Feb 18, 2013

Who's "communal"? - 'Asmita' politics vs. identity politics

Normally, politicians speak in terms of Vision, Agenda, and Propositions. But most national democracies are relatively monocultural or small. In a diverse 'civilizational core state' like India, there is another important factor to address: Identity.

In December 2012, Narendra Modi's state election victory could mark a watershed in many ways. One was that this was probably the first major election where the main contender did not campaign on caste or communal lines. Rather, NaMo had made a greater creative Identity the cornerstone of his new politics much earlier - the politics of Asmita. Asmita is Sanskrit for the inspiration, dignity and work that springs from pride in one's Identity, and he called it Gujarati Asmita - which he significantly joined with a pan-Indian Asmita, and subsequently one theoretically based on a Dharma that promotes good values across humanity. In creatively enthusing a greater Identity, NaMo had transcended the petty identity politics that others have thrived on. He backed that up with a dynamic socio-economic vision and agenda.

In contrast with identity politics, Asmita politics is integral and invites more people to participate in it. When a greater all-encompassing identity is created, it is up to others whether they want to share in its inspiration and contribute to it, or whether they prefer to turn their backs on it and remain separate. In order to be able to invite and utilize more people in its projects of life and living, the Asmita politician must be able to select talents and resources where available, and redistribute them where needed. This is part of the larger system that we know as Varnashrama.

The Chaturvarna (4 Varnas) are functional divisions of a completed Cycle of Action, comprehensive in all respects of Life. So what is the significance of Varna, its actual purpose, and what does it mean for moral leadership, values and pragmatism in society? Sourced some of the material from here - The Order of Time. Check this article in particular: Q 5.1 What are the divisions and content of a balanced life? (Do a search for "varna" to get to some directly relevant paragraphs.) And then this article: Q 5.2 Interests of the Soul

The system of Varna is interlocking with the Ashrama divisions. Both together propose a system objective: "How do we guarantee and understand that interests of the soul should prevail over the interest of the ego? Simply balancing good with evil within ourselves with a clock and calendar is just part of the solution. To the solution there, of course, must also be a clear moral leadership."

The issue of moral leadership is important in answering the first question (bolded). But moral "leadership" can soon degenerate into religious or ideological "authority". That's a dwindling spiral, and an entity loses creative enthusiasm and becomes dull, or merely argumentative. This is true whether it is a religious authority like in, say, Iran; or whether it is a political ideology and rhetoric of "democracy" as in the US. The organizing principle becomes subverted by the ego to impose its static "solution" on everyone. It could degenerate into a stultified intellect (powered by the ego) driving a robotic machine (society and the individual). India's earlier "caste system" was a case in point for a while after it outlived its utility.

This poor record of "authority" is not an argument against the role of "leadership" in general. As we observe and participate in an "anti-corruption" movement in India today, this point will repeatedly come up. In Iran, the struggle for freedom from religious dictatorship is hamstrung because there is no viable alternative leadership with the required level of moral authority. The opposition leaders are merely "reformist" ex-Islamists. Same case in the US today, which could use a unified direction and re-calibration of values and Asmita, rather than political correctness based on identity politics.

Public education ("presentation of philosophy or standards") of the masses is therefore an important part of political economy and moral leadership: media, universities, cultural and competitive activities. The West puts a premium on its control of the media, its university network and control of academia, and the blatant use of the "Coliseum culture" to manage its populations. But how can one use this same organizing and educational principle to ensure that the interests of the soul prevail over the interests of the ego?

First, we can define fields (or scopes) of work:

It goes without saying that at the level of scientific "observation", "law", etc., whatever is observed or legislated may be true in one of these scopes, but not another. What may be true for a society may not be true for the individual. What may be true for one aspect of an individual may not be taken as true for the individual as a whole, etc. Clearly, any definition of Varna or Ashrama that is at the level of "legalism" cannot be a comprehensive definition, but is limited by spatio-temporal and cultural coordinates.

Within any field of work, there are levels of commitment:

In Sanskrit, different words are used for different calibers of teachers. An "adhyaapaka" is one who has some specialized knowledge that he can deliver to students. A "shrotriya" is one who is familiar with a much wider context of that specialized knowledge, and so never misses the forest for the trees. A "pravaktaa" is one who not only has all this, but is a personal believer in the subject and walks the talk in his life. It is not merely an academic "intellectual" interest, but he works with it. An "acharya" is one who has realized the end phenomena of the subject.

One can create such a status mapping, based on ego-inclinations and life-phases, and each would have its own set of values, easily recognizable in society:

The identities assumed by individuals can be further mapped based on their life situation and lifestyle choices:

From the above, its pretty clear that Asmita politics must have an interlocking co-operation with other aspects of Life, and its movers and shapers ought to demonstrate that internal harmony, either in themselves, or as part of society. That harmony signals a moral leadership that is important in society - to balance enduring values with the circumstantial demands for vigorous pragmatism in dealing with external and internal challenges, threats and opportunities.

No comments:

Post a Comment