Cultural liberation and moral decadence
By Dr Jay Dubashi
When our good friend and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was fasting in Ahmedabad, some of us far away in Pune were going through a book published in 1996, that is, fifteen years ago, which had predicted with almost pinpoint accuracy the course of events in the following fifteen years. The book had made tremendous stir at the time and was the talk of the town everywhere, though some, particularly in India, had their doubts. But they have been proved wrong and the main thesis of the book has triumphed through all these tumultuous years.
The book is The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P Huntington, a professor at Harvard University in America. I had occasion to meet him a couple of years after the publication of the book and discussed with him and his colleagues in the University his theories about the role of civilisations in history. There are some people in India, particularly the secular types, who cannot see beyond their noses. But we Hindus are different. Our time-scale stretches for centuries, and even millennia, not years or decades. We carry in our DNA memories of what happened 5,000 years ago when Lords Rama and Krishna ruled our world, not just what happened in 1947 when we became free. Wise men like Huntington also possess a Hindu mindset and are able to look far into the future, just as we are used to looking into the remote past. And, for him, the future is not about this country or that, but about civilisations which last centuries, not decades or years, and whose history shapes the world.
Huntington’s main thesis is that the West is in decline and will be overtaken eventually by other civilisations including Hindu civilisation. Remember, he talks about the West as a civilisation, not a bunch of countries, say, America or Britain or France. The West is on a downward slope in every way – economic, political and military – and will have to yield to India and China, not countries but civilisations. In terms of population, the share of the West has declined from 44.3 per cent in 1900 to 13.1 per cent in 1995. That of China has gone up from 19.3 per cent to 24 per cent during the same period, while that of Hindus has gone up from 0.3 per cent to 16.4 per cent. (I am not sure about the Hindu figure, but that is what appears in the book).
If you compare GDPs of these categories, the Western GDP has declined from 64 per cent of the world GDP in 1950 to 49 per cent in 1992, while that of China has soared from 3.3 per cent to 10 per cent during the same period. The Islamic GDP has also increased from 2.9 per cent in 1950 (when oil was not discovered in such great quantities) to 11 per cent in 1992, while the Hindu GDP has declined slightly from 3.8 per cent to 3.5 per cent despite our so-called rapid growth during this period.
But things are going to be much different in 2025, says Huntington. Population-wise, the share of the West will go down to 10 per cent, while the Islamic share will go up to 19 per cent of the world total. The Hindu share will also go up, but only up to 17 per cent. So the Hindus and the Islamists will be more or less on par, population-wise, while the Western share will be half of the Hindu share. Hindus and Muslims will be more or less on par, population wise, fifteen years from now, which is good news.
But the fact that the Muslim population is going to exceed the shares of each of the other civilisations is already apparent from the way the Muslims are calling shots in their own territories. The Muslim population was held at bay by their dictators all these years, but this is apparently not possible now. The sheer pressure of growing Muslim population – most of it young and restless – has already led to the fall of at least three dictators, and may soon spread to most of the other countries, including Saudi Arabia and possibly Iran, to name only the big countries. These two countries dominate the petroleum industry, which means trouble for consumers like the US and Europe. Huntington had sounded warning about the fate of dictation in countries like Libya and Egypt, and also Iraq, which is precisely what has happened, and the dictators have vanished from the scene.
Huntington is very percipient about the role of religion as a powerful force in society. The secularists are contemptuous of religion but it is religion that is going to decide the future course of society. In the first half of the twentieth century intellectual elites generally assumed that economic and social modernisation was leading to the withering away of religion as a significant element in modern society. Well, they are wrong. Religion is increasingly the force that drives the society. In the case of both Hinduism as well as Islam, the leaders of the political movements come from the indigenised second generation and are often successful businessmen and administrators and in the case of Hindus, labelled as “saffron-clad yuppies.” Their supporters – corresponding to supporters of BJP and RSS – will be increasingly from India’s solid middle-class Hindus – its merchants and accountants, its lawyers and engineers, and journalists and intellectuals.
This new class has got tired of borrowed western plumes and now crave clothes of their own. They prefer dhotis to trousers, and sarees to frocks. Religion gives meaning and direction to their lives which are otherwise spiritually and morally empty. The religious revival is the most powerful manifestation of anti-Westernism in non-Western societies. As the West declines and fades away, in relative if not absolute terms, the Hindus, and, of course, all others, including the Muslims and the Chinese, will reject Western values of secularism, including the degenerate culture associated with the West. It is actually the declaration of cultural independence from the West, a natural corollary to political and economic independence.
A society is not truly free unless it is culturally free from those who dominated it. We Hindus will never come into our own unless we reject secularism totally – which is, in any case, a Western import – and give importance to religion and religious values. Man doesn’t live by reason alone. Without moral values – which are closely allied to religious values – the so-called rational man is nothing but a beast in human apparel. Without moral values, we shall all be like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former IMF boss, prowling hotel corridors looking for chambermaids to pounce on.