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Monday, May 26, 2008

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

Here is the second part of my observations that coalesced after reading and commenting on the articles on political philosophies in an online magazine called Pragati.

McCauley's Children

I remember someone, a blogger, asking the question who are these McCauley's Children that Hindu Right refers to. Of course, the phrase McCauley children is dished out to almost anyone that some desi disagrees with. But to me McCauley's children are people, for whatever reason, but mainly because they can read English, sometimes only English, and enamored by the west, and even after they grow up, consider western philosophy, western way of living, and western history as the only significant point of reference, historically or currently. (Here I don't refer to hard sciences such as Maths or Astronomy which have only one nature derived answer to a physical problem.) And these people are perfectly happy to try and impose those understandings - they are not really experiences - of liberalism, of values, of culture, and, of course, of secularism on their fellow Bharatiya.

By calling some McCauley's children, I do not want to denigrate the west or the evolution of western philosophy on politics, culture, and value system. While they are important for the west and surely provide perspective for us and everyone else, I would argue, they are neither sufficient nor complete for understanding Bharatiya culture, value system, and, of course, way of life.

While I don't except everyone to read all the literature available before forming an opinion, especially if they want others to buy into it, I wonder if any of these authors read Bhagavat Gita - it is fairly short book; or read the complete stories of Mahabharata or Ramayana - not to study the plots, but to understand the interactions between people, groups of people, the politics of human nature, and the value system of those people; or the Puranas or the Vedas - not the entire volumes, but books on them to get an understanding of the moral code of people, the nature of relationship between government and its people, and, of course, the value system of the people; or any number of books, historic and current, that are based on the historic understanding of Bharatiya philosophy, on governance, on statehood, on honour, duty, and sacrifice. I can fairly confidently say that most Indians, even vast majority of Muslims - one thinks of an Indian version of Islam - and people of other faith, living in the subcontinent, live by these codes.

Flawed Answers

The western philosophy is interesting - which is by the way, to say the obvious, is based on Greek and Latin philosophical thought (there is an aside to this - hopefully I can blog on it someday), revived in the 15th through 18th centuries, after the dark ages, i.e. time of Christian orthodoxy and Islamic rule in Europe, and continues today - and surely must be studied. But to think that the solutions to Bharatiya social problems lie in an Italian historian definition of nations or the recently dead William Buckley, or in the western definition of liberalism, individualism, and, of course, secularism is to offer us flawed answers.

The answers are not flawed because the answers are wrong but because one did not ask all the questions. These authors (and other secularists) don't look at the experiences - historical and current values, and, more fundamentally, the way of life of Bharatiya before giving us answers to the perceived problems. In other words, the prescription is for the patient not diagnosed. Pushing the analogy further, the prescribing doctors, those McCauley's Children, should understand that the Bharatiya patient has a different physiology compared to a western patient.

It was the communists who did it before, take the other western philosophy at face value, since the turn of the century, and try to impose it on everyone. Ironically while the west recognized the destructive nature of communism and Marxism on western values and fought back, thanks in part to William Buckley, the east and most of the other world succumbed to it in one way or the other. The Chinese who took communism to heart at it's peak are working to purge communism from their lives while reviving innate Chinese values, and Confucian and Buddhist philosophies and way of life. India succumbed to it partially via socialism - partially only because Bharatiya value system was able to push back on it even though it was hoisted on them by giants like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi and their communists allies at home and aboard.

Now it seems, it's the turn of the self-proclaimed liberals and secularists to take western philosophy at face value and impose those values on Bharatiya people. This time the allure to impose them, by McCauley's Children, on Bharat is as strong or even stronger, than communists and Marxists. It seems Bharatiya people have to sum up courage, once again, for another push back.