The Gambit of Power and Control in Human Deception – Part 2

As the devolution continues, daily occurrences around the U.S. and the rest of the world, offer evidence of the gambit of power and control in human deception. A continuing process of human regression in the imbalance of social equity, the few who manipulate the resources manage to exert influence on those of lesser means. Recently, a prominent business magazine known for reporting on wealth and power within business and government circles stated that 1% own more than 50% of earthly wealth. The continued decline of reasonable materiality does not paint a positive picture.

Accordingly, there are associated indicators that little more than 100,000 people have net worth in excess of $50 million. By staggering contrast, at the bottom of this human resources pyramid, is the 71% who have less than $10,000. From there, the income disparity becomes gloomy, as poorer people experience income losses, and richer ones show income increases. Another study reported in a UK news service, that less than 400 of the richest people possess more than 50% of the poorest people.

Although there are noble examples of charitable giving by a few in the upper echelons of wealth, recent studies tend show a decreasing trend. Some analysts suggest that poorer persons, by comparison to the wealthy based on percentage of income, are giving more in benevolent contributions. Naturally, there are arguments on both sides of income inequality issues. Yet, what are the implications for humankind? Aside from the abject realities, the probabilities for continued social degradation do not offer a positive future for the human race. Instead, the decline of the species invites eventual extinction.

The scope of this global disproportion gambit represents one aspect of diverse elements that foster selfishly gluttonous behaviors. By doing so willingly, people perpetrated the misuse of planetary resources. By various means of exploitation, including people victimizing people, within 100 hundred years earth could become uninhabitable. While techno innovations by a few might put off short-term calamity, in the end it may be too late. From corporate and government corruption, to environmental destruction, terrorism and warfare, the future looks dismal. Long forgotten are the historic admonitions for wisdom, compassion and other courageous qualities.

As the “imperial forces” decree, as might be depicted in science fiction stories, the oppressed accept their tyranny. With grumbling acquiesce, or pretentious naiveté, as well as groveling enslavement, the disingenuous perpetrations grow increasingly dystopic. For those in power, in the upper echelons of wealth, the oligarchies foster collusive gambits that possess a many faceted expressions. From the illusions of modern education in the halls of academia, to the blathering campaigning of career politicians, the superficiality of social discourse slides into the regressive oblivion for which extinction looms near.

With smug piety and callous reactionary entrenchment, emotional reactivity labors to circumvent good intentions toward higher insight and wiser pursuits. Arguments in contemporary engagements to promote the general welfare to loftier ascension run the gamut of emotion-laden contradictions. The promotion of stupidity over wisdom, by a firestorm of hasty generalization, foolish anecdote and lazy conjecture, disturbs the complex process of elevating a society toward enlightenment.

Brave creative writers have lamented of recent date, the degenerative indifference frequently committed against bold attempts to reason and make rational societal advancement. Except for a small percentage of exceptionally creative and inventive people, the vast majority prefer diverse states of their self-imposed devolution. In business, higher education, public service and other human interactivity, the diminishing value of fearlessly enlightened leadership suffers a similar fate. Leaders are disappearing and a selfish sense of “anti-thinking” perpetrates divisiveness.

In a society quickly regressing to primal states of ancient reactivity versus intellectual preeminence, some have concluded leadership is exceptionally rare. Many are challenged to identify or otherwise name a public office holder that exhibits extraordinary capacities for leading in an increasingly dangerous world. A regressed collective of tyrannical “tolerance” for the arrogance of intolerance to others fosters a dishonest climate of political correctness. Today for instance, it does not take much to unnerve or otherwise terrorize a community, a city, at state, or the entire country.

In the aftermath of a horrific event, multitudes easily clamor for government assures of protective subservience. A “lone gunman”, a terrorist with a bomb, or a disgruntled employee can have large numbers of citizens willing to sacrifice liberty for an illusion of personal security. Convenient scapegoats are all too easy to conjure.

For anti-thinking, steeped in the myth and magic of lazy thinking and foolish conjecture, the many acquiesce to the numbing cerebral maladies of mass-market deception. Societies get what they want by consequence of greedy selfishness and slothful effort. For the majority, rather than a higher sense of skeptical inquiry, sanctioned by rational application of methodical analysis, and the integrity of critical thinking, honest discourse and enlightenment demands too much responsibility.

Sinister politicians sell their “snake oil” and perpetrate with willing accomplices the condescending tones of communal regression. Feeling good on an immature and juvenile basis, is often better that knowing what is good and morally correct. Emotional reactivity, whether presumed “intelligent” or not, claims less cumbersome pursuits of illusion and belief, absent the primacy of evidence. People fill in the “blank spaces” in the areas of doubt, in order to obtain a simplistic explanation, and achieve a comforting set of consistent patterns. As a result, belief is anything that seems to make sense.

Yet, for the human species given little change over thousands of years, not much seems to make sense. More often than not, there is an instant appeal to alleged authority, as in product promotions, the political campaign ad, and the questionable academic “experiment” and so on. So-called public interest surveys, whatever the subject, do not say much, prove little and solve nothing. At the same moment, ghosts, goblins and little green men, become scapegoats for human immaturity.

Corporate and government contrivances, not all of course, but many, promote every weakness to make us feel good, so we avoid things unseen. For a time, and still to some extent, UFO’s were modern day replacements for “demonic forces” meddling in human affairs. As superstitions mount upon endless flirtations with the supernatural, and a battle cry calls out to one god to beat another, common sense takes flight. As it turns out, the aliens have to compete with demons for primacy of foolish conjecture.

Yet, the foolhardy attempts of pretending a “civilized” culture continue to devolve with ridiculous silliness of online video game characters. Chasing the animated graphics of sinister marketers, the “couch potato” commandos peddle their corpulent babble for the justification of less enlightened culture. A now another competitor vies for the satiations of primal fears. The rise of the zombies competes for center stage. With the advent of the “z-generation”, an offshoot of the millennials, anti-thinking abounds.

Critical analysis, self-evolving and mature insight, based on empirical evidence, and the efficacy of real-world experiences, wane and diminish across a broad spectrum of society. Instead, the contrary is more certain for the majority. Rather than a higher sense of skeptical inquiry, sanctioned by rational applications of methodical analysis, critical thinking suffers significant cross-cultural regression. Extraordinary bias by emotion-laden negativism intentionally clouds logical responsiveness.

Condescending fallacies of inference perpetrate selfish forms of erroneous and exaggerated discourse. Often, such interpersonal conflict devolves to an ever-expanding divisiveness. As such, “anti-thinking”, as opposed to productive pro-social thinking, purposefully infiltrates the diversity of socio-economic and political interactivity. Whether presumed “intelligent discourse” or not, strenuous efforts for deeper spheres of understanding, give way to claims less cumbersome, and pursuits of illusion and supernatural beliefs. Such antics pursue the absence for the primacy of evidence.

In general, for the sake of subjective validation and immediate gratification, people fill in the “blank spaces” in areas of doubt. To the point of the gambit, to flex the nexus of power and control, certain segments of society desire the masses to prefer a simplistic explanation to everything. Analyses that are more complex might expose the “men behind the curtain” and the corruption that exists. To achieve a comforting set of consistent patterns, with easy trouble free explanation, ensures a false sense of happiness. Every story has a happy conclusion so that many people feel good about believe anything. The mass marketing of feel good things drives consumption.

A vast amount of nonsense passes as reality by which fictions are cleverly marketed as fact. Fact is conveniently replaced by fiction. In perpetration, minions carry out the deceptions fooled by inconsistent sound bites, aided by media complicities. In-depth research and analysis through application of rigorous investigative discovery usually does not happen. Instead, information gathering for data analysis is frequently limited to alleged “experts”, which is mostly opinion and an illicit appeal to questionable authority. Social media and infotainment networks and news media superficiality foster the disinformation. In the modern equivalent of slavery, within the framework of global economic and political systems, complicity finds a variety of conforming collusions. Of that, confirmation bias hastens the deterioration of evidentiary validation.

Enslavement of indebtedness to one form of willful obligation or another characterizes a species bent on its extinction. Willingly with malevolent intentions, people deceive themselves for the perpetration of their selfishness, then set about to betray others. As a deteriorating consequence, the human species does not change is exceptionally productive ways. A glimpse of the world and the associated social conditions speaks loudly to that issue. Stupidity reigns supreme for the vast majority. Clever deceit behind masks of advertising conceals the contrivances of power and control. For the sake of “manufactured consent”, from corporate salesmanship to political corruption, the elites of moneyed interests seek to maintain a self-serving status quo at any cost.

From a humanistic perspective, not all seek the perpetuation of the gambit of power and control in human deception. There are always exceptions to every claim of a generality. In fact, there are valiant endeavors by the brave few who take the risks to rise above the illicit collusions of failing economic, political and social systems. Regardless, and more often than not, others prefer sinister and devious inclinations. From a consumer perspective, enslavement comes in the form of an appeal to alleged “authority”.

Self-gratification arrives comfortably and easily by the testimonial imperative of a celebrity. In a devolving culture, that “worships” the guru of “cultic” inclinations, the rich and famous, the public official, or the religious icon, downfall is not far behind. When a celebrity speaks, typically a so-called “movie star”, many needy people, news pundits, spin specialists get giddy and dizzy to listen intently. For the worshipers of “post-modern culture” the cultic desire is to believe in the symbiotic satiation by vicarious adoration.

Why question the fiction, when such gratifies better than the reality of the facts? It does not matter such hearsay is not truly expert, but merely a simplistic and mostly uninformed opinion. Which begs the second question. Why would anyone accept at face value unsubstantiated conjecture from someone who makes a lot of money trying to remember one-liners for a make-believe movie scene? Mainly, the arrogance comes from celebrity status, like many politicians, and the power of projecting fictitious imagery of stage and screen. And, part of the answer is that it appeals to emotion and not effective research and critical analysis. Another part is that the bias reinforces subjective validation in cognitive bias to perpetuate a false sense of security. With trouble-free answers, most feel comfortable and assured in their safe mediocrity.

Modern day slavery runs a gambit from financial indebtedness to the degradations of actual psychological and physical exploitation. From mass marketing schemes to consume more and conserve less, to tortuous inflictions of human trafficking, the stratagems of deception and trickery manifest in diverse forms. Between fake news, ideological extremes that bring harm to others, social disruptions, and malicious cyber invasions that threaten public safety, the human species hastens its self-destruction.

Illicit appeals to so called “expert opinion”, or alleged “celebrity authority”, as in product promotion, political campaign ads, or social commentary frequently fall short on the sufficiency of evidence. Usually, these kinds of things say nothing and solve nothing. Along with the superficiality of “talk show boasting” comes the pretentious psychobabble of some theoretical construct that claims to be scientific. Caution is always warranted as to any assertion regarding any research, study or experiment, until such matters can be thoroughly analyzed and rigorously investigated.

Of significant pathology in American culture is the arrogance of stupidity, and the dangerous concentration of wealth among an elite few. On the one hand, while many rush to consume more and more, others, on the wealthier end of the spectrum, greedily feed upon the gluttony. Idiotic behaviors flourish in the selfishness of self-indulgence, as “magical thinking” masquerades as socio-political discourse. Facts, reality and rational prosocial interactivity devolve to regressive counterproductive instigations.

Meanwhile, some historians who study complex societies point to the eventual destruction and collapse of so-called “empires”. The life cycle of previous “kingdoms” over the last 3,000 to 4,000 years has been surmised to be roughly 250 years. If so, that puts the U.S. in the final stages of about 50 to 75 remaining years. Then what, does America and maybe the rest of the world plunge into a dystopia? Apocalyptic consequences follow in the wake of planetary disasters.

Perpetual unlimited consumption with exploitation of earthly resources, along with extraordinary disparity between rich and poor, will not sustain a livable environment for much longer. In the gambit of power and control by every means of clever human deception, gluttony rules the day as consumption ravenously devours anything, so long as profit can be maintained. Political cowardice aids and abets, with a failure of leadership, hesitance and indecisiveness to insist upon serious problem solving efforts.

Likewise, excessive consumerism colludes in the bloated gluttony to satiate an oligarchic “corporate-state”, and foster as many illusions as possible. By deceptive means in diverse forms, most people will accept the mythology of “manufactured” conformity. Form ghost stories to haunted thinking, reaction, absent evidentiary substantiation, replaces objective analysis. The deception is “reality” for a majority that believes in “supernatural providence”, absent scientific sufficiency, and feels the majority ought to move in a particular direction because those in authority say so.

From the “status quo” mythology, consumerism provides the basis by which intentional misdirection can manipulate a majority of the population to willfully accept a plethora of pseudoscientific claims. Freedom voluntarily surrenders to “magical thinking” in the mysticism of immature flirtations. The morbidity of eventual demise masquerades from the shadowy realms of “infotainment” manipulations. Celebrity stupidity, hiding behind the pandering self-aggrandizement of simplistic sound bites, perpetuates the immature arrogance of grievous fallacies of inference.

From these presumed lofty hallways of pretentious intellectualism, the myth, magic and mayhem continue unabated by the reality. To some scientists, that is to say real hard-core science, as opposed to “social science”, the final act of humankind could come in 100 years. While most were not looking for it, or paying attention to it, the presence of the human species may have outlived its welcome on the planet. Regardless of decades of conferences on this or that, the massive failure of global leadership is but one part of the crumbling infrastructures of human intentions. The same old human problems plague the planet, and will continue do so until the last gasp of human existence.

Meanwhile, some are gauging the probability of finality and focusing on two dynamics that could bring about global disaster. One of those is a mass pandemic and the other is resource depletion that invites natural disasters. For the former, either by contrivance of nature or human manipulation, social collapse could ensue by way of horrible “killer diseases”. For which, now, physiological immunity is becoming more of a challenge for disease control mechanisms. Failure to anticipate, recognize, plan and implement productive actions before calamity hastens the worst-case scenarios. While conjecture alleges catastrophes that could befall humans, a significant element remains the gambit of power and control in human deception.

How Important is Your College Major? The Short Answer Is Maybe Not Much!

I think people, especially parents, put way too much emphasis on trying to figure out what major a student should pursue in college. Often the student is subjected to a battery of tests to help determine a major. I’ve heard it said, “You don’t have to decide at 18 what you’re going to be at 48.” I have found that the undergraduate major may not be as important as people are lead to believe.

I was on a radio program last Saturday (this is July 2010) to discuss college education. One of the hosts shared that his daughter had a Political Science degree from a local university and has spent the last two years looking for a job. I responded that I had taught Political Science at that particular university and paused for a moment.

I tried to correlate Political Science degree and not finding a job. I quickly scanned my vast knowledge of the job market and asked myself “Is she looking for an entry level Political Scientist position?” I answered my own question… “Baby, there aren’t any… never have been and probably never will.” Maybe I’m wrong and you can comment on this to correct me.

We have to ask ourselves the fundamental question: Why do I need to go to college? Well, most people respond “So you can get a better job.” OK – didn’t work this guy’s daughter. Is there something missing in this equation? Maybe so. Let me have a crack at it.

If you are going to college so you can get a better job, then you need to major in something that would make you valuable and attractive to a potential employer or prepares you for an established career field. I think there is absolutely ZERO demand for young political scientists at, let’s say, at Wal-mart corporate. But, I might be wrong. Someone from Wal-mart might need to correct me on this.

Let’s face it, most people major in Political Science (and English, and History, and Sociology, etc.) because they have a keen interest or even a passion for the body of knowledge. From the perspective of preparing a person for a career in one of those fields, the universe collapses to teaching or going to grad school to get credentials to teach at a higher level. There are very few pure practitioners in these fields, those who are have grad degrees and are somehow tied into a university and have teaching experience.

So, what’s the solution? Keep in mind this is coming from a guy who has a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. I’ve never busted anyone or wrote a parking ticket. The degree hangs proudly on the wall. My second doctorate is in Urban and Public Administration… nobody has asked me to be their Mayor. It, too, hangs proudly on the wall, with a few more degrees in-between the two.

So my counsel:

First – unless you have a Damascus Road or Burning Bush experience, I would not be too hasty in selecting a major… and I would fend off all those who think you have to know what to major in before you even set foot on campus. I thought I wanted to major in Computer Science. After three weeks of manually punching cards (this was a loooong time ago), I rethought my career plans.

Second – Take a variety of courses. How do you know you don’t like Geology? Or Journalism? Take your basics and an elective or two your first semester.

Third – Think Strategically. If you develop a passion for Shakespeare but don’t see yourself teaching high school English, major in something more practical like Journalism or Business, and minor or double major in English. Pursue a path that is both-and, not either/or. Balance your passion with practical preparation for a job after you graduate.

Finally – It’s your life. College is a place to learn. I took Science Fiction Literature my sophomore year to watch monster movies and get an easy A. Boy, was I wrong! I was forced to learn how to dissect, sauté, carve up, and savor every morsel in literature, and barely escaped with a C. But I became impassioned with literature and was now equipped to enjoy and appreciate it. Though I never majored in it, I have taught literature at both the high school and college level, and written several complete English curriculums for high school and college. Not bad for an unrequited cop and mayor.

Re-Invigoration of the Public Sector

I do not mean re-engineering or even re-structuring. Maybe all we need is merely to invigorate the government system in order for it to achieve the maximum efficiency that is expected of it.

We have tried such modes of re-invention as re-engineering and re-structuring, at great cost in time and money, and yet improvements have not been substantial or palpable. The public continues to languish in long queues every time a license or a passport is needed. Bribes are ever pernicious and even more open today, like it is not anymore a secret that should be tucked inside the pocket or a key thrown into the deepest ocean.

The public continues to encounter lazy faces of public servants seemingly tired of their day job and daydreaming of life in beaches almost all day long. At the slightest error, the public who is merely seeking public service get squirmed at by those who are especially employed by the government in order to serve the public, and in order that the common person have the convenience that the government owes them.

What is the aim of the public sector now? This is one vital question that should be addressed before everything can be settled. Is the public servant merely holding position just in order to make a living? He or she should rather be selling vegetables or meat in the market, at least thereat; there would be wider potentiality for the improvement of wealth. Nobody could really get rich in the government service, even serving for a long time.

Is the public servant merely holding position for social status and pride? He or she would rather be joining pageants and spectacles on television, for he or she would be known better there.

The public office is a public trust. This dogma had even been institutionalized in our most fundamental set of laws – our Constitution – and this is most encompassing of all, where no one should be allowed to forget the essence of public service, which is in order to serve the people, and not merely for self-aggrandizement.

In view of the foregoing issues, therefore it is but time to realign our views about the public sector, starting from the people within it. That for every employee of the government, whether national or local, every time he or she sees an individual, riding a Mercedes Benz or wearing no shoes and in tattered clothes, it should not matter, because that person, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, is the very public sector he or she is aimed to serve.

In this manner, improvement of government service and the government system could be initiated, entering its nascent stages.

Despite the improvements in work environment, like air-conditioned areas, new buildings, expensive vehicles and increase in pay and bonuses, government service remains the same old horse, who is lackluster in movement, lacks dynamism and most of all, deficient towards its main aim of serving the public dutifully and with vigor. The government remains a system that is prone to stagnation and inefficiency, misappropriation, abuse of authority and lack of direction.

We have tried re-engineering the government system in the past and yet even the best re-engineers couldn’t tame the wild river that is the Philippine government system. Maybe we need a rocket scientist for this. We have tried re-structuring but even if our re-structurers could build a pyramid or an Eiffel Tower out of a molehill, the government system remains an ancient nipa hut.

Maybe it’s time that we should try re-invigoration.

It’s not as complicated to do as re-structuring does or as expensive as a re-engineering would demand. It only takes will, political will and cooperation from the people in the system. There are a number of factors that would be put in focus in this aim of putting the government service in the right track, one is leadership, two is awareness, three is competition, four incentives, and five public choice.

In LEADERSHIP, I mean to say political leadership. When we all almost agree that politics and the bureaucracy could not really be separated and is intertwined almost all the time, leadership becomes a most important factor in putting vigor and integrity back into the government service. In choosing our political leaders, especially in the next election activities in the coming years, the people should now aim for leaders who have proven capacity to lead and carry an entire workforce towards the improvement of service. It starts with the people then. If the electorate fails in the first place to change our leadership from the highest level, towards the root level, then re-invigoration of the government system would remain an illusion.

AWARENESS is two-pronged, first there should be awareness or a high level of consciousness among our public servants that their holding of their respective positions is not meant for self-aggrandizement alone, as a form of livelihood above all, but in order to serve the public well, and this should become a passionate and patriotic mission in every individual that would be integrated into the government service. Secondly, there should be similar level of awareness as to the PUBLIC being the CLIENT that the government is aimed to served, (the private sector prefer to call them CUSTOMERS) and the government system is aimed at primarily serving the needs of the CLIENT, that when the client is dissatisfied, public service becomes irrelevant and inefficient in every sensible sense possible. The CLIENT becomes the reason for existence, without it, there is no public service in the first place. This way, every client that enters the halls of a government office should be served well, for the moment that no one would anymore enter the halls of government offices, is just about the time that public service should eradicated.

COMPETITION could be injected into the public sector so that improvement of service could pertain. If the public could be given a choice as to the locus of a better service that they are necessitating, then every public servant would aim to proffer the better form or kind of service. This would entail privatization or semi-privatization of some government agencies or giving the public more stake in the government system, where there is increased community involvement in public service. Competition would entail the heightened accountability and responsibility factor, where the government service would become directly accountable towards the community, that there is really not one that is indispensable, that the public would always have a better place to go when someone in the public sector doesn’t want to serve the people anymore, but only wants to receive salaries and bonuses. This is where PUBLIC CHOICE comes. This element of re-invigoration is the most complicated of all, but it could be done through medium term action plan, like say five years in the process, incrementally achieved by phases. And of course, this would entail a more detailed document and methodology.

Competition also would bring forth to the adjustment of tenures in public service where at present, there is that seemingly extreme bias in favor of security of tenure, so extreme that even if a public servant would go to his or her work in drag and sleep all day, the government system could not take him or her away, resulting to mass demoralization and low-level performances. Public service should straightened out its merit system that only a good performance could lead to promotions and increase in compensation, that not one indispensable that for whenever a public servant does not want to serve the public anymore, as expected of him or her, then other more competent or more able individuals from the workforce should be recruited in his or her stead.

INCENTIVES of course remains a very important element, just like in re-structuring or re-engineering, that for every PUBLIC CHOICE of a government service, the better service would gain performance incentives, such as quota bonuses for a certain level unit of work, like for example if this government cashier had served 100 clients in a day, then performance credits and bonuses would inure or if this inspector had visited more areas or locations in a month than all the rest, he or she receives a hefty amount. It could be done in a larger scale that for example if this government agency branch had performed well in a particular year, more than the others in the same field, the whole workforce of that branch would get bonuses and be lauded with public acclaim. They do that in private sector, that’s why the private sector had been able to build the grand Makati skyline over the years, and is establishing another in Fort Bonifacio and in Ortigas, aside from the busting urban scene in Cebu and Davao, and they do not receive any subsidy from taxpayers, unlike the government service system.

The private sector had not been fraught with issues of grand corruption because employees in the private sector do not attain such level of indispensability like that in the public service, where those who performed well are credited well and remain in the service for long, while those who are lackluster and lack integrity in work is taken out of the system. And besides, if one reaches a managerial or administrative level in the private sector, one is assured of hefty compensation that is why, in recent years, managers and executives of private companies have been able to increased sales in dramatic proportions. There are a lot of things that the government service could learn from the private sector in terms of methodologies, form of work structure, incentive system, recruitment and promotion system, tenures of employees, work ethics and level of competency and most of all in their treatment of the CLIENT, which they often call as the CUSTOMER.

In public service, the CLIENT may not always be right, but for certain they are the reason for being. A population that is served better by the government, in terms of public service– like education, licenses, security of food, public order and safety, health and welfare, livelihood opportunities, housing, job placements, communication and technology, etc.– is a population that can make a better government and thereon, a more vibrant State.

Higher Technical Education: Distinctiveness of Humanities, Indian English, and ESP

I am grateful to the organizing committee for thinking about me and inviting me to deliver a guest lecture on distinctiveness of Humanities and social sciences in higher technical education. I feel rather uneasy and highly septic, as I stand here with no pretensions of a high-brow professor or specialist whose discourse goes overhead. I speak to you as a practicing teacher of English language skills, especially for science and technology, and Indian English writing, especially poetry, with interest in what concerns us in the Humanities division, which, unfortunately, enjoys little academic respect in the over-all scheme of things in almost every technical institution.

Maybe, a conference like this augurs well for friends in the department of Humanities & Social Sciences, as they seek to explore interdisciplinarity, which indeed expands the scope of teaching and research. But I must provide a perspective to my several remarks that ensue from my reflections on the quality of intellectual activity in most technical institutions vis-a-vis the negligible support for scholarship in the Humanities, perhaps with the belief that the humanities are not ‘real subjects’ or that these have no bearing on learning of technical subjects, or these bring no demonstrable economic benefit.

The discipline has declined more perceptibly with, to quote Nannerl O. Keohane, “the creation of increasingly specialized disciplines and rewards for faculty members for advancing knowledge in those areas.” We have a marginalized status in technical institutions even if we may have been playing a crucial role as teachers of languages and letters. I don’t want to dwell on them here. But, we should be aware of the ground reality.

Yes, study in humanities is not always a matter of communicating ‘new findings’ or proposing a ‘new theory’. It is rather ‘cultivating understanding’ or thinking critically about some profound questions of human life; it is often the expression of the deepened understanding, which some individual has acquired, through reading, discussion and reflection, on a topic which has been ‘known’ for a long time. To me, practices in arts and humanities elevate consciousness, refine susceptibilities in various directions, create deeper awareness, and enable us to respond critically and independently to the ‘brave new world’ we live in. Arts and humanities alone can help us to explore what it means to be human, and sustain “the heart and soul of our civilization.” Perhaps, it’s the usefulness of humanities which is acknowledged by inviting me to speak to a distinguished audience like this.

I intend to divide my brief into two parts: I would reflect on technical institutions as schools of higher learning; and then, I would say something about the business of English language teaching, which is my prime professional concern. Yet, much will remain unsaid, for I am aware of the controversies I may be raising.

I strongly feel most university level technical institutions in India, like the general ones, have failed in promoting or upholding healthy intellectual attitudes and values, and academic culture and tradition, expected of a university, just as, it’s painful for me to observe, the culture has been virtually dismal in the case of studies in arts and humanities in the last four decades. The dullness and sameness has marginalized both creative and critical performance, or the standards handed down to us have become obsolete, or we have fallen into an abyss of unbecoming elitism, or we have become used to a cornucopia of pleasures formerly denied us: I won’t comment. But an opportunity, such as this, is necessarily not to offer any authoritative judgments but to reflect on, or to provide insights into, issues that concern intellectuals at the top of university teaching hierarchy. Should I say ‘non-university’? for I fear most of the faculty do not want to move beyond the parochial confines of narrow exclusivity. It’s the age of specialization they say, and discourage diversity, tolerance and inclusivity: they do not strive for intellectual mobility and change of attitude; we, as seniors, too, have not tried to reach out, or explore!

As a university, we are not oriented to the transformation of our social order, nor are we obligated to act as a moral deterrent in inhibiting the growth of selfish motivation. We think of education in terms of laboratory or industrial practices in mineral and mining sectors, energy, electronics, engineering, computer application, environment, management, law, health sciences, life sciences, and all that, but hardly care for ‘producing’ fully competent and spiritually mature human beings. We do not pay attention to the growth of individual creativity and to an intuitive understanding of individual purpose. We do not bother to educate with, to quote Rabindranath Tagore, the “knowledge of spiritual meaning of existence” which is also the ethical and moral meaning. We have been, unfortunately, bogged down in schemes that inculcate a habit of the mind which indulges in seeking only better opportunities to survive, or higher pay packages.

I’m afraid for too long we have practiced the “how to” of life and neglected the “why”. I believe it is comparatively easy to learn how to accomplish certain material tasks, but much more difficult to learn “what for”. If our educational system has failed over the years, it is because we have never come into a working knowledge of our humanity. We have gained incredible amount of technical knowledge, perhaps more than enough to resolve many problems with which mankind is presently faced, but we have never tried to reflect on how to apply it constructively and successfully for the good of all, with a sense of human dignity.

Some of us rightly worry about the general lack of mutual respect for the rights and feelings of others, the tendency to be suspicious of the unknown, the tendency to take liberty with the sanctity of the individual person, and complain about the general lack of character and integrity, despite higher education. I see our failure in communicating with the spiritual insight which is marked by a balance between individual desires and social demands; I see our failure in creating the awareness of the world of values and principle of the spiritual oneness underlying the great variety found in the world. I see our failure in the humanity being torn apart by intolerance and fundamentalism, the suicidal urge for self-destruction. I see our failure in the rising ethnic, linguistic and religious tensions that now belie the scientific, technological and enlightened euphoria of the sixties.

We seem to have lost a sense of obligation toward creating a good, tolerant, forward-looking society. Thanks to the role of money in democratic processes and institutionalization of corruption at all levels, people have lost faith in politicians, bureaucrats and government. The invasion of governance by the criminal-politician-bureaucrat nexus has done the country greatest harm than the shift of power following the wave of globalization, multinational capitalism, corporate economy, politics of war on terror, environmental concerns, human rights and all that. There is a reshaping of self, values and norms with dominance of the Western discourse in critical reasoning and reflection through perils and delights of growth and change; through survival skills vis-à-vis emigration, sex, parenthood, and age; through re-visiting past and present with vested awareness; through political orthodoxy in the name of democracy, religious fanaticism, casteist dominance, and repression of the liberals and the simple; and through the new processes of fossilization of the pre-colonial/colonial/post-colonial that renders many of us in the profession irrelevant. I wonder if we are not terribly dislocated in our small world.

Let me not digress any further. Ladies and Gentlemen, every university is a school of higher education, but how high is high? If we are only interested in technical education for the sake of developing professional ability or skill in some area of life, then we are talking about a vocational school or polytechnic, and not a true university. Unfortunately, most universities (and technical institutions) have been vying with each other to become professional schools, not committed to the teaching of better morality, higher philosophy, universal order or universal culture. They are not producing morally and ethically conscious good citizens. I am afraid all one can expect from the present priorities in the so called higher education is survival, pursuit of money, and power.

When science is transformed into technology, it becomes a form of power. And, as history would testify, power is the power for good and for evil. The technological culture we live in pervades and shapes our lives. The computer and internet culture, electronic gadgets, microwave, fridge, mobile phones, antibiotics, contraceptives and several such devices have been more than new means. Our sense of vulnerability has been changing fast. The new consumerist culture has taken away what was earlier meaningful and rich experiences of life.

We in the Humanities & Social sciences department need to debate the multifaceted reality that modern technology offers-not only its devices and infrastructure which are its material manifestation but also skills and organization, attitudes and culture, perhaps constructively and contextually. Thinking through technology should make possible for us to develop and contribute to humanities philosophy of science and engineering just as different visions may be possible to discuss through social philosophy of technology. Researchers in the West have already been talking about technology as liberator, technology as threat, and technology as instrument of power. Our lives and ideas have thus changed and will continue to change. In fact, every field has been changing rapidly these days. The discipline (HSS) needs to incorporate their study, especially as media such as internet and social networking have already modified and redefined human relationship and identities everywhere and at all levels.

Then, there is the emergence of what has been called ‘knowledge society’. The growth or creation of knowledge society that we have been talking about since the beginning of this century presupposes our capacity for idea generation. But if knowledge is not made freely available to all who seek it, how can one promote humanity or make it power for a liberal democratic society. Moreover, as scientific and technical knowledge spreads or becomes more powerful, it would become more problematic for the scientific community to assume moral responsibility for the use and abuse of scientific knowledge. To mitigate this challenge, one needs an education not so much in science but in humanities. When scientists say they want to live up to their social responsibilities, what they seem to mean is that they want more power than they have; it means they want to run things, to take charge. They should not end up ‘doing politics’ in the name of improving the world or society. Let them be interested in themselves, in facing the task of their own self-improvement, and learning how to think about their own responsibilities in a more serious and reflective way, their own moral education.

As a faculty in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in one of the leading technical universities in the country, what I think the scientific and engineering community has to face up to is its own self-education, its own social education. Our budding engineers and scientists have to explore answers to such basic questions as: what is a good society? How do we go about achieving it? How do we-what do we-learn from history? What do we learn from political philosophers of the past? Or, why scientists think and speak the way they do? They cannot neglect this kind of educational enquiry in technical education because there is more and more to know as the fields proliferate. Which means, the department of Humanities and Social Sciences should equip them with the basics that helps them demonstrate understanding in and across the major disciplines: scientific understanding, technical understanding, mathematical understanding, historical understanding, artistic/humanistic understanding, cross-cultural understanding, and understanding of moral and political philosophy, and philosophy of science etc. There is need for providing new unfamiliar concepts and examples to promote such understanding which will later enable them to take enormous decisions vis-à-vis the complexity of the world science and technology has brought about.

With the present consciousness, accept it or not, we, in educational establishments, have perpetuated living with a world in upheaval, and in some cases, have even shown a preference for it. But, with a higher order of awareness that approaches intuitive levels of understanding (something arts, culture and humanistic studies essentially seek to develop), we should be better able to look at an issue from many different dimensions, and rationalize how we ought to live in the future “as complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize traditions, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements,” to quote Martha Nusbaum from her book Not for Profit.

A technical university needs to provide for education which also elevates the consciousness and extends the power of the soul; that is, we need to shift a part of the current educational priorities from the intellect to the heart, and from scientific and technical thinking to soul cognition. The end and aim of a university, be it technical or general, is the perfection of man, striving to evolve the consciousness in tune with the universe.

The education we ‘sell’ needs to be re-tuned towards creativity, innovation, and respect for fundamental freedom; our policies and curiculums should help in strengthening the culture and values of a global society which is characterized by multiculturalism, intercultural interactions, mutual respect, tolerance, dignity and respect for values, and consciousness of ourselves as one human race, human rights and global responsibility for change in attitudes. We must, at every level, strive for a balance between the traditional attitudes and the need for a modern multi-cultural society.

I believe most of the new technical institutions can maintain their distinctiveness by seriously opening to the diversity of our times, by sharing freely with students representing the diversity of our larger society, culture, and future needs. The enclave approach which seeks to shut out or at least seriously limit the diverse socio-cultural needs and understanding may not help any more to maintain distinctiveness of the institution.

I also worry about the system’s unwillingness to nurture the ethos and sensibility that sustains a university spirit even as, according to the current govt. policies, an institution of higher learning is expected to run as a business enterprise which in days to come, will modify, perhaps irreversibly, our attitudes to teaching and research, our notions of knowledge, our administrative practices, and our relationship with the state and society. We need to make a move from the concerns of the immediate present to the future and visualize a different typology of cultural, linguistic and educational problems against the backdrop of a very fluctuating socio-political climate and pressures of all types.

As part of the language and literature teaching fraternity for over 38 years and working in a specialized university, I know how significant Humanities teaching is to hone the mind, critical thinking and communication skills. I am tempted to quote Erwin Griswold (of the Harvard Law School): “You go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts or habits; for the art of expression, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual position, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the art of working out what is possible in a given time; for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage, and mental soberness.”

Now, let me talk about the business of English Language Teaching. I say ‘business’ because it has developed into a multi-million dollars commercial enterprise outside the native bases. We too, have an opportunity to capitalize on it in our own way, if we can. We can reach out to people in over 70 countries where English is one of the main languages.

The global diffusion of the language has now taken an interesting turn: the ratio between the native speakers of English (in countries like the U.K., the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and the non-native speakers (in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Philippines etc where English is used along with the mother tongue) is almost 40: 60, and it has expanded fast to other countries (like China, Japan, Egypt, Indonesia, Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, the Gulf Countries, and the countries of the erstwhile Eastern Bloc). It is virtually a native language in South Africa, Jamaica and West Indies. Its acculturation, its international functional range, and the diverse forms of literary creativity it is accommodating are historically unprecedented.

As Braj B. Kachru notes, the situation today is such that the native speakers have an insignificant role in the global spread and teaching of English; they seem to have lost the exclusive prerogative to control its norms of use or standardization; in fact, if current statistics are any indication, they have become a minority.

This sociolinguistic fact and its implications have not yet been fully recognized by most linguists, ELT practitioners, ESPists, administrators, language policy planners, and college and university teachers in India. What we need now are new paradigms and perspectives for linguistic and pedagogical research and for understanding the linguistic creativity, including the scientific and technical writing, in multilingual situations across cultures.

You will appreciate the English we all speak is not like the English the native speakers of the language speak. We don’t need to. The yardsticks of the British or American native speakers, or their standards as reflected in GRE, TOEFL or IELTS etc, or their kind of tongue twisting, are simply damaging to the interests of non-native speakers. We have to develop our own standards, instead of teaching to sound like Londoners or North Americans. Pronunciation must be comprehensible and not detract from the understanding of a message. But for this nobody needs to speak the so called standardized English that makes inter- and intranational communication difficult. David Crystal too appreciates this reality and favours local taste of English in India and elsewhere.

Our Indianness is clearly reflected in the pronunciation of certain vowels and consonant, in the stressing of words, in the rhythm and pauses, in the vocabulary and lexical acculturation, discourse patterning, code mixing, usages, grammatical deviations etc. The prolonged linguistic and cultural contact of English in various states of the Indian union has given it a unique character which deserves serious academic exploration. It has acquired a considerable functional range and depth, and it is preposterous to expect that the language would not be ‘shaped’ or ‘moulded’ according to the local needs or remain unaffected by the influences of local languages and literatures, cultures and users. It is, in fact, the result of such deep-rooted local functions, that we have now an institutionalized model of English for intranational uses. The way India’s multilingualism and ethnic pluralism have added to the complexity of Indian English, apart from ‘mixing’ words, phrases, clauses and idioms from the Indian Language into English, and in ‘switching’ from one language to another, perhaps to express the speaker’s ‘identity’ or linguistic ‘belonging’, the role of ‘native speaker’– the British or American– as become peripheral, as Kachru rightly asserts, unless he or she understands the local cultures and cultural presuppositions.

I am not very much concerned with the literary perspective of Indian English here, even if I have been actively associated with Indian English literary practices for over thirty five years. I am professionally interested in the language use and usage of Indian writers, and scholars and researchers of science and technology, the localized educated variety they have developed to communicate indigenous innovations. You can appreciate this if you have noticed development of local registers for agriculture, for the legal system, for entertainment industry, for Environment, and so on. The publications of Indian practitioners of science and technology have certain discourse features which are unique to Indian English, but not examined.

I suspect Indian English is not yet recognized as an important area of research for ‘English for specific purposes’ (ESP) that we teach. [It is also, however, very sad that though ESP as an approach is now firmly established, it still has fewer supporters in India, possibly because nobody wants any changes in the conventional teaching-learning practices?] Having been in the forefront of ESP movement in the country for over twenty five years, I am aware of the localized linguistic innovations in the huge output of Indian researchers, some of which has the potential for serving effectively and successfully as pedagogical texts or teaching materials. But it is unfortunate the English teaching academia are slow to recognize the pragmatic contexts–the importance of intranational uses of English and according to local needs – and continue to stick to the external norms of English. It’s more regrettable that the conceptual and applied research on ESP in the West has avoided addressing issues which are vital for understanding the use of English across cultures.

The way ESP has turned international, teachers and researchers in Applied Languages in our country need to explore: what accommodation a native speaker of English may have to make for participation in communication with those who use a local (or non-native) variety of English; what determines communicative performances or pragmatic success of English in its international uses; what insights we have gained by research on intelligibility and comprehensibility concerning international and intranational uses of English; and what attitudinal and linguistic adjustments are desirable for effective teaching of ESP based on a non-native English, like Indian English. These are a few basic questions, not convenient to Western ESP enthusiasts.

I have noticed in the Western ESP in general, and science and technology in particular, a strong bias towards ethno-centricism in approach and neglect of intranational motivation for the uses of English. It is not possible to practice ESP effectively unless we respect, what John Swales call, “local knowledge” and “localized pragmatic needs”. After all, we use the language as a tool and we cannot ignore the localized innovations that have “code-related” and “context-related” dimensions. We ought to view non-native innovations in ESP as positive and consider them as part of the pragmatic needs of the users. It is the attitudinal change that I plead for!

Teaching of ESP in a university in the second language situation like ours is largely a “collaborative sense-making” with the class. When I say this, I am pointing to the interactive nature of formal instruction, which, in terms of actual language use, is essentially Indian in tone, tenor and style. I am also referring to the need for understanding the dichotomy between the rhetoric of EST teaching and the practice enacted in the classroom from the viewpoint of adult learners, and language skills development and competence in the Indian social setting. We need to evolve a dynamic model of ‘communicative teaching’ of ESP which seeks to develop (i)linguistic competence (Accuracy), (ii)pragmatic competence (Fluency), and (iii) sociolinguistic competence (Appropriacy), without ignoring interrelated aspects of local practice, research and theory and at the same time emphasizes language awareness, which is a significant concept in ELT, in that it covers implicit, explicit, and interactive knowledge about language and provides for a critical awareness of language and literature practices that are shaped by, and shape, sociocultural relationships, professional relationship, and relationship of power. The approach can also facilitate cross-cultural comparisons and contrasts, and promote genre-based studies (i.e. how language works to mean, how different strategies can be used, how meaning is constructed), basic to ESP, in that it truly develops individual’s performance competence.

Friends, I have hopped from one point to another, perhaps jumbled up, in my zeal to draw your attention to several aspects of English, Indian English and ESP that have wider and deeper implications. They touch attitudinal chords of English language users, teachers and administrators too. Teaching of English, both language and literature, today is not only academically challenging but also opens new refreshing avenues for applied research. This is because of the spread and changing status of English, which has grown from a native, second, and foreign language to become an international language of commerce science and technology, spoken among more non-natives than natives in the process of their professional pursuits or everyday lives. I have also placed certain facts of science and technology education in the context of Humanities before you, raised issues, expressed my view, and now it is for the profession to accept, reject or explore their implications. Thank you.

Copyright:
Professor R.K.Singh
Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences
Indian School of Mines
Dhanbad 826004 India

[This is the Text of my specially invited Lecture at SRM University’s International Conference on ‘Role and Responsibilities of Humanities and Social Sciences in Technical Education’ on 17 March 2011]