March 02, 2006

Thank God, they were not academicians!

Avijit Pathak
These days many of us are fond of presenting Bankim and Ramakrishna to the Western audience. And we do it by using the categories evolved by Foucault, Derrida and Habermas. We are so colonised that even when we evolve a critique of modernity (something that allows the West to colonise the world), we are not very confident about the critique that emerged in India. Instead, we rely heavily on either the Frankfurt School of Marxism or the recent post-modern assertion. In other words, there is no escape from the West, its categories.
Not surprisingly, from a postgraduate student to a university professor - everyone is taking about ‘discourse’, ‘contestation’, ‘site’, ‘imagined communities’, ‘constructed categories’ and ‘deconstruction’! This imitation is utterly disgusting, almost life-killing. No wonder then, great innovative Indian minds - Gandhi and Tagore, Aurobindo and Vive­kananda - did not belong to the university system. Thank God, they were not academicians!
Suppose a social scientist is writing on intel­lectuals. It is certainly not impossible for him to write the way he has felt about intellectuals and theorise the practices in which, as he has seen, intellectuals engage themselves. Yet, more often than not, he would deny this original intervention. Because he would feel terribly insecure if he doesn’t quote, say, Grams­ci, his categorisation of traditional and organic intellectuals and hegemony...Or take another example. In India, there are social scientists who would repeat a formula (a fash­ionable formula, indeed): Ambedkar cannot be wrong; Gandhi cannot be right!
is an assertion of faith - faith in oneself, in one’s ability to look at the world with one’s own eyes...FREEDOM is also an assertion of authenticity. It requires the courage to say ‘no’ (if necessary) to all that is tempting and fashionable. Not novelty, but authentic search is what character­ises a free thinker.

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