Think it over
To follow or to lead?
By M.S.N. Menon
What is the question before India: whether to lead or to follow?
For a thousand years, India led the world. For the next thousand years, India was on the tow. What is in store for India in the future?
For six centuries we lived in a world of Islamic terror and anarchy. For two centuries, in a Euro-centric world, we had no say in either of them. Now we are under American dispensation. Again, we have no say in how the world is run.
Fifty years ago, Jawaharlal Nehru said: ?We would not accept this as a fait accompli.? But what have we achieved? Nothing. The world is still run by the West.
But why? Because we are not ready to challenge the hegemony of the West. Because we are still under the spell of Western civilisation. Because we are still ignorant of the strength of our own civilisation.
Who is responsible? Our educational system. It was designed to keep us weak, to make us ashamed of our past. Did we want to change it? No! Why? Because we are like zombies today.
Why can'twe re-write our history? Because we can never agree on anything. We glorify in our Hindu past. It was no Golden Age, say the Muslims and Dalits. It was an oppressive age, they say. To the Muslims, it suits to say so to justify their conversion and to Dalits, to justify their present aggressive posture.
But the country is marching ahead, and it may well be a super power in half a century. Are we ready to play the role of a super power with Lalu Yadav around? No way. And we are doing nothing to prepare the country and its people for this role. Hence, it has become necessary to call up our nationalism. Only the Parivar is committed to do so.
It is said that the Western civilisation is materialistic, that ours is spiritualistic. ?I do not deny,? says Prof. Max Mueller, the Vedic scholar, ?that the manly vigour, the silent endurance, the public spirit and the private virtues of the citizens of European States represent one side?it may be an important side?of the destiny, which man has to fulfil on earth.? But there is another side of our nature, and possibly another destiny open to man. And that destiny, he says, belongs to the East, to India, in particular.
Western civilisation is thus activist; Indian is contemplative. The West has been exploring the external world. The Hindu has been looking inward upon himself. This one-sided development of the West has reached an alarming stage?a crisis of social, ecological, moral and spiritual dimension, according to Fitjoff Capra, the famous scientist. In fact, it has suffered from cultural disintegration, says Dr Radha-krishnan.
India has had a measure of success. Max Mueller says: ?If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life and has found solutions to some, I should point to India.?
The West has put material production at the heart of the human evolution, as if what you eat is what guides the future evolution of mankind! It is a stupid thought. Gandhiji asks: ?What mark of civilisation is it to be able to produce a 120-page newspaper in one night when most of it is either banal or actually vicious with no two columns worth preserving?? We have to put man at the centre of the human evolution if we are to make progress; not consumerism.
Darwin and Einstein have together torn up the innards of the Semitic faiths. Their creation myth has become a fairy-tale. And their belief in a dualistic world?a world of God and Satan, matter and spirit?has crumbled. It was the mechanistic view of the universe, which gave rise to the monarchic God, who ruled the world from above by imposing his divine laws on it.
In contrast, India believes that the forces of change and motion, light and heat and sound are inherent in matter. This was proved right when man split the atom in 1945. So the Indian image of the divine is that of a principle?of atman?that controls everything from within. The West has since abandoned its worldview.
When it comes to Western life, it is based on competition, therefore on strife. By giving up ethics in the economic life, the West has created a life of constant anxiety.
There is thus a feeling in the world, more so in the West, that the Western way of life is doomed. Western thinkers agree. They say that life in the West is ?joyless and self-destructive?.
There is search for an alternative. The Indian civilisation is the only one which has so far merited attention. It is founded on freedom, and therefore on diversity. It is tolerant and therefore humanistic. It alone responds to the uncertainties of a post-modern age. Its multi-cultural society is its first great success. Its continuing commitment to peace is another. It has, therefore, much to give to the world. Which is why India should be among the leaders of the world.
We, the human family, are like pilgrims on a long march. The vigorous will take the lead. The exhausted will be thrown to the rear. This is how it is going to be. Let us be ready to take the lead.