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Leave the Games blame where it belongs

  • September 26th, 2010

How embarrassing to be a New Zealander, watching our media search for New Zealanders to include in the blame for India's shame.

If only today's Q & A had spent more constructively the time it wasted on trying to extract a mea culpa from a New Zealand official. The usual media line on relationships with peoples who have been colonised deplores any hint of 'judgment' or being patronising. Officials who fail to "understand" the excuses for failure (including the cultural 'necessity' for bribery and nepotism) are held to be nasty relics of imperial arrogance. Yet what can be more arrogant than blaming sports officials for failing to supervise as for children, the performance of a government in one of the world's most powerful countries, a nuclear armed nation with a prickly pride and some of the world's leading businesses.

Of course in reality we know that India has been hobbling itself for generations with socialist governments, but exactly how were our officials supposed to command Delhi to do better?

I wish Q & A had found one or two penetrating non-pc observers of India.  What makes India's democracy so venal and its love of red tape such a drag on its hard working and intelligent business people?  To what extent should businesses share the blame? Or does the blame rest with the Indian intelligentsia, which (like here) perpetuates hostility to the values that create wealth, through dead minds in the commanding heights of education (the failed inheritance of the London School of Economics)? Is it simply that there is a tipping point of Chris Trotters and Matt McCartens and Finlay Mcdonalds, which no amount of business competence can outweigh?

Or are there aspects of the business culture that contribute to the licence bad politicians exploit? Some of the great modern Indian literature (but also modern Chinese literature – see my 'reviews') remains more hostile to business success than to political corruption, explaining both as attributable to the same moral ooze. Does India demonstrate the results of persistent suspicion of business that becomes self-fulfilling? If people are taught to expect venality and corruption from business people does that make it more inevitable?

What are the conditions that make corruption so hard to combat in India? Why do such appalling failures persist alongside such extraordinary talent? Is there something about being Indian that makes them collectively a soft touch for bombastic, oily, lying politicians?

I do not know whether there was scientific polling behind it, but the received wisdom among politicians in New Zealand was that our Indian population were incorrigibly left voters, despite many of them being small business people. I had some wonderful support from New Zealand Indians, but they warned how few of their community were likely to vote anything other than Labour.

On the other side, the political folk wisdom is that the Chinese community would vote National or ACT almost whatever we did, if they voted. The issue was said to be persuading them to vote.

China too is corrupt. But it does not manifest itself in such fatalistic incompetence. Why not?

These issues could be important to us, and not only because of immigration. Is there an effect of persistent film, literature and news expectation of corruption, failure and cupidity that ultimately drives out virtue?

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