“…India has always shown an incompetence for any free or sound political organisation and has been constantly a divided and for the most part of her long history a subject nation, that her economic system whatever its bygone merits, if it had any, remained an inelastic and static order that led in modern conditions to poverty and failure and her society an unprogressive hierarchy, caste-ridden, full of semi barbaric abuses, only fit to be thrown on the scrap-heap among the broken rubbish of the past and replaced by the freedom, soundness and perfection or at least the progressive perfectibility of the European* social order.”
(*You may replace the word European with Western)
Read the above passage again. And if you are Indian, please read it once more.
Do you believe what is said here? Be honest. Do you believe any of this? Some part, at least? How about the last part? The part about throwing all that stuff of Indian past and replacing it with something from the West?
If you are honest with yourself, you will know that this is the kind of stuff we Indians are often always ‘taught’ about our country.
- That from times immemorial we were a bunch of incompetent, unorganised people, divided among ourselves, being subjected to invasions after invasions, stuck-in-time, unprogressive, caste-ridden, woman-abusing, poverty-stricken, lazy society.
- That we never had a concept of ‘one Indian nation’, that we were only a bunch of small kingdoms with kings fighting among themselves all the time.
- That we were some irrational, poor people living in semi-primitive conditions, pursuing all that crazy navel-gazing, otherworldly mumbo-jumbo that is so not relevant for today.
- Until one day. The day we were shown the road to civilisation!
- But alas, we are not civilised yet. Why o why?
Am I exaggerating? Well, maybe a bit. But I am also not that off the mark. Wouldn’t you agree? Be honest.
To be honest, what bothers me today is not so much the fact we were and continue to be taught all this nonsense about our past, in our schools and colleges. We know for certain that our mainstream educational system, for the most part, is still highly colonial in its philosophical, curricular and pedagogical orientation. Changing that is a long-term battle, a war almost.
What bothers me today more is that many, perhaps the majority of, highly educated Indians (whatever this term means, given the colonial nature of our education) are not bothered enough. What bothers me is that they are not bothered enough to do something in their own individual capacity to slowly remove the mental layers of falsehood they have been taught about who they were as a people and as a nation.
Why is that? I sometimes wonder.
Is it because of our intellectual laziness? Is it because it is too much work to let go of a mental idea that we have somehow internalised, even if it is false?
Or is it because we really DO believe that that’s what we really were: a bunch of caste-ridden, semi-barbaric, divided among ourselves, only fit to become a subject nation? Is it also because we really DO believe that the only way we can move ahead and be something else is if we get rid of all that past baggage and recast ourselves in the Western mould?
Why is that? I sometimes wonder. Today is one of those times.
The quote above is taken from Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol, 20, pp. 385-386. He is obviously using this kind of polemic approach to make a strong comment about the then prevailing state of Indology. How much has changed since those colonial times can be an interesting study in itself.
Linking this with ABC Wednesday, D: D is for Direct, Decolonise.