the mater of all expectations

i am so often disappointed by people who prove to be nothing more than kayasth or kamma or brahmin or reddy that i should have given up trying by now. but i am what those folks expect me to be: dumb. if only they raised their expectations of me! if a nair thinks i am as good as a nair, and a bhumihar thinks i am as good as him - wouldn't i have to be as good as a nair or a bhumihar? my parents would have to be as 'good' as theirs, their friends and associates as nice and the things they buy/give me as good. and my average performance at school or wherever would be as good. but, wait a second. what comes first? raised expectations or better performance? they wouldn't think better of me if i didn't perform better, right? but how can i perform better if they don't think better of me?

well, i'll perform better if the government gets out of the business of education. the government would give me vouchers and my folks would 'encash' these at a school which would provide me with 'education'. but the school my parents first take me to may not want me - they may have very low expectations of me, considering the performance of people like me had always been poor. and the next school may have the same reservations and so on...until my parents find a school for me where no khatri, bania, brahmin or maratha would ever go.or my parents, being illiterate, take me to the wrong kind of school. so, i live upto the low expectations and perform poorly. i am misjudging the market? the first school would accept me? does that matter really? i would do poorly there as well because of low expectations - look at the americans of african origin who go to the same schools, mostly, as the whites. the africans are different? look at how poorly the lower castes are expected to do at all levels, from schools to the most elite of colleges- 'the only quota candidates that actually do well are those from the upper middle class'. so except for a thin layer at the top, all quota candidates are expected to do badly- wouldn't you say the same thing about the africans in america? so the expectations are the key, right?

but 'imagine that somehow our expectations were raised'. and we kicked out the bad guys in high office and brought in 'good guys' who would have the 'leadership, courage, vision, and heaps of chutzpah' to raise the expectations of the people 'far above the prevalent average'. in short, leadership of a quality beyond expectations. but, here's the rub: given the condition that the leadership be of exceptional quality, the good guys can only be those 'expected to be good at whatever they do, whether scholarship or the arts', so they can only be brahmins and rajputs and so on because the 'bad guys'/guys like me 'are expected to generally drop out of school, engage in crime and end up in jail'.. now, when the good guys get into office, things would change?

i don't think so. because the good guys are already in high office - in a majority of the states from gujarat to jharkhand and kashmir to kerala, they already are the chief ministers. if they aren't the chief ministers, they hold all the key cabinet positions and play leadership roles in all political parties. they constitute 90% of the key secretary-level babus in the central government and occupy over 70% of the rest of the posts. and their clout extends to the state governments and the public sector enterprises. and they own the best, most influential companies in the private sector. and they're the media and the judiciary. and all the prime ministers until now have been uniformly 'good', unless you consider the jats and the vokkaligas 'bad'.

and they all have low expectations of me. how do i know? because they provide me with less all the time - access to public goods, for instance, among other things (why should they waste precious resources on someone like me who's going to perform poorly anyway? so they steal as much of it as they can). and more importantly, they treat me with less attention (because that's what i deserved...according to the historic 'script', right?). and therefore i perform poorly. the new good guys would be different? how?

the problem is not that they... you expect less of me. the problem is that you think less of me.. whether i am an african in america or a low caste individual in india. you think i am only 'sufficiently poor' even when you acknowledge that i am 'disadvantaged'. in 1947, when you were sufficiently poor it didn't stop you from giving yourselves schools that actually worked, elite colleges and universities (whether we needed them or not) that only you went to, building factories (whether we needed them or not), with my money and yours, that would employ only you, and installing institutions and offices, with largely my vote and yours, where only you could work and wield power. you 'assured yourself that both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome were mandated'. you gave your opportunism a grandiose name too- socialism.

forget equality of outcomes, you don't even want to assure us that equality of opportunities is mandated- 'here kid, take this anna and go buy yourself a good education. i don't have the time to make sure you get a good deal. or even whether you get any deal.' and even if i managed to scrape through school, despite an uncertain deal, you want to make sure that i still wouldn't get into any college that'd offer me a good deal. which, of course, would mean that i would probably get the kind of job my kind of people were always expected to get. would my kid brother even go to school if i told him - this is the best you can get? and i guess you have a grandiose name for this new kind of opportunism too. to tell us that it is nothing like socialism. in my view, the objectives and the script, of course, remain the same.

the problem is not socialism or whatever-ism: in your hands, everything will turn into your-ism. in 1947 and 1955 and 1968 and 1980 and 1986 and 1990 and whenever you were laying down education policy or trying to distort positive discrimination policy, you always maintained that equalizing of opportunities is essential. that we needed good schools more than reservations. but you never delivered. now you come back and tell me 'you need good schools more than reservations' with the complete confidence that i'd never have thought of that original idea on my own. or heard it earlier. you must think me stupid.

you think so little of me- that is the problem.
you think so little of me that you feel i don't even deserve political freedom (because 'poor, illiterate people cannot meaningfully use their political freedom'- don't you mean 'sufficiently poor' people like me?). political freedom that would help me influence the way people like you look at people like me, no matter how you think of me. am i wrong if i say you make me think of other, more famous, worthies who had very similar ideas about who deserved political freedom and who did not?

i repeat, the problem is not that you expect less of me but that you think less of me. and as long as you carry this contempt, much like you carry your cherished surname, across centuries and continents and careers, you'd always have low expectations of me.
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