Utopia! Ram Rajya! They never cease to rouse the hopes of the poor. And each time, the hope ends in disaster.
Do we learn anything from this experience? No. Because the world is populated by the poor. Because the poor have no memory.
The Old Testament provides the most poignant story. After they were liberated from Egypt, the Jews were promised a land of milk and honey by Yahweh, the tribal god of the Jew. The Jews wandered in the desert of Sinai for forty long years in search of the Promised Land. But to no purpose. They found no land of milk and honey. But the promise kept the Jews together as a nation in the face of endless disasters. In fact, the Jews faced the “longest hate” in human history.
The promise is yet to be fulfilled. But the Jews have not given up their hopes. They now says that the promise was made to mankind. This is merely to salve their wounded conscience.
In “The Republic” Plato searches for Justice. And he thought that his students would deliver justice. Instead, Dionysius, a student with whom Plato spent some years, turned out to be a tyrant.
The Roman thinkers believed that the Romans were born to rule. And yet they were first conquered by their slaves and then by the Northern Barbarians!
The Holy Roman Empire was supposed to create the ideal Christian empire. Instead, it became a prison of Christianity. It heralded the Dark Age of Europe for a thousand years!
Similarly, the French Revolution proclaimed Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. What it brought about was tyranny over Europe.
The Renaissance discovered the greatness of the Greeks. But Europe was not ready to absorb the greatness of the Greeks. The Vatican blessed the African slave trade and the genocide of the Red Indians!
The British ruling class thought that the British empire was created by God to spread the Christian civilisation in the world. But where are these “Christians empires” today? They are dead and gone. But why? Because self-rule is better than alien rule, their subjects said.
The Age of Science promised unlimited prosperity. True, discoveries like the steam engine did revolutionise transport. But science also brought about the arms race and war.
Good reader, the greatest promise of all was made by Karl Marx. For a hundred and fifty years even the best of thinkers were deluded to believe that communism would bring about a workers’ paradise! We know what happened to Marxism! It brought about the worst tyranny known to man.
Today men are putting their faith in globalisation, capitalism and democracy. These are untried hopes. Poverty remains with us, inequality remains with us and there is no equality among nations.
This has been the pattern of the political history of mankind. Prophets have come and gone. They made their promises and left their flock in the lurch.
But men never lose their faith in these promises. Mahatma Gandhi promised to liberate the country. In the process, he split it into two.
And yet there had been progress of sorts in the world through the millennia, but not because of the prophets or politicians, but because of the good men.
Today there are few certainties left in the life of man. Most of us have lost our faith in prophets and ideologues. But the poor are still with us and they have not recovered their memory.
Both public good and private greed are deeply ingrained instincts in men. They are capable of both compassion and cruelty. More often cruelty.
Gandhi used to say of the need for internal transformation. But the world believes in transforming the external world. Like the Marxists. We know the consequences.
Good Reader, to conclude; As the Buddha said, never put your faith in a head above your own. How do we know that it has more knowledge and wisdom?
Nature wants man to become free from animal instincts. And we idealists want men to be free from social evils. The two pocesses must go together.