Are We “Proud Enough” Of Kshama Sawant?
By Romi Mahajan
04 October, 2015
Of late, there’s been a real upsurge in the type of muscular pride in “India” and “Indians” that one often associates with sports and other competitive pursuits. It’s curious to me on many levels and dangerous on an equal number.
The crown prince of this “pride” is no doubt Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who tours like a rock-star, brim-filling stadia and board rooms alike preaching the convergence of “Digital” with “India” and “India” with power. Even those who are neutral as to his politics are in awe of this force-of-nature who wows the Kings of Silicon Valley with ease.
Silicon is the root of so much other pride in India and Indians. While the focus was once on the “new” Silicon Valleys in India (Bangalore being the most cited example) it has shifted to executives of Indian origin who have taken the reins of many of the most iconic and successful companies in technology- Microsoft, Alphabet, Adobe, and countless others. I use the phrase “Indian origin” because most of these “leaders” are US citizens and are assimilated into the US mainstream, despite choices of food, religion, and the sports they like to refer to in sales meetings.
I’ve always been curious about the concept of “pride” especially as it relates to something inherent, someone about which one has no control, and anything related to power and domination. I’ve written about this elsewhere so let’s not get detained unduly here.
In fact, I’d like to take this very concept-pride- which I am both confused at and abhor (in most of its manifestations and implications)—and use it as a launch pad to ask some fundamental questions about the alignment of pride and the values we all claim to profess.
The people of Indian origin (PIO) who most other PIOs cite as sources of pride are either business people, mainstream political actors, or sports stars. A few authors and engineers can be thrown in but in small doses only. While power and money excite and seduce people across cultures, perhaps those who have been lying in wait for decades feel this seduction more strongly. So it is with PIOs.
A PIO won a Nobel Prize along with a fellow South Asian recently. That generated some interest but not as much as another PIO assuming the Chief Executive role at the world’s largest software company. The CEO, Satya Nadella is based in the Seattle-area; interestingly enough, so is another PIO that is made much of but certainly not by the PIOs that I know.
This PIO is named Kshama Sawant; she is an avowed Socialist and is a vocal and intelligent member of the Seattle City Council. She is an articulate advocate for the people who Capitalism has left behind.
Now Sawant has not been ignored by the media; that is not the claim being made here. But has she been a source of “pride” for PIOs? I see no evidence of this. They have largely ignored her.
When a corporate maven “donates” some of his or her corporate profits to a “good cause, “people, PIOs included, talk in dulcet tones of our ability to “do well by doing good.” When a PIO gives her entire life to a radical cause, she’s condescendingly referred to as a “well-meaning” but “too radical” a person from whom self-respecting PIOs must keep their distance.
All of this is mentally jarring. Don’t most of us discuss “helping others” as the most noble goal of humanity? Don’t we laud “saints” for their renunciation and one-ness with “the people?” Don’t we claim to respect content over form, depth over artifice, humanity over money?
Are these claims substantiated in where we feel pride?
Are we “proud enough” of Kshama Sawant?
Romi Mahajan can be reached at email@example.com
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