A.1.The rationalists, universalists, freethinkers seem to be living in wrong times today. Intolerance is extreme. Rule of law has lost its force. History, as Napoleon said, is lies. Politicians are distorting the facts of even recent history. Both technology and politics seem to be collaborating to curb and diminish critical thinking. Has it happened suddenly? No. Even Soren Kierkegaard had observed, “Our age reminds one of the disintegration of the Greek state; everything continues and yet, there is no one who believes in it. An invisible bond that gives it validity, had vanished, and the whole age is simultaneously comic and tragic, tragic because it is perishing, comic because it continues.”
To make the discussion contextual, we may refer to the arrest of some intellectual activists. This reminds one of the fate early scientists, like Galileo Galilei and others, had to face. They were prosecuted and subjected to shame and punishment by the mercilessly crude and cruel Roman Inquisition in the seventeenth century for their ideas and beliefs.
Questing and crusading has led man to where he is today and the process cannot stop because there is no finality to truth and all prevailing things, beliefs, ideas and thoughts in our world remain relative. Path to social and individual redemption is not straight nor is it fixed. Hope and freedom leap in the human breast eternally and impel man to be more human and aware of himself and his environment. Especially, after development of language and writing, man’s craving for self-expression and for extending its boundaries has been sharpening. His urges as a social and political being to be new and different are restlessly rising. These urges to be free and boundless often get expressed in the political writings of freethinkers and intellectuals who cannot but fathom deep the riddles of human existence and view their individual situations with greater intensity and express their responses with deeper thoughts and passions. They do not always conform to the prevailing norms, opinions and ways of a society and often become victims of social anger instead of becoming the voice of liberty.
Currently, the political discourse globally as well as nationally, in India especially, is getting overloaded with overtones of irrational fervor and religious intolerance. And, what is even more irksome is the fact that everything, even day to day living of ordinary people, is becoming politicised. Will this change in personal and social attitudes lead us to attain the power and will to act and realize individual and collective potential? Or, shall we get lost and consumed in a mendacious world of inflammable violence, divisiveness and outrage?
What is normal for a human being? We no longer seem to know, much less practice. Can and should one remain mute and silent in the face of state oppression, racism and religious intolerance that is starkly manifest in the banning of writings, paintings and images? Shall our artists and writers go on being deprived of their esthetic and philosophic freedom? Shall the self-appointed moral squad go on threatening and killing the non-conformist elements of society? Shall the independent minds be condemned and mistreated as apostates?
The time has arrived to challenge the gone mad nationalists as well as the dogmatic secularists. The silent majority that sustains the society has to speak up and chastise these vulgarly vociferous lumpen elements decisively. The society at large must treat them as enemies within.
While solutions to major national problems are inevitably becoming global, we are getting assailed and overwhelmed by a spate of nationalism that is divisive, deadly and self-destructive.
Where have the humanism and enlightenment of the secularists gone? Where are the compassion and piety of the religions gone? Values that amplified and enlightened the human mind and had started turning the multitudes into democratic and inclusive societies once again have regressed to intolerance and egotism.
Universities are thoughtlessly driving out the Humanities and the Cultural Arts from their portals and ushering in Skills and Technologies for training and preparing the New Man to create a heartless and dehumanized New World, as Aldous Huxley prophesied in his dystopia, Brave New World.
This kind of educated elite are handy tools for a nationalistic state machinery which belittles the role of the liberal arts and culture and whets appetite for economic expansion and endless consumption.
While western universities are opening doors to Liberal Education, Indian universities remain bogged down in the stale curricula and atrophied research.
Shall we at least give our younger generations an education that will nourish their hearts with esthetic joy and infuse their minds with human liberty so that they may live and create a more humane and harmonious world in which Joy of Giving shall over-ride the Greed for Gaining. For, Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. ~ Ralph Marston