Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Battle of Ideologies

The trail of human civilisation is dotted with battles fought both within the internal conscience and the external world. The first half of 6000 years of human existence went in figuring out the earth’s ecosystem. The farthest that the hunter gatherer style of living could foresee human future was till its next meal. It was by far the calmest period in human history. After which humans learnt to demarcate territories and the mighty men became Kings and their lineage claimed ownership of vast swathes of land and the resources it encompassed. Men then turned greedy. Kings wanted to expand their empire, conquer the farthest of the lands to which their cavalry could travel. This greed kept the human civilisation busy for the next half. The battle within of human conscience, of right and wrong, of dharma and adharma, of God and the devil were fought after the trivialities of this world became evident to humankind. In this juxtaposition of human greed which leads men to fight other men and the human conscience which leads men to fight their own inner self, mankind has collectively lost its direction.

In the last 150 years of industrial and technological revolution, there has been more material progress in the world than there was in all of human history combined. The Flynn effect states that there has been a linear increase in the human I.Q since 1930 (the year James Flynn took as his base) to present day. Humans are increasingly becoming adept and intelligent to reason. The democratisation of technology has put tremendous powers in every individual’s hands. Technology is no longer complex and is easily accessible to everyone. This has changed the course of human civilisation. It is not often that the entire mankind stands at such a crossroad and feels perplexed. A misstep here could lead to the beginning of the end of human civilisation without anybody realising it.

What has technology done to human behaviour?

The primary role of technology is to reduce human effort and thereby free up time for humans to do more. The battles of human greed and human conscience resurface in this context. With more productive time to fight these external and internal battles, we now turn to the battle of ideology. In the course of progression of human civilisation, this possibly comes at the last. Swami Vivekananda had aptly pointed out- “You cannot preach Bhagvad Gita to a man with a hungry stomach”. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs points to that as well. Technology in the last 50 years has made sure that there is enough food for human need and enough money with most people to buy it. With the needs of food and safety taken care of by technology, the human mind’s last battle is that of the battle of ideology. The battle which divides people between the left and the right, between your side and my side. The battle to turn human mind into a minefield of dogma and beliefs. This is the most treacherous of all the battles.   


The Battle of Ideology in today’s India

An India which is increasingly aping the west, which is chasing western prosperity, which has seen the miracles of democratisation of technology is today entangled to fight the battle of ideology. Notwithstanding its poverty and blind beliefs the battle of ideology in India is reaching far corners one wouldn’t immediately fathom. For generations people of different faiths, ways of living, different tongues, different customs co-existed in India peacefully.  They only had one enemy to face- hunger. They only had one common objective, by far- prosperity. With that achieved, more or less and with the technology tsunami washing everyone to the shore of self-aggrandisement, today’s India is at the cusp of this battle of ideology. For today’s Indian the battles and objectives differ. It is no longer hunger and poverty. It is his self-image and opinion.  The first step towards that is the increasing politicization of issues in the country. It is a healthy sign of democracy that every citizen becomes politically aware. But is that what is happening in India today? Propaganda is usurping intent. And propaganda is the misstep to fight the battle of ideologies. Mobile phones and internet have turned virtually every Indian into a political reporter. With increasing mean income levels, the people have had the opportunity to experience prosperity in their own lifetime. There was a time when people saved money for their grandchildren, saved money in old trunks to build a house after their retirement so that their sons could live happily. But that was a battle of yesteryears. With globalisation and easier access to travel and information, the average Indian is increasingly getting opinionated and dogmatic. He wants to prove that it his opinion that matters over everybody else's. Today, he increasingly wants to win the battle of ideology.

The average opinionated Indian

I was awestruck by what had happened at JNU with a set of students and their ideology which they called left-wing. I was perplexed with the government’s reaction which due to its upbringing had a different ideology which they called right-wing. I was angry at the seemingly neutral media for its propaganda disguised as news.  Like everybody else I had a theory which I was not too comfortable to propose. I felt there is something more to it. Of course, the incident at JNU, the slogan shouting which the national media blew out of proportion is not to be seen in isolation. It did not happen due to Narendra Modi’s policies, seen as the torch bearer of right wing politics. JNU always was a minefield of anti-establishment activities. The students who call themselves liberals in the university fashion the idea of anti-establishment, anti-religion, questioning the status quo. In an interesting Huff Post article titled “Why are so many humanities students activists?” Shevtal Vyas Pare points out- “You begin to understand that the idea of meritocracy is a sham once you think about how privilege works…Meritocracy is a deeply seductive idea, especially when you are successful.” A student in liberal arts studies societal inequalities and rightfully questions them thus joining a side in this battle of ideology. While a student of sciences and technology learns that the capitalistic model of work hard for yourself, create wonders and make money by selling it to others. He doesn’t appreciate the inequality in society as he is disillusioned by the meritocratic society, thus joining the other side in the battle of ideology.


As a child my mother had advised me that the world out there was tough and competitive. Everybody wants to outdo the other, outshine the other. Only the best survive, she told and cautioned you need to be the best. I ran the rat race only to find that the race ultimately culminates not in personal achievement and making a difference to the world, but in shouting out loud one’s opinions. Getting the fellow runners to side you and building a movement to strengthen what you think is right.

I fear for our children. If they aren’t taught how to deal with a person who doesn’t share your own beliefs and opinions, the battle of ideology will blow up in the face of humanity and nobody will know why because everyone will be busy live tweeting the event.