Today’s New York Times Magazine features an inspirational article on India’s New Generation of Caste Busters telling the story of how private sector entrepreneurs are providing affordable educational services to help the poorest people develop skills for the global economy.
The article is centered around Ravindra Misal, a man from a poor family who became the founder of a school for roller skating, event management, and English language skills.
There are several passages from the article that surprised me and provoked further thought:
“Electricity is essential to ambition,” an energetic young man named Ravindra Misal explained to me, “because I need it to do my homework, I need it to listen to music if I am a dancer, I need it to listen to tapes of great speakers, I need it to surf the Internet. But I cannot, so people get angry.”
In Misal’s world, television was seen, even by parents, as a force of liberation. “TV is the very hi-fi form of everything,” Misal said. “It’s the extreme level of ideas, where they show you everything at top level, so that certainly gives you motivation. On TV you see the things of world-class standard. When you see some person on Discovery catching anaconda, you are looking at the best person in the world for catching anaconda. On TV we never see the strugglers or something like that; we see the people who have achieved what they wanted to be.”
In the developed world we are gradually losing ground to Algorism, an ideology wrapped around an attack on energy consumption. Private sector media, especially television, is one of the favorite targets of anti-market cultural criticism.
The poignancy of Misal’s comments comes from the direct connection he observes between energy consumption, the media, and the path from poverty to prosperity for the people who in spite of being very poor are highly motivated and intelligent.