India is our chief hope:
When in pensive mood I look at the world map and consider that the demographic plunge I see so frequently might be irreversible, my mood does not improve.  It seems to me that the entire Western Hemisphere is in decline with recovery problematic.  Europe is in trouble.  Asia is in trouble from Russia through China and Japan.  Some countries of Western Asia have robust birth rates, but unrest in those areas does not seem to be going away any time soon.  There is of course Africa.  If there is any guarantee that humanity has a future, it is where humanity was in the past.  Birth rates are substantial.  The population is distributed among diverse environments.  I think they’ll make it in the long run.  But they have some way to go before science and technology there vie with that of the industrialized world.  It’s there, of course.  I published in an African Journal.  My feel is that I was working with competent and concerned people.  My hat is off to them and my hopes high.  But they do have a long road.

In India things look closer to hand.  Not that many years ago it was said that for the emerging world China had the brawn and India had the brains.  So given a well established intellectual tradition and ample birth rate I would say that they are the natural successor to what is now the developed world.  It has often struck me as frustrating that India is not regarded as our great ally.  Somehow we don’t treat them so well.

Now I have looked at a book review (Andrew Robinson A Too-Soft Critique of India’s Growth SCIENCE vol. 342 no. 6150 September 6, 2013 page 1066 reviewing Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen An Uncertain Glory Princeton University Press)  The problem the reviewer has is that the book is not hard enough on India. 

Certainly there are problems, as the review makes clear.  The government has failed the people in health care, education, poverty reduction and the judicial system.  The economy has grown without helping any but the very rich; it sounds like the USA to me.  50 % of households lack toilets; I remember staying with relatives who had an outhouse when I was a child; they were, had been and are sturdy successful farmers with an interest in history and tradition.  Air pollution is awful, the worst for where there are useful statistics; they’re right there.  Years ago when I was in India the air caused me constant pain. 

And so it goes with ineffective schools, felons in government, underachievement in a university that is 600 years older than the oldest European one.  And they say that between 1995 and 2012 a quarter of a million farmers committed suicide because of debt – the ultimate cause being fingered as corporate greed.  Those farmers need to stop doing that; we’re going to need them.

Even the review does not mention the abuse that women deal with, much in the news elsewhere.

Of course any reformer going to India is going to blurt out, “You have to get rid of this caste system.”  But that very system may be part and parcel with India’s ability to have plenty of babies.

What is needed is really a deeper sympathy across lines of caste in India, class in Europe and America, ethnicity in the Near East and tribes in Africa.  Any and all such lines help structure the social order of a country – which is a matter of life and death – and are regularly used to subvert the common interest for the interest of those in power.  I think if people understood the biology of the situation there might be hope. 

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