Tuesday, 28 June 2016

FB discussions - The paths ahead

(via Sunny Narang)
" ... my friend A  wrote to his old associates in the left and even intellectual Gandhians who hate using words like faith, belief , spiritual just yesterday. This is part of a big email exchange happening nowadays among many old left-liberals now out of power and new emerging spirit-intellectuals like A. I have been watching on the side. I am an old warrior who did is for 25 years in the height of Left-Liberal Empire in India ! For me A  is now one of the smartest Political-Economic-Philosopher-Poets taking on from where Tagore and Gandhi left . He may be too Green for me , but its essential voice . I would put myself as a transition-jugaad-entrepreneur who does stuff "You are right that what we have been discussing is too big for an email exchange. Perhaps I will write a long piece, as and when time avails, that tries to say things in a fully developed manner. The only way to reach clarity is to keep dialoguing fearlessly.
For now, I will only say that Gandhi, like Jesus, was never afraid to take the name of God. Nor was Kabir or Nanak or Tagore or Ghalib. Everything depends on how you do it, whether you do so with love, and what role authentic faith plays in your expression. It is irresponsible for humans to blame the gods for what are our failings. But to mark out the limits of the human, it is necessary to recognise a divine sphere, and even to speak of God if necessary (Kant had to do so too. And look at the Constitutions of so many so-called secular, modern nations!). Nietzsche (and who was a greater believer!) was only too right to worry seriously about the nihilist consequences of "the death of God". Industrial modernity has driven our species to the precipice in the absence of any realisation of its assigned place in the scheme of things.
As we know, the political theology of modernity has drawn such a thick line between the Kingdom of God and the public life of human society because of the violent conflicts that transpired in medieval Europe. Again, they wrongly blamed God for it. Notice that the conflicts have hardly ceased even after the famed separation of the secular and the sacred. If anything, humans without divine restraints, have behaved with even greater violence and impunity with respect to each other. Killing on an industrial scale drowns all pre-modern violence, as Ashis Nandy and others have pointed out.
More importantly, and this bears on the question of Gandhi's success in Indian public life, Indians - in stark contrast to the Modern West - have always seen the divine as continuous with human and all other sentient life, never separate from it. The interesting questions in our stories and traditions have always had to do with the nature of this relationship, not whether it exists or not. Gandhi moved millions of people not because (as the Commies or even Nehru sometimes thought) he was putting up a political charade for the masses, but because people (rightly, in my humble view) recognised him as an avatar. Gandhi's faith was seen as authentic because it was indeed so. And the same can be said of Kabir or Nanak or many other public figures in our past.
Tagore writes in one of his essays: "That religion, though not infrequently administered as opiate of the people, did not always originate as such, is often ignored by thinkers whose intellectual bias inclines them to a purely materialist interpretation of social phenomena..." I believe that anglophone radical intellectual culture in this country has long suffered from such a bias, with political consequences for itself which it itself cannot comprehend within its adopted paradigm.
When it comes to the future, walking "backwards like crabs" is hardly my picture of it. It may be the caricature of a certain kind of Western conservative. (I do not know whose quotation it is and who it is speaking to.) My picture of time is utterly different from that of most "progressives" or apostles of progress. Time is linear only if one is able to see just an arbitrary chord of the circular/cyclical/spherical pattern one is a part of. Even Marx, progressive if ever there was one, had to admit in the18th Brumaire that events, ideas and personalities recur throughout history.
To me revolution is an event in linear calendar time only at the most superficial level. When you look deeper there is inevitably an element of "the eternal return" in it, a paradise regained (howsoever ephemerally) for many. There is a deep sense of "coming full circle" as it were.
"One must go forward", your writer says. Of course, how else could one go? But what does going forward involve? To me it is plain that the revolution must draw its poetry not merely from the future, but as much from the past, and indeed from all time - past, present and future. It happens when, as Blake puts it, "I see the past, present and future exist all at once." In our language we would refer to "trikaal-darshan", available, in all honesty, only sub specie aeterni.
Ecologically, species extinction is near-certain today unless one has the humility to learn from the past. (Joshi starts his article, I notice, with the line from Santayana. One could think of Hegel too.) In our book, while speaking of fossil fuels, Ashish and I say that we do not think twice nowadays before consuming in a week what it took the earth millions of years to form. How long can such a state of affairs last before human society comes apart altogether? We forget so readily just how much of modern progress has been achieved unsustainably - running down the stock of non-renewable resources across the earth.
If there is to be survival a few generations from now, we would have gone thru an ecological revolution superseding the industrial one and, yes, it would mean retreating in multiple directions before taking fresh bearings for new journeys again. It would mean, as Tagore put it in his assessment of America, that modernity "retreats from the path of conquest". It would mean no less than reversing Francis Bacon's 500-year-old idea of "the conquest of nature".

Gandhi, for one, was only too clear about it - from the days of Hind Swaraaj. Unfortunately, the party he led lacked the stomach to face the real. Both in his publicly expressed divine faith and in his notion of time, Gandhi could not have been more unorthodox in the context of political modernity. He could not have been more Indian - in the pre-modern sense of the word."

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