Taxpayers, citizens and the idea of university

Reading Marilynne Robinson as reply to T Mohandas Pai’s argument against JNU

GN Bureau | March 9, 2016


#Barack Obama   #marilynne robinson   #t Mohandas pai   #kanhaiya kumar   #education   #standwithjnu   #jnurow   #jnu  


T Mohandas Pai, a respectable corporate leader, represents a wider audience when he targets JNU students and their misguided idealism for misusing taxpayers’ money.

Then, of course, there is another viewpoint, many have highlighted the vacuity of Pai’s arguments on social media and elsewhere. Furthering this debate – on using “taxpayers’ money”, here is a fresh essay from Pulitzer-winning author and teacher Marilynne Robinson. Since even president Obama too recently turned to her for some wisdom, we too can benefit from her views on the same matter:

Click here for the essay published in the Harper’s magazine.

Here are some points relevant to the Indian debate:

* There has been a fundamental shift in American consciousness. The Citizen has become the Taxpayer. In consequence of this shift, public assets have become public burdens. These personae, Citizen and Taxpayer, are both the creations of political rhetoric. (It now requires an unusual degree of historical awareness to know that both politics and rhetoric were once honorable things.)

* It can be said, however, that whenever the Taxpayer is invoked as the protagonist in the public drama, a stalwart defender of his own, and a past and potential martyr to a culture of dependency and governmental overreach, we need not look for generosity, imagination, wit, poetry, or eloquence. We certainly need not look for the humanism Tocqueville saw as the moving force behind democracy.

* The Citizen had a country, a community, children and grandchildren, even — a word we no longer hear — posterity. The Taxpayer has a 401(k).

* From the perspective of many today, the great public universities (and many of them are very great) are like beached vessels of unknown origin and intention, decked out preposterously with relics and treasures that are ripe for looting, insofar as they would find a market, or condemned to neglect and decay, insofar as their cash value is not obvious to the most stringent calculation.

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