“Know Thyself” – Plato
“Without knowing oneself, there is no possibility of really searching out what is true, what is significant, what are the right values in life” – Jiddu Krishnamurthy
The current world-view of the Indian mainstream media seems to be skewed against people who think opposite to half-baked ideological or commercial proclivities of media houses, antediluvian ‘experts’ or the ruling party’s pandering to divided constituencies. I would term these people swimming against the tide of group think as contra-thinkers, and will hesitate to label them as “Right” or “Left” or by any other appellation. These contra-thinking individuals are sometimes derisively termed as fringe, saffron brigade, Internet Hindus or trolls (in social media) by the self-appointed keepers of public, nay, national conscience. One can detect a condescending tone, clichéd phrases, gross symbols and exaggerated colours snidely used while reporting the contra view. In a quaint way, their language and metaphors are reminiscent of the hackneyed slogans of the communists and dubious people who claim to have actually understood the arcane mumbo jumbo of the Marxists.
These self-styled guardians of conscience apply the same paintbrush across the entire spectrum of these contra-thinkers. An establishment unable to understand the new media and the egalitarian world order brought about by free flowing information is buying this narrative from ‘experts’ and is grappling to find a fix.
After having trolled the social media, having read tons of opinions, having seen and heard many of the leading lights over the last few years, my attempt here is to give a form to the patterns I notice in this chaotic hue of views, and synthesize them to give a logical explanation of my current belief. But before, I must digress a little; to frame my reference point.
One of the key assumptions made by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity is that the laws of physics holds good, no matter whatever is the frame of reference, and that the universe is uniform when viewed from any point (also known as the Cosmological Principle). If this were to be same with human thought and logic, then there is no need for human consciousness. We would have reached the end of history, and end of all troubles plaguing humankind. However the incessant buzz of human thought produces a rich variety of thoughts, opinions and knowledge. They increase manifold in proportion with the number of interactions – be it with other humans, nature or matter. Since each person’s interactions are unique, so are the views and thus history is an ongoing process.
It should be pointed here though there can be dangerous byproducts such as – the collective wisdom of the crowds, or the seductive ideologies of a few who stand at the cusp of interactions at the right time and right place. Communism, and Hitler’s fascism are examples of such destructive thought processes. The mainstream definition of “secularism” in India is another example.To explain the dominant fetish of the mainstream Indian pseudo-intellectual elite, one cannot help borrowing an interesting and fascinating concept from another field – the study of production of scientific knowledge, known as “epistemic culture”. Karin Knorr Cetina in her book Epistemic Culture(I must confess that I have not read this book) defines epistemic cultures as an “amalgam of arrangements and mechanisms – bonded through affinity, necessity and historical coincidence – which in a given field, make up how we know what we know“. Karin Cetina illustrates the epistemic cultures in Molecular Biology and High Energy Physics laboratories and explains the process of production of scientific knowledge. “Epistemic” means relating to knowledge or its validation.
I therefore use “Anti-Epistemic’ to imply dogma, irrationality and the byproducts of crooked and hidden agenda being palmed off as knowledge. In the context of pseudo-intellectualism, with due apologies to Karin Cetina for the loose usage, the phrase “pseudo-epistemic culture” may succinctly describe the origins, the incentives and the ecosystem contributing to their half-truths, cargo-cult pseudo-scientific reasoning and opportunistic arguments.
Coming back to the main argument regarding the reasons for my belief, I would like to quote Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) on Marxism, “I learned where discussion must stop because it is turning into a lie and resistance must begin in order to maintain freedom.” I think the time has come to stop discussing the national lie – the so-called leftist centrism which straddles on crony capitalism, nepotism, corruption and distorted Nehruvian legacy. Now this pseudo-epistemic culture which dominated the national discourse is under threat with the open floodgates of information accessibility. Little wonder we notice feeble attempts to control and distort social media voices, attempts to harness RTI, pontification by loud-mouthed anchors at studio pulpits.
Then what in essence is the right path? Is there a framework to show us what is right and what is wrong? I think frameworks throw in more ambiguity in their attempt to accommodate diverse voices while defining ourselves as a nation, and the place for such frameworks is the dustbin. I believe that we do not have to search far for showing us the right way if we weigh every aspect of our national life through the following lens:
As citizens of India, acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution. Being true to the basic structure of the Constitution as enunciated in the Kesavananda Bharati case.
The Doctrine of National Interest – which means that the nation is above everything, be it region, language, caste, creed or religion. It is the national interest first always. Everytime.
These two principles attempt to define the spirit of nationalism and the rich cultural heritage of India. One may question – how does India’s cultural moorings fit into these principles? I think right from the time of Chanakya, when Indian history was probably first formally recorded, national interest and nationhood was the constant stated or unstated undercurrent. The concept of nationhood was synonymous with the culture, religion and heritage of the people, and I believe this continues to be to the current day.
Ideologies which look at the East or West for succour which fail when tested against these twin principles are certainly not right. And the pseudo-epistemic culture of the neo-liberals, the left liberals and several other denominations miserably fails when evaluated against the twin principles.
Therefore I believe that I am Right, if that is the literal and figurative way defining my ideological inclination. I see innumerable fellow travellers who consciously or sub-consciously adhere to this Weltanschauung resisting the great lie that is being sold, and there lies a golden ray of hope to our nation, our India.