of money. This cheque is refused by the bank because of insufficient funds in that account. Because such a cheque was issued, the bank charges a fee. The moot point is how do you charge a fee from an account which has in reality 'insufficient' funds?
Many more examples can be given. The purpose is to highlight the contradictions of our grasp of reality, the irrationality of our remarks and conscious contradictions of organised working. Thus it is, that we perpetuate contradictions (and at time, stupidities) in life.  Consider the much hyped talk of globalisation.  The paradigm is the globe is gradually becoming one and boundaries are receding. That this is an extremely dubious take on reality is a matter apart. Once can focus on the increasing popularisation of the fond notions that boundaries between nations are receding. The simple truth is for an overwhelming part of the habitation of this planet, by Homo sapiens, there were no boundaries, because there were no nations. People migrated at will and communities moved as per convenience.
It is estimated that 45000 years ago, homo sapiens sailed from the islands of the South China Sea to Australia carrying essentials like rice, cardamom etc. They did not require visas. They went to that island and settled there and this continued for centuries in small trickles. Some of them moved over to New Zealand. Later, with the white man turning up with superior fire power, they were termed as aboriginals. This is clearly, a pejorative term which has nothing to do with cultural sophistication. Come the 19th century, the concept of a nation-state began sprouting in different parts of the world and boundaries got created. When boundaries got created sovereignties got created. When sovereignty was created there was need to protect sovereignty. One thing lead to another and soon, history records there was unification of the British Island where territories of Wales, Scotland, England came together - even if reluctantly - to form an United Kingdom. Even today there is the movement of Scottish liberation which is alive. Many in Wales yearn for independence. That is another story.
In Europe there was unification of Italy, unification of Germany; other principalities followed suit. In Northern America those rebelling against the British crown formed the United States of America and those who felt loyal to the Crown created the Dominion of Canada. In either of the cases, the original inhabitants of the land were pushed deeper and deeper into inhospitable lands and the productive lands were occupied by the people who had military might. In USA the colonisers created a constitution-an example that many nations sought to emulate. Coming back to the problem of boundaries, it was the gift of the concept of nationhood to organised human life. The boundary became the symbol of much identity with veneers of nobility. Who dominated whom became difficult to tell and who was an alien where became even more complicated to work out. The late settlers in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada-elsewhere-proclaimed themselves legitimate owners of prosperous lands and resources. They set up armies, police and ways of protecting their dominance. They tried to legitimise it through processes of election, as they saw it.
The truth remained that the boundaries became so real that Germany had to fight a war for what it claimed was 'for a place under the sun'. They lost. Nation states as a concept became a hallmark of civil society and boundaries were drawn in many places arbitrarily and for that if human life had to be sacrificed, it would be followed with glorification. The simple implication of all this is, it hurt the soft underbelly of free human communication and normal, spontaneous exchange of goods. They call it business.  As the 20th century experienced the two World Wars, the banality of boundaries became more stark and widely recognised. Many organised attempts were made to reduce the boundaries if not to do away with them. Regional clusters all over the world like ASEAN, G7, and G20 etc. were formed.
To cut a long story short, because of all these elements, the world today is in ferment. Many old concepts are being questioned and many new ideas are yet to crystalize. In all this business remains a huge unifying force - that is, if it is practiced fairly.
Ultimately, the Indian concept of Vastudaive Kutumbakam remains the primordial and ultimate truth towards which Homo sapiens must work. Business is poised to take over boundaries.