Salman Khan and High Power Distance

Salman Khan’s Case and its progress is a stark reminder to our society that we are a high ‘power distance’ culture and nothing seems to really have changed even after independence and even after our choice to be a democratic society of the western type immediately after we got freedom from Britishers. Britishers during their ‘Raj’ predominantly flourished on this very dimension of our culture where people in India tend to accept the unequal distribution of power and privileges among different members of the society.  At the time of independence our leaders had expected that the Indian society and the old culture as such will tend to move forward to a modern thinking and our power distance level should reduce. Alas it did not seem to have happened even after more 65 years of freedom and free thinking. Indeed we are a sticky society and need to learn important lessons from this superstar case.

However the important role of one person must not be forgotten in this high profile case who proudly is also the product of this very ‘culture’ India can not be proud of. Late Shri Ravindra Patil, Khan’s Bodyguard who did not change his statement till his last breadth and patriotically paid the price like many of our ‘freedom fighters during the independence struggle’. These are the seeds of hope (read unsung heroes) who have been consistently found in our this very culture since the ages we can remember and know about. It is remarkable and need further research how we have these very kinds of people who go against the natural behavior of our sticky society and tend to provide hope for a better cultural future of this country. Laudable is the role of our judiciary which has still done its job in right direction, till now, in spite of the pressures of the natural behavior of our high power distance culture where ‘might is right’.

Another dimension to our high power distance culture which needs investigation is ‘how human we are as a society’. And if we are indeed a humane society, does our behavior need a ‘status tag’ for the victim. It opens many other areas of investigation about world cultures. It may indicate that many of the world cultures may actually be very humane but their behavior and reaction would be different if the victim also happens to be a privileged member of the society. We need to introspect if we are also such a society which tends to become more humane to ‘mighty victims’. As a matter of fact, the very treatment being given to Salman Khan’s case due to which it has taken so abnormally long years and a few poor lives, opens a ‘Pandora Box’ to a new emerging series of ‘high power distance status driven cultures’ which may not be demonstrated and exemplified only by Indian society but also by few other world cultures.  Cross cultural managers now will have more issues to understand and deal with to manage diversity of the world cultures in future in the light of new emerging behaviors.

Finally it is to be seen if democratic ethos of Indian society has the power and steam to change the ways we think and treat all kinds of victims of human mistakes and inappropriate behavior in our so sticky society.

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