Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikandar for BeyondHeadlines
Recently I had to meet an ‘intellectual-bibliophile’ friend, with whom every meet is refreshing and stimulating for me. Some other acquaintance of his was already present there. They were bombarding each other with big names of philosophy, post modernism, post industrialism and anarchism. Though I had a background reading of all these ‘isms’, but I was never over awed or intellectually chained by any of them. Hence I just sat there as a passive listener, at times intervening a bit, but I appeared a pygmy, during the bombastic conversation.
My idealist friend was of firm belief that in the present times, the science, technology and development has made our life so mechanical, busy and over occupied that no connection with transcendental reality is possible. Even those who claim to have any connection with transcendence are lying or faking about that quality which they don’t possess. According to my friend no Justice, Compassion, Mercy or human principles are possible in the present world order, because the system though, being flawed but is so over powering that these human values are a thing of past and too idealistic to achieve in our contemporary times.
He also ridiculed my efforts of fighting for Justice or rehabilitation of the wretched of the earth. He was too critical of the Dalits, poor and other marginalized sections of the society who are demanding better roads, education, improved means of agriculture, transport and other facilities that make one’s life comfortable and worthy of living as well as enjoying leisure. According to him the development is disastrous; hence he wants them to adopt de-development to use the term by Sara Roy. This all conversation was going on in a highly furnished drawing room, amid the aroma of coffee. He was suggesting that we should all resort to the traditional agriculture and keep the mobiles, internet and other such evils of the technology at bay. I also agreed very negligibly on the evils of the technology and how materialistic and mechanical it had rendered human life. But I would never ask for its doom or destruction, because that would be trying to reverse the process of evolution that I know isn’t possible! He further intimated me that the industrial, post industrial and this technical age carries in itself the seeds of its destruction. When it would reach its full bloom and zenith it would cannibalize itself and be destroyed.
Till then what should we do? “We should wait and do nothing substantial” he replied quite confidentially. This answer made me nostalgic about the fact that this friend was quite enthusiastic a few years ago about forming a group that would work for the revival of Islam among the youth in Jammu & Kashmir. But when its inaugural meeting was scheduled, he was the person who was absent and I had to wrap up the whole group and since then I worked alone. Now he had a clear cut philosophy to back his claim of not working or actively engaging over various issues and thus he was trying to discourage others too who were trying to contribute a little bit!
Whether one takes a cyclic or linear view of history, history is divided in phases and each new phase can be different than its predecessor or history may keep repeating like the seasons of the weather. This repetition of history may sometime in future result in our retro gradation to the Stone age, but it hasn’t happened till now and if it has to happened in religious terminology that is known as the End Times or the Day of Judgment.
In every age or phase of history the succeeding age or future has been witnessed with optimism and this optimism has kept the hope for betterment and idealism alive for people of every age. The present age has been named as the Kalyug or the Age of Dajjal and every religion has been predicting about the arrival of a savior. This prediction whether right or wrong is keeping the optimism alive. Every ideology or religion talks about an ideal age whether be it concept of Mehdism, Marxism or Kalki Avtar, they help one witness and surmise a new world where there is equality and less contradictions.
History as I understand it is a production of forces, evolution of human culture and other means that are beyond the hands of man. The man where he stands at present is a result of millions of years of evolutionary process where mankind has passed through a lot of stages and reached to its present era! What my ‘learned’ friend failed to understand was the simple fact that this progress doesn’t contain the seeds of destruction and human evolution can’t be reversed back or a full stop can’t be put on progress, because change is the law of the nature.
The doom or destruction of the present world that would make the technology redundant would only result when there is a nuclear war or devastating climatic catastrophy. Till then to think about that can be an idealist fantasy but not a factual reality. The humans need leisure in order to pursuit and engage creatively with various issues and aspects of life and present age has deprived him of this leisure. Also this development and progress has resulted in the pollution of natural resources intrusion and encroachment of the basic elements of the same nature that sustain the life on this planet. But the development, discoveries and creative potential of the mankind can’t be confined because of its flip-side, but yes these flaws need to be minimized.
Also the hedonist capitalism under the garb and veil of liberal democracy has resulted in the major ills that we are baffling with presently. But how can we resist these intrusions, fight the neo-imperialism and work for a better Just society? Not by confining ourselves to the four walls of our beautiful drawing rooms but by engaging and both disengaging as the situation needs. The corporations and institutions of Neo Imperialism need to be disengaged with and resisted from accomplishing their nefarious designs and vested goals. But the modern gadgets like cellphones, tablets, laptops and hundreds of such items need to be engaged as well as disengaged with as their addiction can prove fatal to creativity. Also the manifestations of capitalism whether be it the craze of brands or huge chain stores need to be disengaged with to a large extent.
The other acquaintance also criticized the modern institution of State and vehemently criticized the institutions of bureaucracy and Police Force in which one losses his freedom, and becomes a small part of the whole structure or system, who if his conscience rebels against the system will auto correct by eliminating him, instead of the system accepting a change. This vehement criticism if lucidly explained before a layman would have bowled him over and what he was speaking is a factual reality, but I am aware of this fact that he had appeared in the past and would in future too for the Civil Service Examinations, that would certainly make him a bureaucrat or Police Officer! Such a contradiction in his words and deeds reduced his lofty ideas to mere sensation of air. His other friend got selected as a police officer, but he didn’t even criticize him to disengage with him was out of question. Who keeps the conscience of the humanity alive, these spineless brickbats who would engage you in long hours of futile discussions? No they are those activists who even if not aware of the names of ivory tower scholars or lofty ideologies but are surely morally upright and possess a bright flame of conscience that gives them the strength to take head one those who have snatched their freedom and encroached upon their rights. That fiery activism and bravery doesn’t come with reading, but with reading plus something or even without reading but understanding plus something.
So next time you come across such drawing room revolutionaries who try to discourage and disengage you from what you are doing, never listen to them, but just ponder over their practical life and follow your heart, as you are chosen for a great task not for being a useless chatterbox.
(Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at email@example.com)