Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Friday, March 07, 2008

rohit dhankar strongly believes - 1

Was at this rural education institution (digantar) near Jaipur over the last 2 days.

One of the founders is this startlingly simple, incisive and grizzled veteran of the field of rural development and education and here are some of his thoughts.

On communication
The modern understanding of communication is nothing but hypocrisy, where through glibness and dexterity, one tries to go one up.

True communication involves:
Knowing what one is saying fully with the full extent of logical and rational thiking to back it.
- valuing the other person as a person
- respecting his/her point of view; however on the opposite side it may be


Ludwig said...

> - respecting his/her point of view;
> however on the opposite side it
> may be

am increasingly finding it harder to do this, i think old age is happening :P not even sure what it means to respect a ludicrous point of view. for example, all religious blah. can sort of see why someone holds a point of view, but cannot really empathize or respect it in any meaningful sense. see what i mean?

wonder what the digantar/rohit dhankar take on this is...

btw, just back in b'lore from visiting a dhankar fan at puvidham :)

kbpm said...

nice & pithy advice. should try to follow it (more)!

ludwig - age should be making you more temperate and adjusting and what not. not the other way around. clearly you are not aging enough!

csm said...

lud - the respect part is crucial.
here is why.
1. if one judges ones POV as 'better' or 'correct' or 'superior', it automatically assumes the opposite for the other POV.
2. i agree that some of the POVs people come up will test 1 above. the factor which may lead to respect is to expect that the POV arises from their experiences and background and the indoctrination.
for eg., for a boy in gaza whose pop gets randomly blown away... would you not respect his POV that izzy really sucks.

dhankar made this point wrt the caste issues that are rampant in north and esplly in rajasthan.
in their school, there is total equality. many villagers resisted and revolted. he said they backed his POV and just let it be at that. he never tried to make it a stance against casteism - which he says would have bombed. within 2 weeks, he claims that the matter jsut bubbled away and all kids were eating and drinking together.

the same issues bog our schools and classrooms too.
the teachers do not respect the students and their POVs.
in digantar, the late attendance chart of the 'teachers' is up in PUBLIC, while the students' one is up in each class.
and the teachers there work 830 to 5 each day and are off only for 1 month a year.
and have a 1 month training at teh start of each year.
and they are loving it...

Ludwig said...

kbpm: that's because you're a young damsel in the flower of her youth! i'm definitely aging like there's no tomorrow.

csm: i agree that in the case of a Gaza boy, it is possible to (relatively easily) empathize with his POV, no issues there. but that example doesn't best illustrate what i'm trying to get at. the Gaza/Palestine situation is inherently so full of ambiguity and gray areas (to my mind) that empathy ought to be a vital factor in parsing it.

i was thinking of the more unambiguous situations: religion/superstition, caste, gender bias etc. where at least there is a clear 'good' or 'better' (or is there not?).

in such a situation, also i can understand why someone holds a POV (upbringing, indoctrination), but i can't easily claim to have any respect for it.

i think we may be quibbling over the definition of "respect" itself. the example that you gave (villagers resisting equality etc.) is a case in point. in this case, rohit's "respect" seems merely to be a tactical almost people management move based on an understanding/assumptions about the villagers' psychology/nature (i.e. better to not antagonize them directly, let's just do what we have to and they'll either not have the enthu to pursue it, or they'll see that it's not so horrible), which paid off, not so much about "respect".

anyway, this is too much for an email/blog comment discussion, we should confab over potations...

csm said...

lud - i agree that potations are mandatory for such discussions.
so when are you perambulating in these sides of the western sea front?

Ludwig said...

csm: ah, $1 million question. might happen soon, might not. it's a bit of a mystery wrapped in an enigma. will keep you posted.

it turns out that a "to respect or not to respect" debate has been raging concurrently. triggered by this (PDF) paper ("Religion and Respect") by British philosopher Simon Blackburn. the paper is 25 pages long, so haven't read it yet :P but he makes some points that resonated.

"`Respect' of course is a tricky term. I may respect your gardening by just letting you get on with it. Or, I may respect it by admiring it and regarding it as a superior way to garden. The word seems to span a spectrum, from simply not interfering, passing by on the other side, through admiration, right up to reverance and deference. This makes it uniquely well-placed for ideological purposes. People might start out by insisting on respect in the minimal sense, and in a generally liberal world they may not find it too difficult to obtain it. But then what we might call respect creep sets in, where the request for minimal toleration turns into a demand for more substantial respect, such as fellow-feeling, or esteem, and finally deference and reverence. In the limit, unless you let me take over your mind and your life, you are not showing proper respect for my religious or ideological convictions."


"We can respect, in the minimal sense of tolerating, those who hold false beliefs. We can pass by on the other side. We need not be concerned to change them, and in a liberal society we do not seek to suppress them or silence them. But once we are convinced that a belief is false, or even just that it is irrational, we cannot respect in any thicker sense those who hold it--not on account of their holding it. We may respect them for all sorts of other qualities, but not that one. We would prefer them to change their minds."

this is sort of what i was getting at, but casting a broader net than just religion (like i mentioned, caste, gender, race etc.)

there are discussions on this paper/topic here, here and here.

csm said...

lwig - i believe that rohit means and tries to live/act at the pure definition of respect. like you and birds :-)
for me, it is probably the only place to try to be at.
all other interpretations could be ways of a reaching a negotiated state. i respect that :-)
will get reading on the links.