By M.S.N. Menon
From Plato's?philosopher king? to Lalu Yadav, it is truly a terrible fall from the sublime to the ridiculous. But how has this come about? The answer is: From a blind imitation of the West. The West is like its medical system. It cures the symptom, not the cause of the disease. It cures the parts, not the body. Thus, faced with revolting sophistry, Plato prescribed a course of ethics. Machiavelli, the political pragmatist, was faced with extreme turbulence. So he recommended draconian punishments. Principles and morality did not count for much with him.
Thomas Hobbes lived at the time of civil war in England. He hated anarchy, opted for absolute monarchy and asked the people to surrender their power to the State, the Leviathan, in return for protection. But absolute monarchy turned into absolute tyranny. John Locke was shocked by the arbitrariness of the aristocracies. So he abolished all distinctions between man and man, and proclaimed equality of all. He inspired the French and American revolutions. What followed was anarchy. Marx was appalled by the havoc caused by the industrial revolution. He called for the dictatorship of the proletariat as a universal remedy. With what result? It produced Stalin and Mao, and working-class tyranny! Communism put bread into the mouth of the people, but took away their freedom. Little did these doctors of the ?body politic? think of the health of the body. They were concerned with the parts. Their remedies turned out to be worse than the disease. The West treated the symptoms and ignored the deeper malady of the body. It failed to institute a health care system.
But the West would like us to believe that it has discovered the perfect society and the universal remedy for all ills. That is how it presents democracy and capitalism today. It ignores poverty, disease, ignorance and the constant fears that afflict the citizen. Imagine, then, it is this faulty Western political system based on Western experience that we adopted when we set about putting the life-support structures of an independent India! We copied the Constitution of Britain and the USA. That Britain and the USA were monocultural societies, that their system did not automatically apply to India, a country of immense diversity, did not occur to our founding fathers. They simply replicated the Western institutions and laws.
And thanks to Nehru, the Westerniser, it was all carried without debate or opposition. Did our Constitution-makers take our own values and experience into account? How could they? They were blissfully unaware of the essentials of our civilisation.
And thanks to Nehru, the Westerniser, it was all carried without debate or opposition. Did our Constitution-makers take our own values and experience into account? How could they? They were blissfully unaware of the essentials of our civilisation. They were mostly the children of Macaulay.
What drives the Western civilisation is its insatiable desire?endless desire for material things. It judges a man'shappiness by how much he consumes! So, desire continues to multiply. And man'scapacity to satisfy them falls behind. But did not the Buddha say that it is increasing desire which is the source of human misery? We call our civilisation ?spiritual?.
But we imitate the consumerism of the West. Is consumerism then, the touchstone of our spirituality? Western societies were homogenous. They were monocultural. The two-party
system and the parliamentary form of government were natural to them. But they did not suit us. Our country was not homogenous.
It was multi-cultural. How to govern such a country was not to be sought in the West. It was to be sought right here in India. We had some experience. But that is not what our founding fathers did. The parliamentary system is divisive. It divides people along the ?fault-lines??along rich and poor, high and low, strong and weak. But in the West the fault-lines are few. In India, a country of the greatest diversity, the fault-lines are many. And when each political poltroon wants to create a pocketborough for himself, he fragments society along the fault-line, which is how a Lalu Yadav came to be the cock of the walk in this great country.