To be rational means to eliminate uninformed passion and unconditional devotion. To achieve, and maintain, such a state of mind is tough. Rationality replaces disruptive inclinations that one tends to develop to satisfy a need for identity and results in consistent decision-making and decreased self-contradiction, two important characteristics of leadership. Various experiences and continuous education have instilled an aptitude for rationality in my personality, especially the following two experiences.
I left India at midnight on India’s Independence Day in 2010 to pursue my undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech. Throughout the 17 hour flight, Indian Prime Minister Nehru’s words resonated in my head – “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
For the next two years, I thought India to be the only enlightened nation and limitlessly promoted the idea of India. It was not until I took an international political economy class that I achieved holistic rationality. My final grade was dependent on a debate of whether India or China was a better prospect of economic advancement. While my witty answers won the class’s support and subsequent applause, I did not receive an A as I had expected. Naturally, I blamed it on my professor’s patriotism, who happened to be of Chinese origin. After thorough introspection, I realized that I was guilty of the same blind patriotism. While India has certainly excelled in multiple areas, I should not have given in to the unconditional devotion that led me to ignore legitimate concerns raised about disruptive bureaucracy and unfavorable business conditions present in the Indian states. This was a critical turning point in which I realized the need to free myself of abstract institutions and identities.
On January 7th 2015, two armed men raided the office of a French satirical magazine and shot 11 people to express their disapproval of material published by the periodical. The incident led to a discord among my friends given their passionate affiliations to particular beliefs. While some were rather quick to adopt the phrase “Je suis Charlie”, others believed the publication house had misused and manipulated the freedom of speech through communal targeting and vulgarity. I was sympathetic with those affected by the incident, and I absolutely condemn the act of violence, but the conversation on the responsible use of free speech intrigued me. Although both sides presented reasonably logical arguments, each strong sense of identity led one to ignore the rationale of the other. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of current events, but it is important to consider events in their entirety and not be guided by uninformed passion.
In the exhaustive debate between two democratic candidates for the US presidential nominations for 2016, I saw myself sway to one agenda of politics masterly orchestrated by the brilliant socialist democrat Bernie Sanders and ignore the seemingly more pragmatic agenda meticulously put together by one of the most experienced candidates Hillary Clinton. While the difference in their policies had been minor, I once again found myself at the crossroads of favoring the persona and hype rather than objectivity. While I still whole heartedly support Bernie’s campaign for drastic political reforms in United States politics, I also believe that the United States of America should not delay the election of a woman candidate anymore. It is important to understand that the motivation behind my slight shift in favoritism does not solely rise from her being the female candidate, but from the fact that she has all the credentials necessary to make a good president, and one cannot rely on the fact that there will be other opportunities to elect a woman president.
Standing for progress and continuous learning requires one to challenge every popular notion and disassociate oneself from any affiliation or identity. Rationality relies on objective selection of subjective philosophies and not the other way around. It will always be relative and dynamic. When events are analyzed individually rather than linearly, decisions become cohesive and consistent and self-doubt reduces, yielding objective rationality, diminished confrontation, and enhanced collaboration.
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