Letters

Letters to the Editor — November 2, 2020

U.P. CM’s warning

It is disturbing to read the intemperate and unlawful comments made by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Inside pages, “U.P. CM vows tough law against ‘love jihad’,” November 1). As Chief Minister, he has taken a solemn oath to defend the Constitution of India. Therefore, it is the height of irresponsibility and dereliction of duty, which he has sworn to uphold, by threatening to unleash what is akin to extrajudicial and legal violence.

Uttar Pradesh in particular is badly affected by the pandemic. In addition, its migrant worker population has suffered a great deal. As a Chief Minister he should be focussing more on how to make life better for those affected by the pandemic.

G. Parameswaran,

Coimbatore

 

Sean Connery

With the passing of Sir Sean Connery, the world has lost one of the great stars of the movie world. He was charisma personified, still remembered for his witty one-liners. Though we have had many actors playing the legendary agent’s role, Sir Sean Connery stood out, and still does, for his screen presence. In those days, the arrival of a James Bond movie was a festival of sorts for movie lovers.

G.B. Sivanandam,

Coimbatore

There can only be one James Bond, and played by Sean Connery. On screen, he was stylish, handsome and statuesque. Hollywood has lost a lodestar.

K. Pradeep,

Chennai

 

It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Sir Sean Connery gave life to the character of the super sleuth. The name might not ring a bell as far as the present generation is concerned, but English film aficionados in the 1960s and 1970s could hardly have skipped any of the early Bond films such as Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, and Diamonds are Forever.

C.V. Aravind,

Bengaluru

Cultural mitosis in Indian society

I write this as Professor, Department of Political Science, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Cultural mitosis is producing new cultures, and the emerging changes in ‘belief’ and ‘relation’ in India are having an impact on freedom and the social structure.

The structural and functional face of Indian society are dynamic. Dynamism of any society is always appreciated in conceptual and practical philosophy. But when this dynamism takes to a new creation with least possible inheritance from the past, an evaluation becomes desirable to understand the direction and destination of the new creation. In present day India, many groups of new ‘belief holders’ are surfacing, independent of their parent cultures, claiming to have authentic adherence to the group and wanting recognition as cultural communities. So what is the change in the cultural face of Indian society with its diversities? Can these new belief holders be considered a cultural community? Can these new groups attain the aims underlying their formation? And if we allow these to take place, what will be the face of new society?

In second half of the second decade of present century, few yet unseen trends are becoming visible in Indian society. Though these are the growths from the upper middle classes and upper classes, these are now being articulated by the lower middle, and upper lower classes. There are innumerable fronts on which these changes and growths can be spotted but for the reasons of feasibility I will try in the present context to focus on two aspects: beliefs and relations. Two possible impacts of these new growths are on freedom and social structure.

Morality and rationality are no more accepted as essential foundations of a social organisation anywhere and in India. This is logical as in present world, no universal notion of rationality and morality can be expected to be acceptable. We have a sizeable number of theoreticians and philosophers who try to take a position where rationality and morality can be individually defined. They argue that any universal conception of these is no less than interference in the freedom of individual to own the self. But opposed to this view, we also have a sizeable number of scholars who maintain a position where rationality and morality become integrated in any organised society. They argue that no enactment is possible without any ‘all acceptable’ agreement and no fabric of social living can be thought of without enactment.

A society is recognised by its belief system. In the present context, beliefs include value, tradition, faith and living preferences. Traditional Indian society in its segment and period had at its root certain common features. A particular religious orientation, a way of salvation, a dress sense, a sexual orientation and a particular type of social and societal ranking were some of the issues on which there was agreement within a particular community. Faith-based morality, later converted into reason-based morality, and was the testing instrument for right and wrong for both individuals and institutions. Social approval carried a load that was normally respected, and going away from the norms created by this load was unusual and not appreciated. This particular social load and requirements of approval of society created a framework for social and personal relationships and, consequently, for social fabrics.

The last five years, approximately, have generalised the changes initiated from the very turn of the century. Society is moving very fast and so are its members. The catchment area of this dynamism is the young population who are much exposed to social media and the Internet. These platforms give information without having any link to epistemological and ontological roots. The young world is very vulnerable with a false confidence to negate the worth of validity of history and social experiences. This is not a general case with every young person but is true with almost everyone who has adopted to new way of life without self interrogation and evaluation of the consequences of adoption. I clarify that the intention is not to prove the young generation wrong or right in their chosen way or to be judgmental about their decisions. The sole purpose here is to showcase the different aspects of this newly generated world and to find an opinion on how far and how much we can accommodate and should accommodate.

Generally speaking, Indian societies had a ‘belief system’ and that was common and obligatory for the members. I do not claim that there were no exceptions but at a larger scene, the system was followed. The belief in a god, in the provision of punishment in a metaphysical world, in commonly accepted morality, in subordination to the superior, in a particular way of socio-personal relation, to respect elders and to be embedded to society were some important aspects of the system. But in the recent past, tremendous changes have occurred and are clearly visible in society. The loads of morality have become insufficient to keep the members of society unmoved with the swing generated by modernity associated with a western glamour of openness.

The most crucial change that can be noticed emerging in the last approximately 10 years is a ‘detachment from experience’. The young generation does not want to treat experience as its repository and to look to that in any struggle of the self. In all western and Indian traditions, experiences are the source of knowledge. Knowledge is one that guides the decision, and the young generation claims to have sufficient, real and required knowledge to decide. But it fails to accept the difference between information and knowledge. Information can work in attainment of immediate goals and those goals may turn stable also, but this is risky and is a function of probability and chance.

Now coming to the issue of change in ‘belief system’, of course, it is clearly visible. And I want to argue that this change is a natural dynamics of any social order and must be respected but only after critical examination. And these changes must be examined in respect to durability, stability, viability and the ultimate aim of a stress-free happy life.

In the young world, morality today is conceived in terms of suitability and rationality as attainability. This has made the ‘immediate’ more important and desired than ‘stable’. Rational is good and good is happiness and happiness is an individual’s feeling. So every act or enactment is rational till it produces happiness to an individual. Today, rationality appears to be a stigma on a social face. I do agree that morality and rationality are often abused to justify and strengthen the hierarchy and subordination in society. So the fury of the young world against these concepts is understandable. But what is not understandable is their own creation of definitions but for the sole reason of their suitability. In these newly created groups of belief holders, historical convictions based on societal experiences are replaced by personal convictions based on immediate individual experiences, morality and rationality are replaced by suitability and attainability respectively, and knowledge as guiding factor for every decision is replaced by information.

The entire exercise of creating a new ‘belief system’ and redefining concepts such as ‘morality’ and ‘rationality’ had ultimately the aim of a satisfactory, happy and good life. Satisfaction is word of infinite range having infinite variants. It is state of mind attached to achievements in every aspect of one’s life. Successful achievement is totally individualistic in a sense but absolutely social in realisation. This clearly means that it is relative and never absolute in nature. Being ‘satisfied’ also postulates being at the status of a totally desired achievement. Now we can safely reduce that ‘being satisfied is being stable’.

Happiness has been a basis for the organisation of society for schools of thought, particularly Hedonism. I will only say that happiness ultimately comes with a social face and can better be felt had and cherished in a society having defined characteristics of social living.

‘Good’ is another aspect of possible aspirations of new belief holders. John Rawls, one of the most recognised thinkers of contemporary world, tried to investigate the issue of priority between ‘good’ and ‘right’. The main arguments read as follows: The right must be given priority over good as it is an important aspect of justice. ‘Justice as Fairness’ requires that individual good be always integrated in right that comes from justice. Justice is good of society and more important and required than the good of individual. After scanning the “good” though history of political philosophy, the interesting point to note is that good was never considered to have an individualistic nature, it was always taken as social and was appreciated as social quality.

The historical experiences confirm that a satisfied, happy and good life is possible only in a society. Collective living for immediate goals should not be recognised as cultural communities as it is neither desirable nor feasible. Thinking of a happy, satisfied and stable life without sociality may be mere imagination. Reformation from within should be welcome but not secession.

A.K. Upadhyay,

Varanasi

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 8:56:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor-november-2-2020/article32998736.ece

Next Story