Of ideological romanticism

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Notwithstanding the exalting sense of freedom, the spirit of rebellion and the belief in equality and justice and the overall humanist ideals that those who consider themselves as having the ‘leftist’ slant feel imbibed with, the extent of the damage done by an arrogant intellectual discourse is yet to be assessed not only in the west but more widely in other countries which indiscriminately swallow the imported ideas that grew and developed in other lands and propagated as absolute truths.

In a zeal to pursue its own goal at an international level, the leftist discourse has deprived people of a sense of belonging, undermined the value of patriotism and denigrated the concept of nation. The spirit of rebellion spawned an anti-Establishment stance which led to random and indiscriminate criticism of everything that is mainstream and ‘established’: institutions, social structures, culture and dominant religion.

In France particularly, a few years back, leftist intellectuals felt free to run down the Catholic Church as much as they could whenever they were called to comment religion-related topics but they would never dare point a finger at Islam which is also present on French soil. As for Judaism, it is taboo to even mention the word. Another example of the warped attitude that became quite common is that any case of physical assault on or murder of someone from a minority immigrant group, African or Arab, raised an outcry in the press, but not when a French young man is attacked by an African or an Arab. The leftist press would keep mum on the incident. At one point, politicians and intellectuals such as Kouchner, L. Ferry and Finkielkraut raised their voices to denounce the aggression young Frenchmen were victims of.

In India, leftist papers are said to adopt the same attitude; they frequently abuse Hinduism and make fun of Hindu holy men but they do not dare make negative comments on other religions. Discrimination against minorities are widely mediatized in the leftist English language media while attacks on members of the majority community or spiritual guides are frequently glossed over. Any Hindu leader who talks about culture and religion is dubbed ‘a communalist’; in fact, it has become a trend to call anyone they do not like as ‘communalist’. The leftist stance coupled with western education alienates Hindus from their own history, culture and understanding of the society they live in. They observe Indian social phenomenon, conditions and structures and figure out how they would look like through European eyes. The political or sociological analysis of their writings is swathed in an aura of rationalism and objectivity and, when they convey a negative image of the country, they are often applauded abroad. Some of them receive awards for running down their country.

As if all that mattered were western ideas and criteria and these could be applied to any society in the world irrespective of historical background, culture and philosophy, as if the world moves and should move in the same direction, in a linear line of progress. After the Holocaust, it was taken for granted that henceforth, such topics as race, identity, ethnicity were taboo topics all over the world. Once an issue is resolved in Europe, the rest of the world is expected to follow suit in the name of linear progress. Never mind how long it took advanced countries to tackle the issue. The European model is always the reference.

Indian writer, Arundathi Roy, is often quite right in her sharp criticisms of the ultra-liberal economic system. But as a far-leftist and a Catholic, her anti-Establishment views for which she is praised in the west and by minorities have an anti-India and anti-Hindu bias, according to many observers. She advocated a revolution in the tribal regions and the independence of Indian-administered Kashmir. Cases of treason against her are pending in Court. Her writings are often controversial and draw furious protests from public opinion and Indians abroad.

In her latest paper, she disapproves of the usage of Hindu mythology warrior names for India’s missiles. A fury of protests immediately rose from the public. Her supporters among the leftist secularists who rail against Hindu holy men in their writings are rebuffed in the same way: weise mera religion maha bhi hai, sanatan bhi hai aur original bhi hai. We love our mythology, you fools! Others bearing Hindu names such as Vinod or Sungdeep but who are in fact converts or atheists are criticized for being so imbibed with the far-leftist ideology that they are incapable of sentient thought, and in the zeal to pursue their own goal deprive the nation of its identity. Jo apna baap ka nahin hua, who kisi ka nahin ho sakta.

We are reminded how bright young London-educated Indian intellectuals surrendered their intelligence to party ideology. At the bidding of Moscow, they tried to create a civil war in India between 1948-50. They called Swami Vivekenanda ‘an imperialist’, and Sri Aurobindo ‘a warmonger’, and they did not support India when China attacked the country. In the late 60s when the whole world knew that the Communist regime in China was killing thousands of people, as their counterparts in the west and elsewhere they admired Mao and lived in denial of atrocities committed in the name of ideology.

Ideological romanticism still prevails, and so does the misplaced notion of intellectual superiority. Today the proverbial French intellectual is on a steady decline. Elsewhere, they are still picking up the old clothes that the west threw away yesterday. But not for long. Because there is an increasing awareness of how imported ideas prevent people from thinking freely on their own terms, how they undermine faith and confidence in their own outlook on society, culture or politics. Seen in this light, the nostalgia of some people for the old days of rebellious spirit of the 70s may sound as a prolongation of an adolescence crisis.

* Published in print edition on 8 July 2011

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