Saturday, August 20, 2011

Build Bottom-Up, Clean Top-Down

Some problems are inordinately so complex and huge, that it is natural to break them down as a human to be able to comprehend and begin to solve them. There are two major approaches that will immediately settle in your mind once you attempt to comprehend a problem - top-down or bottom-up. Some problems are suited to top-down analysis, whereas others naturally incline themselves to bottom-up perspectives.


When you set out to build something from scratch - let's just say a skyscraper - you start from the bottom. You dig deep into the ground, lay down a firm foundation, and only then start building upwards. How high you can go is directly dependent on how firm and deep your roots are. That's how trees go naturally as well - bottom-up.


Imagine attempting to clean your home - completely, including the ceiling, the ceiling fans, the walls. You don't start with the floor now, do you? You realize that sweeping the ceiling and pulling down cob-webs will pollute the floor anyway, so you decide to do that last. Ceiling, ceiling fittings, walls, wall-hangings, floor. Top-down.

Nation Building

Building a strong nation must indeed follow the same principles, to a layman like me. Firm grassroot institutions that look after the most underprivileged and most populous sections of society - Gram Panchayats, agricultural credit institutions, rural employment schemes - are the foundations on which you build the nation. Are these our strongest organizations today? How long can a nation stand strong with its weakest but most sizable communities being undermined?

Nation Cleaning

Ridding a nation of social evils like corruption is very much akin to cleaning, to a layman like me. Indeed, "cleaning" and "corruption" are often metaphorically used together by most observers. While it is indeed apt to ask people to stop giving bribes to get favors like a driving license or a college seat, we ought as well to notice what holds this culture of corruption up.

Is it really ingrained in our psyche or is it the system that requires cleaning? If it is the latter, does this not require a top-down cleaning then? Once I, as a guard to the manager's office, realize that the manager doesn't accept nor encourage bribes anymore, will I not think twice before harassing someone intending to meet my manager? Are people motivated by morality of peers, or the morality of their leaders? Should not the Prime Minister be open to examination for corruption just as me or you? Should not the cleaning commence from the top and make its way to the bottom?