[Wordsmith was away from Calcutta for almost seven weeks. This is extract of a conversation in Wordsmith Ashram between Dr. Philo and Wordsmith. Dr. Philo’s political stand is that of a statenlos person and Wordsmith is a dedicated imperialist. Though contemporary politics was never discussed but a chance remark by a very accomplished guest in the form of “Battle for Bengal”, i.e. the coming elections triggered a conversation touching philosophy of history and how one should conduct oneself, i.e. Ethics.. Extract ]
Three Historical Landmarks of Bengal || 180 years cycle
Renaissance, Freedom Struggle and Communist Utopia – after three ideological landmarks, spanning 180 years, Bengal has no grand mission now – no Higher Dreams and no Higher Call to Action. Bengal, like France is always great when it aspires for, sometimes hilariously, thoughtlessly – Greatness. The seminal ideas of modernity that emerged from Bengal, in course of time, devoured its greatness. A race or a culture pays for its tremendous fertility within a short period of time. It is like a mother whose womb has produced prodigal sons and daughters in quick successions but she has become weak in this birthing process.
1. Last 10 years was an interregnum – It was not anything permanent or a finished version. The “kicking out” of the communists remained a singularly successful event when one removes all bias and prejudices. The achievement was thought highly by the achievers and their opponents. But, being a culture not having a keen sense of history, both the parties failed to see the broader historical pattern.
2. This interregnum is going to enter its climax in coming years – irrespective of election results, which is important but not significant. Considering the current quality of human stock in Bengal and in absence of a vigorous foreign power (Bengal has always been like a feminine womb – her creative impetus came from the interaction of vigorous and masculine foreign powers throughout the centuries), any change will be for the worse only. Or in other words, in my analysis, things need to be far worse to be better.
As a dedicated imperialist of Bengal, I remain an observer devoid of any emotion – either of optimism or pessimism or identification. I have told about what I mean by “dedicated imperialist” in other places in detail.
Decline of the Indo-European Peoples
I may also add that India is also undergoing, like most of the Indo-European peoples, a cycle of devolution – a decline of civilization. One of the symptoms of such a decline is this : governance is becoming so complex and so technical, so experts and expertise driven that how to count votes is not an operational issue but a technological issue and it has to be because of democracies of such sizes. Greeks – the inventors of polis and democracy were very suspicious of sophists, demagogues and tyrants – both benevolent and malefic. Hence, people – common people – the voting engines of the democracies look for messiahs, Caesar, a semi-divine man or woman who will relieve them from the pressure of Life and Living in such a time in which they are condemned.
Mahatma Gandhi was such a man once upon a time and fulfilled the psychological needs of the vast majority of Indians while going anti-science, anti-technology, anti-West, anti-future exactly at a time when the Industrial Revolution felt itself in India for the first time. This is at the foundation of the great departure between Gandhi and Tagore, although both having deep personal respect and admiration for each other.
Today, such essential opposites in personalities or world-view of such deep implications are missing. For the current leaders, of all parties and factions, the psychological appeal of the leadership is to a specific kind of psychology and is to relieve the existential pressure for a people with primitive mental make-up being thrust into the current situation. Ancient Greeks even predicted a de-evolutionary cycle in politics two thousand years back : Democracy > Tyranny > Oligarchy > Monarchy -> Oligarchy > Democracy.
Philosophy of History
This primitive mental make up I do not say lightly. I have spent ten years writing an observer’s history of Bengal with a make-belief role of an “imperial envoy” of an imaginary Empire and tried to retain that absurd position very sincerely. Those who argue that such a position is untenable, then I may say that the whole of Art is a controlled process in making, especially film where light, air, sound – everything is controlled and manipulated and yet, they appear to capture Life completely. In this way, the only way to approach the grand questions of Life is through the route of Absurdity.
I have come to realize in my old days that most of the people of the world, in all historical ages and in all geographies, except in some circles of exception, in their core mental make up are no different than primitive people. This is the reason behind the follies of History repeating itself. This is the only reason behind some kind of repetitions of stupidities in History as otherwise there is no known law that mandates such a cyclic nature.
My residency in Bengal is to remain a witness just an imperial envoy does. I have no faith in any human groups and crowd of any time but have tremendous faith in individuals. Such a philosophy of history will snuff most of so called optimism about human destiny as a group and crushes all Utopias. As a corollary of this philosophy of Life and History, the ethics (“What to do”) follows naturally – since I cannot govern anything outside, I try to govern myself as best as I can.
If in some cataclysm – either cosmic or man-made, when such self-governance is also not possible, one should follow the Maxim Maximus : If you cannot live nobly, die nobly.