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August 27, 2006
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August 27, 2006

Page: 27/34

Home > 2006 Issues > August 27, 2006

India That is Bharat

NRI and patriotic American

The other day Satiricus met an NRI who has become a very patriotic American. True, he admitted rather dismissively, ?We have some problems?, but not to worry, they are being taken care of. Now Satiricus was not a little surprised that those living in ?God?s own country?, as the dictionary calls America, should have any problems at all. At the same time he was happy to be assured that by the American God?s grace his own country?s problems will all be solved.

Still Satiricus has a problem, a puzzling problem. He is puzzled why this handsome ex-Indian should take so much pride in having become an ?American?. That title of a best-selling American novel of forty years ago on the blundering behaviour of Americans abroad has actually become the scholarly finding of recent surveys. Reporting them recently a journalist writes from the American capital that in the eyes of the world these days, Americans are ?loud, arrogant, ill-dressed, ill-mannered, and lacking respect for other cultures?.

Good (American) God! Are there so many features that make up an American? It sure is an ugly situation, but not to worry too much, for now there is a new behaviour manual for the Americans, produced by an organisation named Business for Diplomatic Action Inc., founded by an advertising executive. See? That simple!

If this manual is to be believed, there are just half a dozen easy steps that every American can take to become beautiful: Don?t boast. Don?t talk loud. Don?t talk fast. Dress decently. And finally, ?listen at least as much as you talk?. That?s all! Satiricus is impressed. He is impressed to see that as many as four hundred American companies are impressed with this guide to good behaviour. And if there are manuals and guides to guide behaviour, it naturally follows that there must also be coaching classes for the purpose.

So Satiricus was not too surprised to see another American journalist write that ?the etiquette industry appears to be enjoying a sort of renaissance? in the US of A. That?s because ?national surveys routinely find that a majority of respondents view Americans as ever more unpolished and impolite?.

Behaviour is a business, and etiquette is an industry. In other words, civilisation sells off the shelf. Now this Indian ignoramus was labouring under the impression that civilisation is the outer expression of an inner culture. Oh, well, even that is not much of a problem for Americans. Whenever they need a sip of culture they can get a Coke. For had not the Wall Street Journal once called Coca Cola a symbol of American culture?

By the way, the congenital connection between Coca Cola and culture reminds Satiricus of the same prestigious American newspaper, Wall Street Journal, publishing a long and serious research piece on?guess what!?the history of Coca Cola advertisements. It was a scholarly dissertation on why some advertisements clicked while some came a cropper. For Satiricus it was an excellent essay on the making and unmaking of American culture, depending upon how it was advertised. But he wonders?why did the advertisements that failed fail? Was the copy-writer the culprit? Or was it that it was just not enough to advertise in newspapers, on television and big roadside placards? Was some more effective surface needed?

Apparently it was, and, believe it or not, the Britishers know what it was?the human forehead! This cunning concept was conceived by Cunning Stunts Communications, a London ad agency, who recently hired foreheads of university students for temporary tatoos advertising products. So there we are! Culture is doomed without clever advertisement. But in that case what about that daft definition??Culture is what you do where you are alone??

Oh, well, apparently the contradiction between a private act and a public ad is the defining difference between ancient Indian culture and up-to-date American culture. And as ancient Indian means outdated Indian, progressive Indians living in a progressive regime need to imbibe advanced Americanism.

So, for starters, how about our politicians looking at the latest development in American politics? It concerns fashionable names for political parties. And in this respect Satiricus does feel we Indians tend to be hide-bound. More than a century ago we started with an Indian National Congress for Indian nationals, and a couple of decades ago we got a Bharatiya Janata Party for the Bharatiya janata. Still later we got a Nationalist Congress Party, proving that even nominally a national Indian and a nationalist Indian are two different Indians. Then there is the Communist Party Marxist, and a Communist Party Maoist, a difference in name that Messrs Marx and Mao might not have easily understood.

To cap it all, we have a Samajwadi Party which is not for the samaj but for the samajwadi, and a Bahujan Samaj Party that is only for the bahujan in the samaj. Is all this not tiresomely trite? Cannot all these men and women in Indian politics come up with an innovation? Cannot these hopeless humans think out of the box?and, for instance, emulate the American politician who proclaimed he was a vampire? This self-proclaimed vampire actually wanted to be elected Governor of a state in the US. And the name of his party? The Vampires, Witches and Pagans Party! That settles it.

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