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Norms and Standards contd …

February 1st, 2008

The other day, I was writing about a meeting with an organization that works with construction labourers. One of the persons from the organization was talking about how the home state workers can be lazy while the migrant workers are hardworking. This person also spoke of how Kerela has no industry and the government simply taps into the remittances made by Malayalis from Gulf countries.

I was thinking about this meeting all of next day. I was visiting some of the periphery areas around Bangalore that are now being integrated into the city. We spoke to a migrant construction labourer in one of the areas. This person mentioned how if he was educated, he would be sitting in front of a computer, and not languishing around. He spoke of how he had made a choice of not working on a farm but coming to the city and working on a construction site. “Farming requires a lot of money. You have to have money to purchase seeds, fertilizers, implements and then you also have to put your own labour into the process. Here, we have a few implements and lo and behold! we are ready to work and there is a daily wage waiting for you.”

We often speak of how in today’s times, we have become consumerist and how this is an age of shopping malls and multiplex cinema halls that are redefining our experiences. But I have been thinking of how this is an age where things are just the same – we still attach value to a person who is working against someone who is not working. Someone who is educated is of a higher standard as against someone who is not educated. What is happening now is that technologies are being utilized in order to mark people and ensure that they are conforming/adhering to the standards and norms. So according to the person from the organization making databases of construction workers, the database and issuance of an identity card will make the person work harder.

This moment is also bandied by some as the time where we can exercise our freedom and choices by choosing between products available in the market. That is what the free marketeers seem to be tom-toming. I wonder whether our freedom gets actualized simply by choosing between maggi, top ramen, chings and xxx noodles. How have we come to ascribe freedom to choosing between products?

I somehow felt quite happy when the worker we spoke to mentioned that he decided not to go to work that day. He said very frankly that by not going to work, he was also aware of not getting wages. “Morzi” (will) he emphasized emphatically and matter of factly explaining why did not go to work that day.

So I had started out by wondering whether this is an era where our experiences and notions are being redefined. I now believe that these values and standards and norms have always been there and are still there in today’s time. These are becoming more strongly attached/ascribed in this day and age. We seem to attribute this era to freedom – some freedoms have been created; some freedoms are simply non-freedoms.

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