Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Living under Socialism

It was the summer of 89 and I was in my second year of college doing my B.Com. I was working for my father in New Delhi. He had a factory where we made cast iron machine parts. A few years ago the government had set quota's for the pig iron used for casting. The criteria for quota was whatever quantity had been bought during the previous months. It was the start of the shortages, black market and bureaucratic interference in the business which was already very difficult to conduct. There were dozens of inspectors from various departments and they had be paid-off or you could forget about doing any business. There were so many ridiculous laws that it was impossible to comply with them even if you wanted to.

One of my jobs was to check with the local govt. office if our quota of pig iron had come. I had to go to the office which was on the outskirts of the city on my puny scooter between rashly driven trucks since nobody would tell you anything on the phone even if you somehow got through. One time I went their consecutively for three days , stood outside the office (no place to sit and during summer it can reach 44 deg. C/111 F.) and still had no news of our iron. Since there were no mobile phones at that time and no payphones around I had to beg some official to let me use his phone to make a call.

The staff was indifferent at best of times and outright hostile at other times. All the offices were dull, dusty, drab, dreary and every time you entered one your heart sank a little at the prospect of dealing with people who didn't even bother to look at you and were deliberately dismissive. If you persisted they would snap at you like a rabid dog and it was almost physically painful when you had be very polite and use deferential tone even when you wanted scream at them and ask them if they were human before grinding there faces in the pile of dusty files in front of him.

Sometimes I wish I could have made a virtual tour of the whole experience for the benefit of those people who want more regulation, more interference and remind them of those days. As such we are hardly out of the license and inspector raj and some people want to drag us back to those evil times.

I wish I could tell people in America that I had lived through the worst case scenarios portrayed in "Atlas shrugged" by Ayn Rand. A society which mocks and denigrates the achievements of it's producers is not a pleasant place to live in. I dreaded the days when some new teacher would ask kids about their fathers profession and I kid you not when I say that after saying my father was a businessman I would see contempt and in one particular case downright hostility. This one teacher got on my case and constantly taunted me by saying why did I have study since my father was a big businessman I didn't have to worry about making a living anyway.

I wonder about America's capacity for more abuse. Is Obama going to be the last straw? Is he going to turn people away from socialist idea's by proving their futility and failure. With Santelli's rant on CNBC getting widespread support and a lot of resistance to the bailout I would say Americans are not ready to throw in the towel and surrender meekly. With core of objectivist activists leading the way their is still hope for the greatest country in the world. And don't forget people like me who are American at heart (born in the wrong place) who will do there best to keep it that way.

7 comments:

Jasmine said...

Rajesh,

Congrats on your blog.
I found out about your blog via Gus Van Horn's blog where he has excerpted from your post and added you to his blogroll.

As a desi born and with family still back in India, any mention of a new Objectivist blog from India always perks my attention. Residing in the U.S. now I can completely relate with your description of "people like me who are American at heart (born in the wrong place)"!
That 'Americanism' more fundamentally is actually a sense of life and matches with the Founding Fathers vision of a free country in my understanding. That is what I feel completely at ease with and is the very same sense of life which unites those of us living in different countries and parts of the world I believe. I will unabashedly and proudly say it is our world whatever part of the world we live and not theirs-or as Ayn Rand's novel states -"We The Living"!! A sunlit universe....

Having spent 28 formative years in India, I also am constantly inclined to tell people here -don't do this to this great country -do you people understand the path and future you are taking yourselves towards? Ask me (!) I have come from that past and absolutely do not want to go back to that kind of life!

Gwynplaine said...

Bookmarked your blog. Interesting stuff.

Rajesh said...

Thank you for your comments Jasmine and Gwyn.

Kyle Haight said...

I'm a native-born American, but I have a large number of Indian co-workers. (I think they're actually a statistical majority in my group, followed by Asians.) Many of them are more American in character and outlook than the 'Americans' who just happened to be born here. Watching the never-ending battles they have to fight with immigration law makes me angry enough to spit nails. They understand freedom, they understand what happens without it, and they've traveled halfway around the world in pursuit of it. The barriers we put in their way are a blot on our country.

khartoum said...

Nice post. I live in India and can attest to the hostility of the government towards individual rights. One just had to walk into an Indian government office and it would make complete sense why socialism was such a bad thing.

narayan said...

Rajesh,

I think that a lot has changed in the culture of indian schools since the 80s. I grew up in the 90s in bangalore and I can certainly say that no-one I ever met looked down on me or any of my friends for being children of businessmen. They all valued academic achievement. Since coming to the US though, I have realized that the north and south have many cultural differences that I never realized growing up.

I think the rampant corruption and the ability to buy one's way through life instead of actually earning values makes indians very cynical about a philosophy like Objectivism that values integrity. But at the same time, this is probably the reason why teenagers and young adults are initially attracted to Ayn Rand's ideas as well, but cynicism usually wins before they are able to integrate her ideas.

narayan said...

Rajesh,

I think that a lot has changed in the culture of indian schools since the 80s. I grew up in the 90s in bangalore and I can certainly say that no-one I ever met looked down on me or any of my friends for being children of businessmen. They all valued academic achievement. Since coming to the US though, I have realized that the north and south have many cultural differences that I never realized growing up.

I think the rampant corruption and the ability to buy one's way through life instead of actually earning values makes indians very cynical about a philosophy like Objectivism that values integrity. But at the same time, this is probably the reason why teenagers and young adults are initially attracted to Ayn Rand's ideas as well, but cynicism usually wins before they are able to integrate her ideas.