Thursday, 17 November 2011

Labour Pains

"India has exported a large number of people who have risen to the top in the organisations that they are in." -John Wren, CEO, Omnicom

A lot is said in this country about how useless our education system is when compared to the best and brightest of most occidental nations. A lot is made of the inability to provide quality research to fuel our growing thirst for an incrreasingly diminishing source of knowledge. This is not something anyone in this country can disagree with. Although the education system isn't as moribund as the papers would have us believe (no thanks to Kapil Sibal on that count) research in some of the topmost institutions in this country, at least in the one I study in, is a joke. Most researchers, professors and scholars included, have a stick up their ass shoved up there by some ectoplasmically induced wormhole that they contrive to shove even deeper by sitting on their fat behinds in front of a computer screen doing nothing but checking their email and facebooking. The only three websites known to research scholars are google, facebook and cricinfo. Then again they have never needed anything much else, for their limited intellects are constrained to the sort of blandishments that would have made Homer Simpsons non sequituurs seem like thesis papers.

But then again, this is not the sort of rambling inconsequential post that would meaninglessly disparage research scholars and their ilk. Despite appearances. This post is about the division of labour, and about income equality, and about all those principles of life that seem brilliant in a blog post or in an FB(thats lingo for facebook, apparently) status update. You see, we as proud Indians have transcended physical labour, and most of our (money making) employees belong to the tertiary sector of labourers. Id Est, the ones who do not do any labour, at least not with their hands and feet anyway. Some would say that is the purest form of labour there is.

And here comes that question asked rather infrequently, "What makes you special?" And while a few of us have extra large hearts that enable us to win cycling championships to the extent of reducing them to a joke, most of us have nothing more special than our looks and our brains, usually in inverse proportion to one another. But then again, looks do not really count for much outside the rather limited boundaries of race, creed (and species), so we might as well discard that track, and deal with the primary issue at hand here. That of the gray matter.

That is why most people get paid these days, to not exercise any of their biceps, triceps (or in the case of research) forceps. People get paid to analyse infromation about other people who have no idea that such information even exist. And people get paid to write lines not unlike yours truly, but instead of getting human beings to sit up and take notice, such people would actually make lumbering machines do the same.

You see, today in India, we have the distinction of being able to supply cheap labour at both ends of the spectrum. We have the cheapest brains, and just in case you're a construction company in Dubai, we have the cheapest brawn. Those who scream for the poor manual labourers of India are living in an archaic time, the era of manual labour is long gone. All the muscles we need to exercise sit within our cranium. And this is something that has made us a nation to be proud of, or to fear and loathe. As most pedantic people have a habit of saying, it depends on where you are at the time.

The biggest problem is that unlike iron ore and second grade bitumenous coal, brains and brawn aren't really a resource limited to our country alone. And while our continued economic growth brings with it widescale prosperity and development(and corruption and inflation), most people who have figured out the trend towards mental (as opposed to manual) labour have also figured out its economies of scale. The richer we get, the narrower the profit margins of the consultancies become, and the smaller their investments become. We might have figured out the purest form of labour, now all we need to do is figure out what to do when the money runs out.

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