Many years ago, Rabindranath Tagore wrote that the problems of India today are the problems of the world tomorrow. His prescience is astonishing because half a century later it appears clear that the problems of India will be the problems of the world in not so much time if they are not so already. Despite its recent economic growth, whether it is the degradation of land, its burgeoning population, problems with democracy, the urban 'rural divide ' all these questions have a resonance with issues and problems in other parts of the globe. In a sense therefore when a writer writes about the problems of India he is simultaneously writing about the problems of the world.
Can anyone write about the problems of the world today with a combination of simplicity and wisdom or is the modern world simply too complicated for this? Where would someone start were he to attempt such a monumental undertaking? He would certainly look at broad facts and information concerning important issues, but would this provide sufficient material for proper analysis.
Each major global problem has hundreds of ramifications and thousands of articles and essays have been written about them but if one were to incorporate references to all those studies, simplicity would go out of the window.
If simplicity is affected the next casualty is dissemination, for very few people will understand an argument that is not simply presented. This lack of communication is fatal in the social sciences even though it may not pose a problem on scientific issues. Very few people in the world understood Einstein's theory of relativity but it did not stop the Americans from making (and indeed dropping) the atom bomb.
We are in an age of super specialization and this is not only in the physical sciences but also in the social sciences. Researchers don't take out time to write books anymore for fear that their writings will be outdated. Academics concentrate on having their articles published in scholarly journals for in academic life they have to either publish or perish. While inter-disciplinary approaches are welcomed in academia, few are willing to take the risk of combining three or four different social sciences. In doing so, they forget that knowledge is a unity and its division into the physical and social sciences is to help people make concentrated efforts. In the academic world we are all like moles burrowing into the ground, but we need to take the utmost care that our focus does not become too narrow and we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.
The modern way of producing a book on global problems and their solutions is not to write it, but first to establish an interdisciplinary committee to decide what are the global problems and once these had been determined to ask globally acknowledged experts to write a chapter each on the global problems of the world.
This may seem the best way to proceed, but it is this writer's modest assertion that it is not. Such an approach is flawed on two accounts. Firstly, there is a hidden assumption here that one can study each global problem in isolation and therefore we should hire an expert in demography to write on population issues, an expert in post conflict resolution to write on conflicts around the globe and so on and forth. The second problem with such an approach is since there are many writers working on separate problems the nature of discourse in each individual chapter can be very different. Each writer is coming with a different background and while this can in some cases be a strength it is more likely to be a failing in the presentation of a composite work of this nature.
There is quite often a third problem in such an approach and that is that is has been funded by an organization which is not bipartisan. In other words there is possibly a grant of several million dollars to have such a study conducted for these experts do not come cheap and consultants will need to be hired in the organization of this venture. Committee members who determine what are the global problems will have to be flown in from different parts of the world to a specific central located, housed in five star accommodation and provided secretarial help. A secretariat will need to be set up to organize the event and there will be additionally consultants on loan or on appointments of limited duration who will be paid to organize everything.
Nothing wrong with this, it could be argued.
I would not agree. There is a purity to work that is done (even academic work) without any thought of benefit or reward. Also, those who fund such an undertaking quite often have a not so apparent, hidden agenda and the recommendations may therefore not follow the studies but precede them!
The problems of India today are the problems of the world tomorrow, wrote Rabindranath Tagore many decades ago and his prediction has come true. Growing up in India provides a writer with a unique qualification to think not only about the problems of India but the problems of the world for the two are no longer separate.