Sunday, 28 February 2016

Purushottam Agrawal, Alan Gibbard & Bhasmasura

'Democracy is not a mere game of numbers. It is a matter of individual and collective temperament, of the autonomy and credibility of institutions, and a sense of participation for the most marginalised. The current campaign of demonisation of intellectuals, mob frenzy, the systematic weakening of institutional practices ranging from universities and the media to the judiciary and police are indications of Indian democracy turning into a dystopia.
'Those knowledgable about Hindu mythology – and hopefully this included the political Hindutva types – are surely aware of the story of Bhasmasura. The demon was granted a boon by Shiva to turn anybody he wished into ashes, but he soon turned upon Shiva himself. The myth holds lessons for those who believe that their power and the forces that they have unleashed will remain under their control.'
Purushottam Agrawal is a writer, academic and political commentator.
Though I am Tamil and was educated in the UK- thus my Hindi is not very good!- I have to admit that Hindi writers and journalists- e.g. Vineet Narain, who exposed Hawala scam, and IPS officer Vibhuti Narain Rai who helped ordinary people realzse the true mechanics and consequences of communal riots- have had much bigger and more visceral impact on me than academic or journalistic writing in English- even that of people like Amartya Sen or P Sainath. 

The truth is, it is better for an Indian to express their idealistic, spiritual or political ideas in a vernacular language because it connects up with an action schemata much more easily. The philosopher Alan Gibbard has argued that the essence of normative claims is to tie in conceptually with action. Such action can be of two sorts- first order- which involves doing something about the underlying problem- and second order- displaying approbation or condemnation in the belief that this might somehow cause a first order effect.
English language writing re. India always carries the second order 'conceptual tie to action', but can only attain a first order tie to action if it ceases to be normative simply and becomes 'ideological'. However, in doing so, the second order rent-contestation crowds out first order chrematistics giving rise to purely Gesture Political or Cretinously Credentialist 'tulip boom'.
For ordinary Tamils- Tamil and English are interchangeable because we can't help turning English into Tamil- as Anthony Burgess pointed out. Hindi, however, is an 'universal' wholly autonomous language based on Riti's mubahala divorce from Sanskriti

One consequence is that univocal Reformism, even in khaki knickers, could not make much impact on the Hindi Lebenswelt- though one could say that as individuals, people like Vajpayee, even Modi, are part of Ganga-Yamuna 'tehzeeb' or 'shathiyaat'.
By contrast, thanks to Stalin's philosophy of language, Communism has had huge impact on each and every part of India. Also, shooting managers who fail to meet targets turns out to be incentive compatible- as well as a salutary recreation. Indeed, Savarkar declared that India should be Socialist because Communism was the quickest way for a country to become powerful. 

Since the erudite and humane author has a connection with Mexico (and it is this type of lateral connection which can overthrow 'Eurocentric' or PoCo pretend Scholarship) he will know how much Reformed Religion contributed to the different but exemplary trajectories of M.N. Roy and Pandurang Khankhoje. The latter, an agronomist in Mexico before his return to India fought futilely against Nehruvian pessimism re. the peasant. Ultimately Mexican hybrids came to us twenty years later at the hands of Borlaug and the Rockefeller Foundation!

The RSS or the Jamaat or, in the old days, the Khaksars and so on do have appeal for agricultural people. Since the Tamil Muslim League had the best organised youth cadre, the then Kanchi Shankaracharya asked the Muslim youth to do crowd control at the Kumbhakonam Mela even before Khilafat! 
RSS got stamped as 'Chitpavan supremacism, Khaksars were just crazy, Jamaatis were corrupted by Wahhabi money, Communists turned out to be gerontocratic careerists, Congress was a nepotistic joke, OBC politics turned out to be just Kaleckian factionalism- ideology disappeared from Indian politics long ago.

Still, people like this author have made a great contribution. There is some apophatic spiritual, aesthetic and even intellectual greatness in the Hindi speaking region which attracts people from littoral states.

No doubt, Hindi writers, courting the Mohini of English's facile-too-facile pen, write nonsense as egregious as our own- as in the example quoted above. Still, when they turn back to the mirror of the Vernacular, blessing their own Caliban visage, they are spared the fate of Bhasmasura.

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