Thursday, July 14, 2005

Do we really know more? And why?

Dilip has an interesting post on our obsession with local news and he says that the media in India and in America are not that different. The average Indian doesn't really know much about the world than the average American as the average Indian is some semi-literate dude from a small town who doesn't have an Internet connection. I agree but what about the above-average Indian - people like you and me? Do we really know more about the world than the average American?

I believe that depends on how you define the world. Let us have a small quiz here. Let us see how many of the following questions can we answer without resorting to Google or Wiki. Honor system, ofcourse.

1. Who is the President of Chad? or Does Chad have a President? or What system of government do they have anyways?
2. What language is spoken in the highlands of Peru by the natives?
3. Easiest of the lot - In which country can you find Mount Kilimanjaro?
4. Closer to home - Who is the King of Bhutan?
5. What is the capital of Laos?

My score - 2/5. I know where is Kilimanjaro. I know what language is spoken in the highlands of Peru(because I was there recently).

So anyways the point I am trying to make here is that we care to know about the 'world' we are interested in - we are usually interested in emulating/aping the developed and the powerful world and ofcourse, we will make an effort to learn about them. America, on the other hand, is the most powerful nation in the world and her average citizen has no incentive/interest in learning about anyone else. What say?


Charukesi said...

Veena, as I said in Dilip's post, I believe this is more about 'wanting' to know or aying - this neighbourhood / city / country is my world and I dont even want to think of w world outside... incidentally, I have a related post on it too here-


Sunil said...

1) No idea, not even the slightest clue.
2) Quechua or Aymara (don't know which one...but my Peruvian friend was telling me something).
3) Tanzania
4) Jigme Wanchuk
5) No idea at all.

You're absolutely right in that most people will try to know about the dominant force/civilization.

Obscure trivia seekers like myself will manage 3/5 on your quiz.

Real nerds will ace it.

What DO people want to know? Very perceptive post.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Veena: I tried hard not to look at Sunil's responses...

1) All I can say about Chad is that I hope they don't have messups with the same kinds of chads that disfigured a certain election in Florida in 2000.

2) Quechua?

3) Tanzania

4) Jigme Singye Wangchuk

5) Vientiane, I think?

I think we are more interested in the countries we aspire to becoming: thus the US (and possibly the UK to a lesser degree). So naturally we don't know about Chad.

Here's something I concluded during my time in the States. Perhaps the average American knew less about the world than me, or the average Indian in the States like me ... but I truly began to feel that the average American knew and cared more about local civic issues around him than the average Indian (whether in India or America) did or would.

Any thoughts on that, Sunil, or are you too busy chasing squirrels?

Sunil said...

Dilip.....I will largely agree with you. Our own friends come from similar backgrounds as us (premier education, probably a masters degree or something, seen a bit of the world), and are not average Indians. Average americans are similarly informed as typical average Indians. However, there are some differences....

Indians love to talk....and so often talk about local issues (at the newspaper/tea store etc). This is a little less common in the States (though talk about Bush is more common :-))

However, general awareness of local civic issues is reasonably high here, and it seems like people care a bit more about it.

But....I'll say that largely, people anywhere are about the same....and though we like to talk about "those stupid americans", they aren't any different from "those stupid Indians", or "those stupid anyoneelse". It's human nature.