November 01, 2005

Achieve! Arise! Conquer!

As psychologist Adler saw it, “Achieve! Arise! Conquer! Whatever name we give it, we shall always find in human beings this great line of activity – this struggle to rise from an inferior to a superior position, from defeat to victory, from below to above.” (Quoted by Heinz L. Ansbacher and R. Rowena in The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler.) This human trait could lead him far indeed when utilized for the progress of knowledge, of consciousness. But the state of ignorance we are in perverts it. Camus put forth this perversion pointedly: “We can't do without dominating others or being served… The essential thing, in sum, is being able to get angry without the other person being able to answer back.” (The Fall)
The hungry little imp of tyranny concealed in most human beings is anxious to exert itself – and a dictatorial position provides him with the luxury in its complete bloom. But to ascend to power in the one of the several normal ways and then to capture it craftily and to possess it for life is not easy. No wonder that the tyrant in a man should burst forth in an opportune moment, when anarchy rules the roost, when a harangue or two can yield what it ordinarily should take a decade or two to achieve. But just as the ephemeral mob-leader is born out of the crowd's readiness to submit its collective impulse to him, the dictator is born out of a population's readiness to be supplicant to him. As an apology for their cowardice and their inability to challenge him, the people imagine superhuman powers in him and the dictator takes recourse to everything that comes handy, ranging from demagogy to the worst of crimes, to fit into the popular imagination. “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount,” wrote Churchill in While England Slept (acknowledging the Indian origin of the proverb).
Ancient Indian sages tried to check this weakness in people who were in power, through moral, ethical and philosophical education, by cautioning the princes, nobles and executives about the consequences of their Karma. It seems to have had a sobering effect on many. Sometimes it cultivated an ascetic mood in the ruler. He renounced his authority or lost interest in it, his attention going over to other-worldly values. That, certainly, was not the ideal solution to the problem. The ideal – to act with authority but without falling a victim to one's ego remained a far cry, possible only at long intervals of time.
But there are examples of a leader's total commitment to the ideal of democracy checking him from hugging his status as a dictator once a crisis was over. A kind of democracy was in vogue in the city-state of Rome when it was attacked by a neighbourhood enemy, in the 5th century B.C. When the unprepared Romans had lost all hopes of surviving the attack, some of them ran to a wise farmer named Cincinnatus, busy tilling his land. He was made the dictator. He asked all the able-bodied Romans to gather at one place, each one bringing with him as simple a thing as a wooden plank. At the dead of night they made a ring around the enemy camp, each one planting his plank in front of himself. In the morning the enemy found itself practically imprisoned inside a wooden fortification. It surrendered. Cincinnatus, his commission done, made a beeline for his land and resumed driving his plough, turning down his countrymen's offer of a life-long dictatorship.
Can the tyrant in us be tamed by such idealism? To a great extent it can be, provided the idealism is cultivated. True democracy can perhaps be possible only when man has realized his equality with fellow beings at a spiritual plane. Until then the danger of despotism and tyranny have to be warded off with 'eternal vigilance', for despotism will not disappear with the disappearance of the pronounced despot alone; tyranny is not the monopoly of only the branded tyrant. by: Manoj Das on Jan 12 2005 12:00AM in Religion SULEKHA

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