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“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

Rains, drains & bad roads are subjects of recurring annual debates during monsoon times. While the debates have become more vocal and citizen activism more pronounced, nothing much has changed on the ground (or road!).


This naturally leads to questions like “how to bring about change?” and “who are the right change-agents?”

Lets look at two examples.


Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore from a dismal slum into a shining example of a progressive nation, was an unreasonable man. In his own words, and also how others described him, he was more pragmatic & rational, less emotional. But even when he was driven by reason & practical efficiency, he was unreasonable in many ways. He had lofty unreasonable goals which sounded impossible, at least initially, to people around him. He had unreasonable expectations of fellow politicians & bureaucrats. He was unreasonable even to his fellow citizens, who were often surprised, shocked, & rattled by the public policies he promoted. Yet, he prevailed, and Singapore is a success story today, largely because of him.

Adolf Hitler was an unreasonable man too. A radically motivated man, who was able to capture the imagination and support of millions & who caused what is perhaps the deadliest conflict in human history, was perhaps less pragmatic & rational, more emotional. But still his unreasonable ways swayed millions of men & women. A good example of how an unreasonable man can also lead us into a massive regress.

Closer home, Mahatma Gandhi was an unreasonable man, before other leaders & the masses got around to grudgingly acknowledge, and then support, his ideas & methods. The business world, especially startups,  has many unreasonable men & women, who have lofty goals & grand visions, and also the drive & energy to lead the change.

Many such change-agents may fail. But the truly unreasonable men & women, those endowed with the qualities of Lee Kuan Yew or Adolf Hitler, seldom fail. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if we consider Hitler), they are rare creatures. They are often not born as unreasonable men, but created by circumstances.

India is perhaps headed towards such circumstances, if citizen/social activism and business-led disruptions are any indication.

Till then, we may have to endure a painfully slow evolutionary change.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw