Found this very interesting…
Shekhar Gupta: Tom Friedman says that the state of a society can be understood or judged by one simple fact: whether the weight of its memories is stronger or weaker or lighter than the weight of its dreams. Do you buy that? Because here, history and future again come in.
Niall Ferguson: I think there are some parts of the world that have too much history. The Middle East has too much history, so do the Balkans. I remember going to Sarajevo shortly after the civil war ended in Bosnia and somebody said to me, ‘We don’t want any more history here. We’ve got enough. Please just don’t give us anymore’. There are other parts of the world in which the past plays a very small role. I am always struck by how selectively Americans remember their own past. They remember the founding fathers. They remember Abraham Lincoln and the civil war but they omit the First World War.
Shekhar Gupta: What about South Asia? Niall Ferguson: You could hardly say that India lacks history. India has a vast history because of course, civilisation in India dates back as far as almost anywhere else in the world, except Mesopotamia.
Shekhar Gupta: And it is a continuing civilisation.
Niall Ferguson: There is something recognisably connected to the past in India. When I compare India and China, one of the things that strikes me is that there was a much bigger discontinuity in Chinese history in 1949. The destruction of much of China’s heritage in the cultural revolution by Mao means that China today has a kind of newness about it and a disconnection from its past. India has not had that. The continuity of Indian history is extraordinarily striking. Even the interruption of 200 years of British rule has not fundamentally altered India’s civilisations. Civilisations in plural, because I don’t think India has one civilisation. Whoever comes along to conquer, gets absorbed. It even happened to the British.
Shekhar Gupta: It happens to everybody in India. In fact, Matthew Hayden, the Australian cricketer, he is now pretending like he has become a resident Indian.
Niall Ferguson: One of the things that’s delightful about India is that it’s quite easy to be absorbed, compared with Japan where you could spend your entire life as an outsider and still on the day you die, be treated as a foreigner. So India has a wonderful capacity to absorb outsiders. That’s a wonderful quality to have in the age of globalisation. We think of New York in the US as one big melting pot where anybody can come and be a New Yorker, but perhaps India is a giant New York in that respect. The biggest New York in the world where anybody can come, be at home within a few years.