Defined by political narratives

Society Intellectualism

By Sagarneel Sinha

In the present era, slowly and gradually, intellectualism is being, more or less characterised by political narratives of left and right. The well-being society’s most valuable asset is the intellectualism that it possesses and in its absence, the society starts to decay.
Philosophically, intellectualism is identified with reasoning — deriving knowledge through reasons — the way an individual understands. Sometimes one may be wrong to derive the right knowledge but the unending urge of the human mind to sense the surroundings works out at the end. But unfortunately, when narratives of left and right-wing politics takes the form of intellectualism, the sun of wisdom sets in and ignorance of mind starts dominating the discourse of society.
This is the reason intellectualism is always identified as the enemy by those who want to dominate the society. Obviously, for the left-leaning activists, the right ones represent the dogmatic ideas and for the right wings, left ones are intolerant. Whom to believe –the left or the right? Actually both are correct and incorrect too. When right wings accuse the left for being intolerant to other ideas, they are not wrong and when the left wings charge the right for being against intellectualism, left is correct. They are wrong when they foster themselves of being the true upholder of the flow of diverse ideas in a society.
It is a known fact that when there is a Left wing government, the intellectuals belonging to the Right are targeted and same is the case when there is a Right dispensation. When the crusade is executed by one ideology, the other creates the narrative of the society and the nation being in danger, because narratives are easily understood by the common people.
Intellectuals, after they become left or right, have new tasks for their ideologically close political parties — creating emotional and appealing political chronicles for the masses to ensure votes for their close ideological political parties. This association of some with ideological propaganda politics distorts the spirit of intellectualism.
But the situation worsens more, when the dispensation tries to gain political mileage by exploiting the situation almost in its favour, if not totally. Intellectualism hardly matters then. This is when the moral values of a society start to decay. Political power, then, starts to call the shots to determine who is the holiest intellectual, and who is not. This orientation is common for both the ideologies.
It is not that all the intellectuals embrace either the left or the right side. There are voices in the society without any ideological baggage. But the problem is they are often not heard in the ideologically-charged society which favours definite identities – nameless are not oft- encouraged. Even if they manage to break through, the nameless are labelled with certain ideological tags by both the left and right intellectuals.
In India, the left intellectuals always try to ignore the glorious Hindu past and only highlight the gloomy side of it. In case of Sultanate and Mughal rule, they always try their best to showcase the positive side of them – ignoring the dark sides of those eras. On the other side, the right intellectuals do completely the opposite of their counterparts – left intellectuals. This intellectual division of India, no doubt, has hampered the progressive development of the society. History needs an independent analysis and some of the major issues of the country have their roots in the past and are continuing till today like the caste problem. The question is why caste problem still continues in India? One of the reasons, most probably, is due to improper analysis of the caste system. Truth is even the intellectuals continue to practise racism because when the right intellectuals give their opinions on caste they are rejected by the left ones and vice versa. Actually, this division instead of contributing to end the caste system has rather allowed it to flourish as these ideologically-sided intellectuals have a say on the policies of the elected governments, which also many times rely only on those who have ideological proximities.
Intellectual development of a society is very essential if a country has to progress. However, in many countries there have been regulations by ruling regimes backed by politically-sided intellectuals to contain the flow of intellectual development. In the past, there have been instances of Socialist regimes like Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and Nazi-ruled Germany and Fascist regime of Italy. In these regimes, it’s a known fact that those regimes had intellectuals to control the society.
Similarly, the present world is not so different with countries like North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and some other countries like Turkey, Venezuela et al, joining the list with elected governments turning autocratic, influenced by emerging far right and left movements, where the regimes backed intellectuals play a key role to suppress diverse views and propagate those views only which suit them and their masters. History has proved that such intellectualism only hindered and is still hindering the society to prosper where dissent was and is a punishable offense.
Intellectualism ensures an environment of discussions and debates, not loud debates as we often witness in TV studios, and guarantees the flow of diverse ideas in the society. In such a domain, existence of dissent is obvious. But when dissent is woven into a political agenda, it doesn’t actually serve its useful purpose for an intellectual society. However, often, the analysis is on the problems of dissent and solutions are hardly worked out. When we highlight on the problem, it results only in the growth of it. Same goes in the case of dissent too.
In today’s era, healthy discussions and debates between persons belonging to different ideas are very much required to contain the further growth of dissent into a violent storm. Of course, this is possible when intellectualism, free from right and left propaganda, is practised only for the purpose of the growth of a society and a nation because when an intellectual works for a political agenda, a false narrative is repeated many times only to make it a true fact.
This will be possible when both the left and right intellectuals stop calling the shots and allow the society to develop ideas on its own. Society has to be alerted as dissent is an essential feature of intellectualism but when it is politicised for wrong reasons, it is harmful too. That’s why today’s society needs intellectualism free from all these left and right agenda. Otherwise, dissent will continue to be misused merely as a political weapon for gain by both the ideologies through fostering of catchy political narratives, ultimately erasing the space for true intellectualism and pushing the society towards darkness.—INFA