The Department of Social Division
I was now even more curious about this remarkable country of Ladnam. How did they come up with this system of victim ratings for all admissions and jobs? I figured the university would be the right place to find out – I asked a student for directions to the Social Sciences department.
“Head to the central square, you can’t miss it. All the red buildings are part of the department,” he said.
The Social Sciences department occupied the entire central square. As I walked towards it I found that it was the plushest part of the city that I had seen. There were dozens of multi-storied red buildings around the square, with some words etched in stone on the doorways. In the center was the large statue of a man dressed in a suit with the words below “Merit is a Myth.” The building entrances had other slogans emblazoned across the doorways – “Equal results, not equal opportunities”, “To treat unequals as equals only serves to perpetuate inequality”, “Radical equality requires radical discrimination,” “Victims shall inherit the earth” and “Marching towards universal cellular equality.”
I entered the Department of Social Division and found it bustling with activity. I asked at the reception for the department head, introducing myself as a visiting journalist and was ushered into a plush office. Prof. PV Ghasin the department head, was a well-fed man with a distinct air of pompous self-importance.
“You are with The Times, The Foreign Times,” he said. “Very good, very good. Delighted. I have, of course, been often written about in the Ladnam Times and visited your country, sponsored by the Ladnam government. Our problems are very bad—it comes from being a very traditional society.”
“But now we have the most modern tools, big computers, imported social theories. We just need to fix all those people so that we can progress like the rest of the world. We are very backward you know.”
I asked him what his department does.
“We have been entrusted the most important job by the government,” Ghasin said. “We figure out new ways to divide society every day. Why, just the last week a student of mine came up with a new way to segment the data. We found that that women from the Drusba region, between the ages of 56-60, whose skin tone on Luschan’s Hautfarbental scale is between 11-12 and who were the youngest child in their family had an appearance rate that was 5.6% less than their victim-adjusted average on television soap operas broadcast in Nurja between 3-4pmon Sundays.”
“5.6 percent!” he repeated, his voice rising in excitement, “And here we thought we had already captured discrepancies of less than 2% in all 4th dimension segments.”
“Are you saying that every age-group, caste, skin-tone and gender must be equally represented in each soap opera?” I asked incredulously.
“Not each soap opera, of course. That would be silly. But on the average across all soap operas aired at any time, it stands to reason that without social discrimination and prejudice every segment must get equal coverage.”
“By the fundamental law of cellular equality,” Prof. Ghasin continued, with the tone of school-teacher restating the most obvious, “Every social segment must exhibit equal outcomes in all areas, however you slice the data. Any discrepancies are clearly due to some discrimination against that group. Ours is a traditional and backward society so we keep finding discrepancies as we slice the data. We think we have examined all possible segments, but a new discovery is always around the corner. This is what makes the field exciting.”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘cellular equality’” I asked, “Does that mean everyone must be exactly equal at the cellular level – i.e. every human being must be identical in every cell?”
“No – it doesn’t mean that all, though that would solve a lot of our problems, wouldn’t it? The fundamental obstacle to a just society is that human beings are unequal in their attributes – their intelligence, their looks, their upbringing, their social environment and so on. However, the only true egalitarian principle is equality of results, which may require unequal opportunity or treatment so they eventually wind up equal.”
“But the question comes how do we ensure equality of results for everyone in all areas? On the one hand, the reality in our backward society is that every human being is unequal to others. On the other hand we are committed to true egalitarianism which can only hold if there is complete equality of results.”
“So we are constantly researching the various discrepancies in results. Unfortunately, with our current state of the art it is not possible to ensure equal results at the individual level—perhaps with advances in technology something can be done to genetically engineer each person to be equal, but we are far from that today in our backward culture. So, we strive for equality of results at the cell level.”
“And what is a cell?” I asked again.
“Oh yes, I keep forgetting you are not from here. Everyone in Ladnam is keenly aware of cells. Everyone is in a cell.”
“Like a prison?” I suggested, trying to be helpful.
“No, no. Think of society like a big grid,” he continued, “Every dimension of difference is an axis on the grid. We start with the basic ones–age, sex, gender. We then add all the ones specific to our backward society—like caste, income, region of origin, parental education, family status and so on. The smallest unit of discrimination is called a cell.”
“How many people are there in each cell?” I asked.
“We are trying to make all the cells roughly equal sized. Currently we have an average of 20,000 people per cell.”
“So, given that the population of Ladnam is about a billion people you have about 50,000 different cells,” I calculated.
“Approximately,” he said, “We would like to make the cell size smaller but it all takes time. We started out with just one dimension–caste. But everytime we segmented society we found that there were inequalities within that segment. So we kept dividing the segment further to provide further unequal opportunities to make the results be equal. In the example I gave you—of women from Drusba, between the ages of 50-60, whose skin tone on the LH scale is between 11-12 and who were the youngest child, we have a mere 12,567 or so. Each of those attributes is a different dimension—we are pushing the limits of cell size in current research here.”
“So what happens when you have made a new discovery” I asked.
“Well, it goes to the Department of Social Problem Identification or SPI. Axiomatically every discrepancy can be traced to one of five fundamental problems – casteism, communalism, genderism, familyism and geneticism. The SPI must figure out what combination of these variables result in the particular discrepancy. Between you and me I think those academics are full of hot air. We all know the problem is our traditional backwardness, no matter what combination of factors they use. But they hold a lot of fancy conferences anyway.”
“Then we correlate the data with Department of Outcome Analysis. This department comes up with new areas where cell discrimination may exist. The new breakthrough I mentioned earlier, regarding the Drusba women, came about from collaboration between my student and some researchers from Outcomes. Media Research is a hot field these days and they narrowed down to the 3-4 pm Sunday soaps on shows broadcast in the Nujra areas, as a possible place for discrimination against the Drusba. And they hit pay dirt!”
“So does the government take any action when you find some segment is performing better or worse than the ratio of their population?” I asked.
“Sometimes nothing happens for years. It is up to the politicians and they are all scoundrels. You must find the right interest group to pitch it to so that you can benefit from giving a preferential quota to them. Though now we have become very good at evangelizing new interest groups, what with the work done in the Department of Polarization Theories.”
“We are very happy when we can succeed in our small way in creating conflict, heh heh” he carried on with a self-satisfied laugh. “The creation of conflict is essential to the egalitarian mission. We started with class conflict. Then community conflict. Then regional conflict. Then inter-family conflict. This department has been a pioneer in the creation of intra-family conflict. Our original breakthrough research on unequal outcomes between siblings of the same family led to quotas that had the remarkable effect of having families fight with each other on the dinner table over this issue. We ran an analysis that ranked each sibling by the order of the birth and found that older one’s performed, on average 2.9% better than the youngest ones on certain standardized tests. I am simplifying, of course, it was a pretty complex model since we took the sibling ranks of the parents and grandparents into account as well. This led to an entire dimension that multiplied the cells and more than doubled the total quotas based on sibling rank. As I was saying, this was a breakthrough in intra-family conflict. There were even murders of brothers and sisters just to change one’s sibling rank or suicides to help your sibling by changing their rank – a very middle class bourgeois impulse. It is really satisfying when your research can make so much impact.”
“So you think quotas are essential for creating an equal society,” I asked.
“Oh that’s a very old debate that was resolved years ago. Occasionally some maverick still comes up with an idea other than quotas but that’s like changing the law of gravity at this stage. To provide equal opportunity without accounting for social, educational and family disabilities simply perpetuates injustice. We are driven by the mission to achieve total equality of results in every possible slicing of data like every modern society.”
“Do any quotas ever get removed?” I asked.
He looked puzzled for a moment as if he couldn’t understand the question. “You mean actually remove a quota? That is impossible. Once implemented there is a strong interest group attached to it. In fact the demand is always there to increase the quotas and the field of Outcome Analysis is constantly looking at different places where the quotas can be expanded. They started with government jobs, then university admissions, then expanded that to government schools, then private schools and jobs, then sports teams, then movie stars, then quotas in buying land, then buying ordinary goods so that the goods people can buy varies with their victim rankings. There is now much pioneering work in media studies where each segmented group must get media coverage according to their victim status, which was passed into law some years ago. There is a new proposal that was initially controversial, but was finally passed where quotas have been extended for walks in the neighborhood park for different segmented groups. If you are interested I can provide you with some good references to read about that subject.”
“This is fascinating. In all my travels I have not seen a society with this kind of approach to egalitarianism. How far do you think you have achieved your goals?” I asked.
“Not at all. We still have rampant inequality—‘We Ladnams are like this only’ we say. It is all due to out traditional society. The problem is as far away from being fixed as when we started. Some say it is even getting worse. That is why we need more quotas. Besides nothing works in this country. No one does any work. For some reason everyone is obsessed by their victim rankings and their segments. Why the other day my daughter refused to invite a class mate to her birthday party because she is the third child of a twice divorced mother while both her own parents are only once divorced. The children need to know all this, of course, because the quotas for the once divorced and the twice divorced are different. Our dream to have a classless society is far away, but then all these problems are because of our entrenched traditions that have not changed for 5000 years. But we are applying the best research and technology to solve these problems.”
I pondered this. “So you say the quotas can only be expanded. The segmentation is not going away. Is there any way that you have to measure that what you are doing is actually taking you towards your goals of radical equality.”
“We already know nothing can ever change in this society, it is all due to our static traditions” he said with a tone of certainty. “What is the point of gathering any data for that? Besides, all the data that we use in our segmentation and our policy implementations is over 70 years old and it has never been updated. It would be politically suicidal to update it now—can you imagine the chaos that would result?”
(to be continued)
[Read Part I: Land of Equality]
1. “… the only true egalitarian principle is equality of results, which may require unequal opportunity or treatment for the initially disadvantaged so that they eventually wind up equal in resources or rights.” Report of the Backward Classes Commission, Government of India, 1980, (popularly known at the Mandal Commission), Volume I, Chapter V.
2. “… equality of treatment suffers from the same drawback as equality of opportunity for to treat the disadvantaged uniformly with the disadvantaged will only perpetuate their disadvantage.” Ibid.
3. “… a large number of observations were recorded including tints of skin, eye and hair colours. For this purpose von Luschan’s Hautfarbentafel, Martin’s Augenfarbental and Fischer’s Haarfarbentafel were used. The following measurements were taken :— (1) Stature… (4) Maximum Head breadth, …(11) Nasal length, (12) Nasal breadth , (13) Nasal height or depth, … and so on.” Census of India, 1931, Vol I, Part III. This “scientific” quest of measuring skin tones and noses of the people of India to determine caste relations was undertaken in the 1931 census, also the last census that enumerated caste. The Mandal Commission uses data from the 1931 census to determine the number of “backward castes” and hence the appropriate quota ratios.
© Sankrant Sanu., all rights reserved.