Monday, December 8, 2008

Ethical Or Not?

Last week, I had written about the system of interviewing people, in whatever form that may be. I was thinking more of formal interviews, and particularly those that smack of a lack of transparency. Those that are predicated on whimsical clashes of 'I like it' and 'I like it not'. It wasn't actually about interviews where you have no idea who the person is and know nothing about the politics of your fellow interviewers. I need to make this clarification because there is a crucial difference. I say this from my own experience, which, as it were, I don't offer as a source of legitimacy. There is a tendency for interviews to be based on some very twisted and mostly incomprehensible system of subterranean knowledge. Whether everyone on the panel is complicit in the pilfering and peddling of under-hand opinions is variable – in some interviews, all the blokes who conduct it are already of a similar disposition. In some, they are not, and have no idea who you are. In the first, there is a slightly illicit twist in the tail. The entire process is more or less ritualized in a way that will enable these pre-conceptions to determine the outcome. This doesn't imply that the process is 'rigged'. It may not be. It might be entirely scrupulous and completed in earnest, but this doesn't detract from the fact of its being shaped, or mislead as the case may be, by certain vicissitudes of the little game of 'gossip'. Gossip, here, is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be useful, very often verifiable, and informative. It might comprise the very essential details of a person's background. Even then, it should not constitute the basis for the outcome.

A serious problem in this argument is its corollary, which is, if the outcome is based entirely on the interview and nothing else, would that make it legitimate? It's a question too riddled for anyone to answer. I have always been apprehensive of saying anything about it. Would it make it more legitimate? What if the person in question is in fact someone who deserves to be part of the thing/group in question, but performs miserably? What if the person has the pre-requisites, but is unable to articulate his positions? What if the person has a perfectly coherent stance on a particular issue, anything, but is reticent and reluctant to speak? Does it then make it all right for someone to use a priori information to influence the outcome?

Perhaps it does. In which case, we arrive once again, tautologically, at the beginning of the argument. If an interview is not essentially the only criterion of something, does it not make it more of a redundancy? What is to say, then, that the interview is necessary at all? One can argue that since it is a recognizable and rational means of selection, it should be invested with the importance and primacy due to it. All these other interfering factors – forged opinions, second-hand details about others – should be relegated to its deserving place, the privacy of one's own judgment, not in the open for others to misuse.

In the case of the other kind of process, they don't know who you are. That helps in two ways – they have no pre-formed notions about you, anything they know or learn about you is not from hearsay but from the concrete presentation of facts. Now whether these 'facts' are authentic or not is the domain of another moral dilemma; for this one, let's assume that they are. The people conducting it essentially have only one thing in mind – the completion of a 'job', the job of procuring some information, the job of hiring some worker, the job of allocating a position, anything. It doesn't constitute anything apart from the clinical selection of someone systematically. It doesn't affect them socially. They don't need to think about it in terms of who their particular 'favourites' are. The difference in this case is that there is an enormous possibility in the system of (relatively unknown people) being selected on the basis of being an affiliate of one of the people on the panel, without the others being aware of it. Or otherwise, there is also the issue of 'unaccounted-for vendetta'. I use the term not from some general lexicon, but from my own understanding of it. It refers to the kind of vendetta certain people suddenly and unaccountably have about someone else. It is really very formless and sub-intelligent. It cannot be understood rationally, but is ever-gnawing all the same: something about the other person simply, inexplicably 'pisses them off'. In all such instances, the said other person is confronted with a grave situation of hopelessness. He is put, without being conscious of it, in a dangerous place, and is left without a chance to rationally defend himself. It is a kind of psychological rape. Only more perverse, more wrong and more botched.

This is somehow linked to the question of the power of asking questions. The pre-ordained Next Prime Minister of the country was here to speak of it. I don't quite know what he was referring to, but sometimes the whole questions-debate is riddled with too many fatuities. It's much simpler put this way: very often, in class or outside, wherever, people are too dumbfounded to ask any questions because there is no legitimate reason to ask questions. It often is the case that the questions that are asked of us are also equally incongruous and rhetorical. Questions like, 'What is the man saying to the woman?', 'What is the meaning of this word?', 'Why have you chosen to study the subject?', sometimes warrant silence and nothing else. It is annoying to have a deadpan moment after questions like these, but they can't be helped.

Also, nowadays, the interaction we have with those who ask these questions, i.e. our teachers, is perfunctory. We walk into class, we walk out of it, nothing else matters. We are simply cogs in a machine. It hardly counts if any one piece of the gargantuan system simply sputters and dies out. There is always a replacement. Who cares?


Anandi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anandi said...

Did someone take your case really bad?
Or did you finally slow down enough to let reality sink its claws ito you?

Arjun Rajkhowa said...

Hey, no, Anandi. Actually, I was on the other side of the fence. A worse position, but well, it's done now.