Ich bin stupid (I am stupid)

news Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:30

Chitra Subramaniam| The News Minute| March 10, 2015| 3.00 pm IST

The row over Professor Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger denying two Indian students admission to intern at the biochemistry department at the Leipzig University in Germany because of news of Indian men and rapes shows that nobody has a monopoly over stupidity. The lady made it worse for herself and her colleagues in her response to The News Minute (TNM) Monday by stating that she has Indians in her department. That is tantamount to saying she has Jewish friends or Chinese neighbors – ouch!

The cover-up, as always is worse than the crime and Indians have taken to the social media criticizing all things German pouring scorn and indignation. The high-pitched discussion on social media has seen the German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner intervening to distance his country from the professor’s mails. In his strongly worded letter he has told Prof. Beck-Sickinger that she has over-simplified and generalized a complex situation against which Indians are grappling with and looking at every Indian male as a potential rapist is not kosher.

But there is little more here than meets the eye.

Primo

Prof. Beck-Sickinger is allowed to dislike Indians, male, female and food. She is entitled to feel that Indian males are unsafe to be around with and that after consulting her female staff members feels they cannot be trusted in company or alone. She is even allowed to say they have strange eating habits and make a lot of noise, but writing an email on behalf of the university is stupid. Her personal views must remain just that – personal. She told TNM she was misquoted, her mails were used out of context, she didn’t mean this but that and wanted to make herself understood. Unfortunately all is lost in translation as prejudice, fear and arrogance or all sides rule the roost. Obviously her German colleagues were concerned – there has been a lot of bad news about India in recent years and most of it has to do with women’s safety. Bad news travels fast and sticks. The censoring of the BBC documentary India’s Daughters – work for which began during the UPA government and continued during the NDA government – has fanned fears.

Secondo

Indians are not prejudiced –no, not at all. You have never heard any one of us say there is no culture in the world that does not find its origins in India and the western world has no morals. Not a whisper has emerged from us about how stem cells and plastic surgery originated in India as did Darth Veda and inter-galactic trips. Never, never have we said anything unkind about the African continent (where is that?) and rare have been instances where we have pronounced judgement on western men and women who are wealthy but lead empty, meaningless lives in their Ferraris.

Tertio

Let us drown ourselves in our own stupidity as well. All it takes is an email from a university professor in Germany for India’s chatting classes to jump. It’s not just the German professor who is stupid. We listen to people like her instead of ignoring them. Ignoring nonsense requires self-assurance and calm, not more nonsense. This one is about principles, right? The message that remains after the social media war dries up is that we in India continue to think what westerners think about us is important. Are we saying every German is enlightened and well-read and by that token, are we saying every Indian knows everything about Germany? Yes, there have been a series of rapes in India, yes, the guilty are on the run, yes, women feel unsafe, yes justice is slow and no, not very Indian is a rapist.

By focusing our outrage on the utterances of an ill-informed professor – she has serious competition in India – we highlighted our own failings. If this is not stupidity unbound, what is?

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