The unrelatable curse of higher education

In 2013, soon after the Anna Movement and right in the middle of the 2013 Delhi Assembly Election that was fought on the premise of "Anti Corruption and Honest Governance", I read the 22-page long seminal paper "Corruption" by Andrei Shleifer and Robert W. Vishny published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 108, No. 3. in Aug 1993.

Shleifer and Vishny presented Corruption, as a negative side effect of a certain type of economic transaction between the government agent and market agent under a certain set of circumstances that led to varying types and levels of corruption. The whole 23 pages of analysis detached corruption from a crime, evil, dishonesty, or anything worth defining the corruptor, either the bribe giver or taker, to simply a particular parameter in a system whose value is often characterized by the system design. A parameter that can be altered, minimized, or entirely vanished via simple changes in the system design. This was a far shift from how every single layperson, media, protestors of the Anna movement, politicians of Aam Aadmi Party were talking about Corruption. Emotionless, detached, just a variable. My evil dishonest corruption of layworld was just a tiny "x" in mine.

Even though we were talking, exploring, studying, understanding the same topic; we were as far apart from each other as possible. No longer did I agree with the Anna movement slogans, with the protestors, with the Aam Aadmi Party narrative. No longer did I agreed with the regular voter/citizen proclamation that "corruption was India's biggest problem, MUST be annihilated, destroys our governance" or practically any of those simple, emotion-filled, 2-3 rhyming sentence long, catchy slogans.

Corruption came in varying sizes, shapes, and degrees for me. It was a parameter that can be minimized but not easily annihilated. Corruption to me now seemed less as an outcome of a person's dishonesty or his or her character, and more a design flaw of a system almost built purposefully to yield in corruption.

UPA-2, led by my favorite politician of recent times, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was marred by corruption; billion $ scams and emotions were running high, the government was inefficient and bad. The overall character of governance and major policies implemented by UPA 1 and 2, yielded 6-8% of YoY economic growth, which is an objectively exceptional performance for any government.

From 2004, when he swore in the office and I was 14 years old, Manmohan Singh took our economy from $0.7 trillion aka mere 700 billion to $2.039 trillion aka $2039 billion, almost a 3x multiple returns on the second largest populated national asset on this planet. Net addition of $1.4 trillion aka 1400 billion; overshadowed by a few million or billion $ of corruption scandals. In contrast, the NDA government circa 2020 shrank the GDP from $2.7 trillion to $2.5 trillion, a net loss of $200 billion, with many scams and scandals yet to emerge, is yet a larger loss to the nation than any scandal of the past.

Why am I talking about Corruption and the curse of Educated? Allow me to present another amazing annoying "made factual statement": "Vegan is Good for the environment". Now, this statement is fine, once added with given qualifiers or context or setting:

"Americans eat approximately 120.8 kg/meat per person" while India eats 4.4 kg/meat per person. Meat grown in industrial style in large parcels of land where monoculture farming is practiced with high insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and the heterogeneity of complex natural ecosystems is destroyed, is bad for the planet and has a high carbon footprint. While the same meat, say Cow, Pig, Chicken, grown in small village households in developing countries of Asia and Africa, far away from the cities, where pigs eat the household vegetable waste and household eats the pig and the whole animal ecosystem is part of the complex multi-crop, multi vegetable, multi flower agro-forestry ecosystem of that village, that meat doesn't nearly have the same carbon footprint."

Not all meat is the same. And in fact, there are large parts of the world which can only grow meat (like dry grazelands where cattle and horses survive and feed the human population) and no crop can grow in that volume; or the fact that in large parts of the world over vegetarianism puts a pressure on land to grow more equivalent wheat and rice thereby destroying the ecosystem and leading to the high carbon footprint. The argument of when, where, what kind of meat, eaten by whom, in what quantity forms the basis of whether that meat is bad for the environment or is fine for the environment.

But hey none of y'all going to read this long complex paragraph, along with many other 30-page long academic paper, and it's so much easy for "vegan is good for the environment" to seep through the world, nevermind how the vegan almond milk craze is destroying the water table in California and the bee ecosystem of America.

My point being, meat is bad for the environment "BUT with a BIG BUT" of various considerations and situations. And the real answer lies in moderation and solving for system design and not creating another alternate cult even more dangerous alternate system. Which is kind of what happened from 124 kg/capita mad ridiculously stupid (should be reduced by 90% to 10% approx 12 kg per capita meat still 3x of India's current consumption effective system fix) to alternate 0 meat 0 dairies, "I don't care for system-level outcomes and side effects", my carbon footprint, when calculated with stupidly limited variables, is low and hence I am better than you and taking care of the environment and cool.

The challenge in both cases of corruption and veganism are the same. Both are complex topics mired inside a system, which is affected by many parameters in many scenarios. Academics, researchers, students, intellectuals, often study either of these topics for years, decades, and pontificate and analyze with GBs of data, hours of whiteboard sessions, pages of equations. At the far end of the day, when asked to summarize, often they can do justice to their 5-6 years of Ph.D. in a 50-100 page thesis. And layperson, lay media, protestors, agitators, SO confident Instagram one-liners, find themselves either at the lazy end or often at the ignorant end to consume these 50-100 pages.

Two people both worrying, wondering, fighting to solve, the same topic, find themselves at the two ends as enemies; where opportunists in form of either businesses or politicians or both enter in to maximize their profits from this divide. Welcome to my life, of a total of 19 years of education, two masters degree, one undergraduate degree, the ability to read a 300-page book in less than a week, ability to read a 50-page economics paper in approximately 5 hours; trust me I am not bragging, but an absolute inability to convey any of my acquired knowledge or analysis to a layperson in less than 1000-2000 words 😔

Whether it is the farmer from Punjab and his plight with the farm bill, climate change, and changing global economies; or the migrant labor in Bihar, or the distraught disenfranchised 20-year-old Indian student wondering about his or her job prospects, career, life, love, and everything; I am staring at the same problems as them, allocating hours on analysis and dissection, unlayering one aspect after another, one perspective after another, to come to either the real bottom of problems or finding the defining parameters to these problem statements. Yet we find ourselves, unrelatable, unable to talk, discuss, and empathize. The curse of the educated, curse of higher education, and the curse of intellectual is that the more they study the subject more they find themselves distant from the subjects. In language, emotion, expression, description of the same problem statement; let alone the solutions being discussed on the table.

Of late, many of my friends, who have observed my incessant writing, analysis, and work on topics ranging from environment, climate change, tech, economic development, to poverty, to politics, policymaking, advise me, to simplify my language, and conveyed "How they appreciate and like my views but they don't care to read them".

It's not just me, but most of them, aka most of you, do no longer read the news, op-eds, guardian, academic papers, you don't know what is inside the policies you are protesting, you are not wondering what exactly GDP is, what is the recession, who manages labor ministry, and why migrants had to walk 1000s of miles, in fact, most of you are not even reading, what is a coronavirus, and how its spreads, and still believe that masks prevent you from getting the virus.

When in fact that whole dynamics is complex, and masks prevent your virus from getting out and thereby through the effect of majority wearing masks in case of an airborne virus led pandemic, it reduces the overall virus load of an environment and hence reduces the likelihood and intensity of the infection. It's not a 1 or 0 thing, it's a multi-variate equation which depending on the people, their exposure, their behavior, their masks, yields different levels of viral load intensity in an environment.

Now, "mask good" is definitely a simple statement to impose over a billion people population. But why mask good is also greatly needed for that same population to actually practice this in their daily life for 2-3 years as the pandemic persists.
Just "mask good narrative" fails as soon as 10% of people sweat or their glasses fog or they find it difficult to breathe and remove their masks in a sneeze. Just mask good narrative fails when 70-year-old people for the first month of the pandemic with overall low virus load and cleanest air of decade wear complex 3M masks which restrict maximum airflow and move it to chinshield by November when the same 3M mask would have protected them from air pollution and virus.

TLDR, I know most people won't read this. On the pretext of how long these sentences are, how much more worthless than a random video of a cat doing a random thing, and will soon present to me the need to simplify facts, cases, studies, arguments, and vocabulary. To them, I present my difficulty with 19 years of education, which soon in the future might turn into 24 years of education, and hence the sheer difference in our baselines and what is obvious for me, and what makes no sense to you. And that for both of us to come to the common point, just like for the intellectuals and economists and farmers and migrants workers to come to the same point; we need to both walk half the distance. And your part of the half is reading more, my part of the half is writing more simple words. But both the halves would start with us reading and writing and talking and communicating more.

Growing up, I changed 6 schools, which made me an extrovert, as if being a Monday 12 pm born Leo, I already wasn't. My parents and grandparents kept telling I was very smart, so I studied a lot, of a lot of subjects, and gained ample knowledge. But then society never acknowledged or agreed with anything I said, so I became an entrepreneur to convert my words and thoughts into action :P