Digging Deeper

‘Darkness at Noon’

M N Majumder

In Bengal Marxism held a considerable influence on the social psyche of the intelligentsia for a few decades of the 20th century which has now decayed almost to the vanishing point. For some decades this writer was quite confused as how an ideology of proletarian revolution can be used to rule in a country where the state is controlled by big capital and comprador bourgeoisie. Moreover Marx's ideology of dictatorship of the proletariat at this point of history is questionable as also the inevitability of Socialist Revolution where an industrial revolution is yet to take place.

Actually politics should have different connotations for different groups of people, mainly those who rule, that is who run the state administration and those who are ruled over. Evidently their interests are not the same, actually mostly opposite. To the upper elites and the ruling classes politics is statecraft which is the art and science of running the state, that is maintaining the status quo, or allowing some changes, that benefit more the ruling classes while at the same time keeping the common people partly satisfied. All parties, left or right alike, are actually practicing statecraft. The bureaucrats and other officials are trained accordingly. This is also evident from the writings of Kautilya, Machiavelli and others. Modern concepts of democracy, of people's sovereignty, human rights came later only a few hundred years since.

"Unending Darkness in West Bengal" (2006) is the title of a book by Udayan Namboodiri. After the political changes in WB in 2011 popular hopes arose to see better light. But alas only after three years darkness has not diminished but possibly intensified more. Open the news papers, view the news in the TV channels, see the live pictures and hear the speeches of political personalities and witness the nasty advertisements, acts of violence, murder, rape. In the 1950's and 1960's the political culture and behaviors of the MLAs, MPs and Ministers were not as bad as they are now. It might be that those who practiced politics were products of Freedom Struggle against the British and many of whom were honest and devoted social workers. The undivided CPI also attracted quite fine talents who were mostly erudite and honest humans. Then the people's unifying principle was a transregional anti-British Freedom Movement. Earlier political personnel had some better honesty, morality and devotion to people's welfare.

Now just look at the wild frenzy among the young, both boys and girls over the Brazil World Cup football match or the IPL or the Uttam Suchitra Film Utsav, Sharukh Khan dance show and the like. The whole West Bengal government machinery, the CM in particular, lends wild encouragement and invite the young ones to emulate them. If this is the social message where Bengal society will land in is anybody's guess. There is no justification also for the award of Hony D Litt to Saurav Ganguly by BESU or even Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar and fielding of famous sports people, film stars, actresses for MP candidates. What social or political contributions they ever made, what legacy they are leaving for the social and political development of the state? How these people with their poor socio-political and educational records can make any positive contribution to social progress. Regular news on murder, rape, extortion agog in the media. The Bengal state government is even not seriously making attempts to stop them, punish the guilty but allowing extortion of money in admission to educational institutions. Government services now are being bought with money, as alleged by many. These started by the left front from the 1980s and continues till now.

Feeding people with excitement, sadistic pleasures from sex, violence are the time tested practice of statecraft as can be learnt from history. Example of emperor Asoka of arcient India is rare. It may be mentioned that Asoka himself besides being a good general had all the state power in his hands along with the army. Besides he was inspired by the grand humanist philosophy of Gautama Buddha which helped him win the people's support. For most other cases everywhere real welfare of the masses is secondary. But in modern times capturing political power (earlier the 'throne') needs people’s consent, which in modern India comes through universal adult franchise. To have a better insight into the present day West Bengal socio-political scenario one may consider the elaborate ancient Roman practice of amphitheatrical circuses.

The ancient Romans went to the amphitheaters for their "entertainment" where they could see the gladiators fighting to their deaths with swords and other weapons, or wild animals, killing and being killed.

Since the hard-packed ground of the old amphitheaters could not soak up the quantities of blood spilled on it in a contest, the show producers covered the ground with absorbent arena (sand) so the contestants would not slip and fall during their battles.

"The empire was dying, and the Roman Games—ruthless, brutal, perverse—were the emotional outlet for the discontented mob. Feats of strength and skill no longer pleased. Men were pitted against wild beasts, professional swordsmen against unarmed prisoners. The emperor Tragan gave one set of games that lasted 122 days during which 11,000 people and 10,000 animals were killed. Still the thirst for sadistic and perverse 'novelties' mounted. Death and torture were the only spectacles that could really gratify the peoole's longing. Death and sex were the only emotions they could still really grasp. The sight of a lion tearing a screaming woman apart gratified both instincts...." The examples presented here, and in other sources, leave no room for doubt that the glory of the Roman Empire covers a great deal of shameful history. Nero was the emperor and for two weeks the mobs-of-discontent had been rioting uncontrollably in the streets of Rome. The economy of the greatest empire that the world had ever seen was coming apart like an unraveling sweater. The impoverished government had neither the funds nor the power to stop the riots.

To the Roman mobs, caught in an economic tangle they could not comprehend and were unable to break, the circus was the only substitute for their troubles. The great amphitheaters became the ordinary man's temple, home, place of assembly, and ideal. As the games were ostensibly pious ceremonies given in honor of the gods, they gratified any possible religious sensitivities. At least for a few hours by being in the Circus Maximus, they were able to inhabit an edifice even more magnificent than the Golden Palace of Nero. Instead of having to stay in their miserable, overcrowded tenements they stayed for some time in the circus. When they were at the circus, Romans were able to meet with other freemen, feel a sense of unity as they sat with their factions cheering a certain chariot team, and imposing their wishes on the emperor himself for, as the Romans themselves said, "In the circus alone are the people rulers." The Romans worshiped courage and all Romans liked to picture themselves as rough, tough fighters. In Rome, the "little guys" could identify themselves with a successful gladiator as modern fight fans identify themselves with a famous prize fighter or sports people are fiercely loyal to various sports personalities or teams of today. The destructive forces of the circuses in the arenas kept growing and growing in attempts to satisfy the discontent of the Roman masses. Whole territories under Roman rule (Europe, Middle East, Africa, etc.) were denuded of wild animals to supply the arenas. [Source : Daniel P. Mannix, Those About To Die, Ballantine Books, New York, 1960, Chapter 1, Part l (available in the NET)]

There is no alternative to social, cultural and educational development of a human group for better life. Upliftment of the educational and moral values of the people is the real need which can only be furthered by honest committed sections of the intelligentsia who work with a missionary zeal. Any government that helps facilitate such works is the real people's government which have happened in post revolutionary Russia, China and also in many European countries. Only political changes will ensure little as felt by Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, M N Roy and others. Now people should realize that CPM and Trinamul Congress (TMC) are the too sides of the same bad coin. It is due to the passivity of the intellectual class of the country who have been put to slumber particularly after the 6th Pay Commission's heavy salary enhancement. Social developmental activities must be rooted to the soil and people should search for ideas and emulative examples from their own history and soil.

The Indian subcontinent and its social and cultural milieu are fragmented both naturally and culturally keeping the whole populace divided and subdivided ethnically, linguistically, religiously, and now politically . The natural barriers like forests, mountains, mighty rivers nowadays practically cease to exist any more, because of the technological and industrial advances in transport and information technology. But other divisions in the forms of SC, ST, OBC reservations, keeping alive Muslim personal laws, adopting some perverse Secularism policies, encouraging a host of pseudoscientific superstitions like inclusion of astrology in University curriculum, various unscientific therapies, Guru cult, encouraging belief in supernatural are examples of what D D Kosambi viewed as "rule by superstition" that started some twelve hundred years ago when Brahminism was reestablished on the ruins of Buddhism.

The first and the only Revolution that happened in India was the Buddhist Revolution. This did not happen in a day from a single person. The ideological rebels, the Lokayatiks and Carvaka Panthis preached agnosticism, atheism and materialism. Before Buddha the great forests and halls of Northern India were choking with disputations : denying the divine origin of the Vedas and the authority of the Priestly Brahmin class and it was during the several centuries of the Buddhist era that India really attained a high level of material prosperity, peace and moral culture and also the grand progress of science and civilization. European Renaissance (1350-1650 AD) challenged the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church and humanism was held high up. It can be said that modern science and civilization was born as product of Renaissance which began in Italy and thence proceeded westwards in Europe.

The Encyclopedist Movement in the eighteenth century France was led by the intellectuals like Diderot, d Alembert and many others. Their work promoted scientific truth in the name of enlightenment which prepared the ground for the grand French Revolution that not only changed European socio-political culture permanently but also gave birth to modern Science and Civilization . Significant socio-political reform or revolution never took place in a day or in a year or so. But long time and hard labor had had to be spent to prepare the ground as was the case for the ancient Indian Buddhist Revolution or the French Revolution of 1789 whose ground was prepared by the Movement of the Encyclopedists working hard for over a half century in the 18th century led by philosophers and scientists like Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert and others. In Bengal such a movement, though weak, took place in the 19th century with Rammohan Roy, Derojio, Vidyasagar, Rabindranath, Acharya P C Roy and others which could not proceed to their fruitful culmination through the wrong paths taken by the Congress and also by the leftist parties and also through the Hindu Revivalism. So Indians now have a sham Independece, a sham democracy and sham secularism.

Vol. 47, No.11-14, Sep 21 - Oct 18 2014