B S Raghavan

Synthesising inner and outer worlds

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on December 06, 2012

A world without walls.

One of the favourite aphorisms of speakers at seminars and conferences, dwelling on the inter-connectivities globalisation has brought about, is that a butterfly batting its wings in Brazil may well cause an avalanche on the Himalayas. That, as Mark Twain wryly remarked when his eyes fell on newspaper reports of his own death, may be a bit of an exaggeration.

But there can be no doubt that, thanks to the knowledge, information, communications and technology revolutions going on simultaneously, the world has shrunk to the size of a pea.

The Internet, Web sites growing by the millions every month, email, freely available facilities for video chats and instant conferencing — generally the volume, velocity and variety of transactions circling the globe eight times a single second at the speed of light — are fast erasing borders and boundaries between countries. All these developments have turned the expansion of www into, not world wide web, but world without walls.

The paradox is that while geographical regions are getting closer-knit, human mindsets are far apart. They are yet to free themselves fully from age-old shackles. Contradictions abound. The Internet has been pressed into service for matrimonial alliances which proceed on the same time-honoured pattern.

BASE AND BEASTLY

Instead of brokers carrying bundles of horoscopes and peddling CVs as part of the process of match-making, the information is gleaned from Web sites.

That is duly followed by exchange of horoscopes, meetings of families, appraisal of the girl by the boy, and holding of negotiations on the quantum of dowry, the types of saris and items of jewellery for the girl, the dress for the groom, and the exact formats of muhurtham and reception, and expenditures on specific items. and the like!

Of course, a concession to the www era that is sometimes made is that the boy and the girl are permitted to get in touch with each other before the wedding by email and explore each other’s affinities, world-views and so on.

Human being’s base and beastly nature continues. Warring groups, castes and communities take advantage of the same email messages, video conferencing and transfer of funds at lightning speed to cause disorders, foment riots, and launch terrorist attacks. In short, the inner selves of human beings are yet to attune themselves to the tremendous changes the external world is undergoing. This applies to societies as well as organisations. The latter are nowadays obsessive about “networking”, synergising and such.

They have even made a portmanteau word “co-opetition” combining cooperation and competition to make the point that it need not be one or the other, as was the orthodox assumption, but there could be cooperation even while competing!

Applying the same yardsticks, an optimally well-oiled organisation should be free from conflicts, back-biting, one-upmanships and other similar drawbacks detracting from its effectiveness.

The fact that these ills are perpetually bedevilling relationships is one indication of the failure of the corpus of the literature on networking to instill the spirit of symbiosis and synergy in collective human endeavour.

Thus, communities, societies and organisations are lumbering along out of sync with the imperatives of an inter-dependent world.

CAULDRON OF CHANGES

Reconciling the inner with the outer world of humankind is more than a matter of quick fixes that are being bandied about in countless tracts and workshops right from the time, nearly 100 years ago, when Dale Carnegie wrote his best-seller Winning Friends and Influencing People.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, recently devoted its 14th Annual Women in Business Conference to a discussion of many nostrums that the participants felt could lead to ‘sustainable networking’.

It even spent time on the question whether, in order to succeed in networking, a woman executive should change her name, or retain her maiden name, after marriage.

The whole proceedings, as summed up in Knowledge @ Wharton Web site of December 5, are preoccupied with how to advance in one’s career, whereas it should have addressed the larger issue of finding recipes for organisations to come to terms with the cauldron of changes the world has become.

It is obvious that it is meaningless to talk of an external borderless world if the inner world, contrary to what Rabindranath Tagore wished, is racked with fear and broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls and the clear stream of reason has lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.

Published on December 06, 2012

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