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Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Freedom, Culture, Values, And, Of Course, Secularism - Part I

A site called Indian National Interest publishes a monthly e-zine called Pragati - a collection of blogs or other writings mainly by bloggers. I usually read selective topics on foreign policy mainly because most others topics don't interest me or because they are written by non-practitioners who have little to add to my understanding on a subject.

Three Articles

The latest Pragati had a section, which I happen to read, on political philosophy - three disparate and divergent ones. But of course there was a common theme, rather a common enemy - Hindus or rather thinking nationalist Hindus who want to live according to Hindu code of live and morality based on their own history and philosophical heritage. Perhaps it's not as shocking as it should be because the authors were writing about freedom, culture, values, and, of course, secularism.

Of course, the ideas, in two of the articles, are borrowed (from the west, where else) and are deemed applicable to Bharatiya people, except of course to those irreconcilable Hindus. One article is fairly straight forward with which one can hardly disagree with, except the author's portrayal of thinking Hindus towards the end.

The Critic

Let's look at each one separately and may be say something on the theme itself at the end. The first article, by Ravikiran Rao, supporting cultural nationalism reads well until the end when he says strong cultural nationalism is not possible because those who propose and endorse such as view are "a movement feeding further on the same politics of victimhood." And so he proposes cultural nationalism lite - based on "cricket, films, or festivals." The dismissal of strong cultural nationalists seems hurried. One wonders why Ravikiran thinks Hindu nationalists - those Hindu-tatva proponents - play victimhood. I can think of two reasons.

One: Because they demand that history not be covered up by Marxists historians. Because the eminent historians want to impose their brand of secularism and treat thinking Hindus as children from whom the past, especially the tyranny of and atrocities on Hindus by Islamic rulers since the 8th century, has to be kept under wraps? One can hardly say thinking Hindus, Hindu-tatva proponents, play victimhood when all they want to know their own history instead of garbage dished out as history by official historians in the name of secularism.

And two: Because they want equal treatment for all citizens of Bharat and take a dim view of appeasement policies of leftist Congress I and it's predecessor Congress Party under Nehru. Unless one thinks separate and unequal laws are in the best interest of the nation and useful in promoting nationalism, it's a hard case to make that Hindu nationalists play victimhood and that their version of strong cultural nationalism should be dismissed so easily.

The third article is bit self-contradictory - at the same time Gautam Bastian is a proponent and opponent of nationalism, but promotes individual freedom at all cost. Why? His main offer is because the west said so and because an Italian was wrong in a defining nation state along with a wonderful, and often repeated by others, tit-bit that liberalism came to Bharat because of western Enlightenment - implying the illiberal nature of our history, specifically of Hindus, I would think.

Gautam seem to want freedom at all cost - a varying theme of global citizen type philosophy with the notion that country and nationalism be damned. He seems to come this to conclusion without ever wondering who would actually provide and sustain that freedom - apparently each individual is an army of one. But the most incendiary part goes to, who else, Hindu-tatva proponents. There is only one type of nationalism and it is "the ugly, aggressive and sectarian Hindu nationalism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)."

How can a sangh that begins its shakha with "Namaste Sada Vatsale Matrubhoome..." be ugly? How can an organization that proposes a contiguous nation from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari be aggressive? And how can an idea based on self-sacrifice and devotion - those tenants based on historic Bharatiya tradition of honour, duty, code - towards matrubhoome be sectarian? Perhaps one can quote a single instance when Hindu nationalists as a matter of policy wanted Hindu dictatorship and called for quarantining non-Hindus into ghettos?

Gautam wants freedom without a nation. Freedom to do what? Who will provide that freedom? I was looking for the word such as duty or honour in the article to no avail. What exactly is his reference point when he calls for freedom? One wonders who the greedy and ugly coterie is? The unfortunate part is Gautam is the national co-ordinator of the Liberal Youth Forum of India. The direction of future liberalism in India is surely a dire one.

And finally, the second article, by Raj Cherubal, was a bit humorous, for lack of a better word. I think the recently dead William Buckley, who Raj uses as his inspiration, would find it so. Bill Buckley probably never saw his ideas used to propose a merger between left wingers and capitalists, who apparently are all secular right, to create what can only be called as socialism lite - although Raj thinks it would be capitalism with all the virtues of socialism, i.e. a welfare society. Bill Buckley would be bemused by the idea.

But the reason Raj proposes that the Bharatiya version of capitalism should find shelter under left wing politics, and of course purge the leftists and communists from their own tent, is because "India is a nation with deep pockets of religious animosity and resultant resentments. The secular right has nothing to offer voters who crave sectarian competition and promise of a better afterlife. They cannot out-Hindutva or out-Jihad any practitioner of such politics. Add centuries-old caste prejudices to the equation and you get a fortress impenetrable to the secular right."

In order words, run away from the challenges the society and join the communists. This is the easy route any number of self-proclaimed liberals and secularists have taken, unfortunately, to their own peril and that of the country. The whole article was amusing because Bill Buckley would have purged Raj along with the anti-semites and anti-trade self proclaimed right wingers from conservatism because he took a dim view of secularism, at least as practiced by the appeasement politics of current Bharatiya secular crowd, and multiculturalism of the American left. He was solidly grounded in Catholicism, western philosophy, western moral and cultural values and the apparent inherent superiority of those beliefs and values. A Hindu-tatva proponent would be at home with a Bill Buckley of Bharat.

Underlying Theme

There is a strange underlying theme to the second two articles beyond the hatred towards thinking Hindus - the virtue and superiority of historic current western moral and cultural values over their own Bharatiya historic and current moral and cultural values. This western superiority phenomena is the apparent secular and liberal breast milk that feeds most of our young people. Most thinking people, Hindus and non-Hindus, grow out of such thought process and try to find out more about their own historic and current value system. Increasingly many seem not to. One can see that in the debate over the supremacy of free speech, in what ever form, because the current west says so.

Few more thoughts on the importing of western ideas to supplant original thought based on historic and current Bharatiya experiences - unfortunately at an increasing rate - soon.