Friday, June 8, 2012

Develop a spine: The ethical energy involves choice

The purveyors of secular “discourse” in India come in several flavours:
  • The shrill drumbeaters whose “discourse” constitutes loud barking
  • The “all religions are equally evil but Hinduism is the evillest” variety
  • The majority-is-always-wrong variety
  • The minority-must-be-mollycoddled-even-if-they-are-wrong variety
  • The patronizers—this one usually sits abroad and wears cultivated smiles and accents, which are intact when running down the “natives.”
  • The high-brow scholars with mile-long, fancy alphabets suffixed to their names who write stuff that nobody understands or cares for but yet go on to win awards and respectability.
But I sincerely appreciate his interest in and love for the Mahabharata and his desire that our children learn that from an early age. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that he quotes Sukhtankar, a scholar close to my heart. However, Das’s real failing is that he is trapped by the secularism-as-the-only-solution-to-all-our-problems mantra and is unable to see beyond it… I’m truly astounded that a person who has read the Mahabharata for six years has failed to even investigate one word that occurs thousands of times in the epic: Dharma. Even a cursory investigation would’ve revealed how hollow, and most importantly, why secularism is unsuited to India.
Rediscovery of India by Sandeep B Feb 2, 2010
It’s been about 10 years since I started this blog and this post is a personal stock-taking of sorts… To give it some shape, here are a few broad (and probably vague) themes:
  • Repudiate the Nehruvian “idea” of India
  • Examine issues, ideas, and policies by scrutinizing/comparing it with similar work our ancients had done
  • Examine everything in the context of its applicability to native Indian traditions
  • Revive traditions that have timeless relevance
  • Discard any ugly traditions that exist
  • Revitalize Indian art, sculpture, music, dance, and literature. The value this has in keeping India together is intangible but infinitely more significant than most of us realize.
  • Stop jerking off to the fact that one of the greatest strengths of India, for all its flaws (sic), is that it’s a democracy. What we have is a sham.
  • Develop a spine: we don’t need to seek the West’s (or the whole world’s) approval for everything we do. 
For William James the ethical act has no meaning unless it is chosen out “of several, all equally possible” acts. Ethics “must sustain the arguments for the good course and keep them ever before us, to stifle our longing for more flowery ways, to keep the foot unflinching on the arduous path, these are the common ethical energies. The ethical energy par excellence has to go even further and choose which interest, out of several equally coercive, shall be supreme” (Principles of Psychology, p. 191).  The ethical energy involves choice, not passivity…
“Philosophers should be able to resist the temptation to justify the sacrifice, the exclusion of other ideals. They should accept that the victims haunt the interstices of their adherence to an ideal. They should accept to let their experience throb with the complaint of those who were sacrificed in the name of what they define as moral.” (Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead, p. 334)

I was frustrated by the content of our conversation, even though the form was cordial enough. It’s made me realize that political discourse is way messier than most ontologies let on. I think the panexperiential process ontology I’ve been trying to develop on this blog with help from Schelling and Whitehead certainly has political implications [see Adam/Knowledge-Ecology's recent post on panpsychism and politics], but how am I to justify these implications to someone who could care less about the abstract forms of reasoning characteristic of metaphysics? … I think the philosophically-inclined political activist’s best bet is something like what Bruno Latour is doing with “political art.” As Schelling argued long ago, art is the eternal organon of philosophy, since only it is capable of making reason sensuous and mythology rational.

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