Saturday, 5 November 2016

How to See Through Sectarianism to Avoid Manipulative Politics?

Man is a social animal. As human beings, because of our sentient nature, we have often considered ourselves special. Our intelligence creates divisions within ourselves. Animals, at best, can separate themselves from another group of similar animals by their leaders. We separate ourselves from another human measuring ourselves on a plethora of yardsticks. Our whole life is based on individualism. Our communitarian thoughts are bred on individual ideals. Individualism separates us from all other animals.

The religions were the first communal divides formed after tribes. In religions, humans accepted uniform ideas for the first time. That was the first standard contract signed without reading terms and conditions. In fact, this is a result of man's existentialism. As soon as men found a safe habitat and comfortable lifestyle, they started using questioning where they came from and the purpose of their existence. Imagine you have an active curious but ignorant mind. You will want answers but easily comprehensible answers. When you do not know the basics of science and evolution, the only theory that makes sense is creationism. Men, in their lives, had never seen their forefathers who were cave dwellers. Their lives were short. There were very few mechanisms of preservation available to record history. Hence, men started making stories to satiate their questions about creation. They started believing that there was somebody behind the scenes who made them and control the events in their lives. Men started believing in leaders and their mandates. The religions were just epithets to identify the believers of certain theories. The main purpose was to explain creation and the purpose of life. This curiosity questioning one’s existence is perhaps the only thing that separates us from other animals. Combined with ambition derived from the struggle for existence, it has created the entire society that we know.

In India, when the Aryans arrived, they did not have a religion. They just had the Vedas which their version of academics had written and postulated as essential knowledge. It was quite like the Constitution as amended from time to time. But the Vedic people too felt this urge of existential curiosity but dealt with it quite differently. Instead of explaining a common purpose of life through the voice of God, they streamlined their population as also envisioned by the Greek philosophers. In fact, they also divided life into stages. Theirs was a problem of micromanagement that percolated through time to create problems later in Indian society. They created three classes to arbitrarily assign the social tasks of learning, ruling and manufacturing commodities. The people other than Aryans, gathered through several subordinations, acting as slaves, were summarily tagged as the working class. This stopped the questions about the purpose of life because you had a predetermined occupation. However, personal ambitions and problems with summary classification started diluting the purpose of the system. The evils evolved through centuries of exploitation in the name of religion (in presence of other religions and creeds later diffused into the Indian society, those who followed the old way were termed as Hindus by the Europeans) and finally achieved the monstrous divide called casteism.

Apart from religion, people also started questioning their leaders. They had forgotten why they had to have a leader and the question was raised at a time when the society was too complex to understand the history of its beginning. Nor was the beginning clear to men. The leaders, sensing a fluctuation in faith, cited God to be the source of their power. This was a big phenomenon, especially in Europe. People in Asia were too occupied with spiritualism and complexities of the rituals in their day-to-day life to even question their rulers. Their afterlife was more important than their governance anyway. But in Europe, when people started questioning their rulers and they cited God's will, the Church started pulling its weight. The rulers were happy giving them their share of dominance until their own powers were in question. Then they opted for the idea of secularism which subsequently led to the question, if not God, then who gives the sovereign his powers? The philosophers came up with the answer. They said that the people gave that power to the sovereign for their benefit. So now the people said, then we want to vote our own sovereign. So democracy was conceived.

After the conception of democracy, people questioned if there is no king and we give him his powers, then what is it that he rules upon? Earlier people were more interested in the king and his conquests which defined the boundaries. They had forgotten their existences outside the subjugation of a supreme ruler. Now that they realized that they were the ones giving the ruler his powers, they were not sure what should be the extent of his powers. They were like children liberated from their guardians. They were utterly unaware of their limitations. So nations were conceived. Groups of people decided to elect rulers and the limit of their consolidated lands as the considered boundary of the nation. Again, as is with everything, the idea of nation was soon taken to the next level with ambitious leaders and radical nationalism with over-zealous ideals was conceived. The rest is history.

Consumerism resulting from capitalism which in turn was a result of Industrial Revolution came up later with the progress of science. It shaped the way we see life and created layers of complexities in interplay with the basics of politics. All these factors that create divides amongst people were essentially created to provide satisfactory answers for our curiosities. People take them at their face value and form prejudices based on such systems. This is merely like judging somebody for cooking in a microwave rather than a stove. It is disheartening to see how people easily manipulate masses using such sentimental ideals. In the age of technology and communication, instead of ideas, when people use the media to spread disharmony using such antiquated beliefs, it defies the entire purpose of advancing technology. It was all some temporary explanations for idle minds. It was never meant to be permanent.

Written by Sayantani Saha
Writer, dreamer of world exploration and lover of high fantasy

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