Sunday Levity: Condescension, the final frontier

For many, India’s space programme is difficult to digest

Now that India’s satellite launch capability has developed a reasonably successful track record, making critical, often condescending remarks about ISRO’s capabilities itself is no longer tenable. But making snide remarks at an uppity developing country that has the temerity to develop its own space programme (in spite of the grinding poverty and all) is still fashionable in the international media.

While reporting last week’s satellite launch (via The Scientific Indian), a Reuters headline went: ‘Indian scientists pray ahead of satellite launch’. Well, no surprises there, for Indians routinely pray (and squash lemons) before they set out on anything new, from bicycles to jumbo jets. Besides, there is a very good chance that those folks at NASA and the European Space Agency are not all atheists either, although this detail is obviously unimportant to Reuters. It would have been another thing if it had reported that scientists in some godless Communist country — say China, or the former Soviet Union — had to resort to invoking the good offices of the Almighty to help them prevail over such worldly affairs as gravity, over which their politburos exert little control.

Despite the very contemporary Indians that have made their way to Pakistan in recent months — to show the Pakistanis that Indians are ‘people like us’ — caricatures and stereotypes live on in newspaper cartoons. Even the Daily Times, not usually one that promotes stereotyping Indians, could not resist publishing this cartoon:

Cartoon from The Daily Times

Update: The link to the cartoon is broken. Did the Daily Times take it off the website?
Another Update: It’s there again.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: Condescension, the final frontier”

  1. Insults add salt to the wound. They are actually doing a service to us by insulting us. Their insults should stimulate us to make our country better. We should build a country that is free of illiteracy, preventable diseases, and rampant rural under/unemployment. Only then these snide remarks stop. Nobody has such remarks on China, very rapidly growing and who they know will be the largest economy in 20 years. We should not beg for respect, but command it.

  2. There are two angles on this, and it probably would be unfair to mention only one angle. Louis Pastuer is often mentioned as a God fearing and religious character – without meaning any disrespect. Albert Einstein said god did not play dice – and no one doubts his place atop achievers in science. So the point is, calling scientists god-fearing/god-believing and/or religious is not necessarily an insult but often a compliment too.

    Having said that I would like to say that reporting on the worshipping of a foreign culture has to be well balanced to prevent the portrayal of a wrong/condescending picture. So when Reuters points out that Indian scientists used replicas of the rocket over pujas, it does sound superstitous, unless it is pointed out explicitly that it is often a necessary component of certain types of prayers in that culture.

    All said and done, if we succeed more often and more surely enough, we will automatically give a sense of superiority to every action of our successful ones – including praying. For example, the Japs widely used abacuses (despite manufacturing half of the world’s calculators) well into the 1980’s. We looked up with respect at their love for their culture and tradition.

  3. It hardly surprises me that it comes from Reuters. Until a year or so back thought it was one of the unbiased agencies, or, rather, an agency that provided multiple points-of-view. Thankfully, I know better, now.

    Subhas wants utopia. and thinks Reuters is doing a favour.
    Well, I wouldnt comment on utopia, but Reuters doing us a favour, er, service? yeah, right. Looking forward to more of Reuters’ services.

  4. Lets not get worried by someone is saying.
    So long as the good work is delivering its results, others especially snide remarks from press do not matter.

    At times , more critics give more chances and motivation for better work.

    sachin agarwal

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