In very simple terms, one’s culture is what one will think and do if one gets lost in an island with the full knowledge that there is no chance of being rescued. The true self in each one of us will come out only then and that is our true culture. Culture of civilizations follows the same pattern. Each of the civilizations has developed in isolation and is truly representative of the culture of people who constitute them. Many of the civilizations have died out and the few remaining continue to progress reflecting the core culture that makes them different. Whatever be the changes brought about by progress and development, the essential nature of our culture will always be reflected in whatever we do as a civilization and ultimately as a nation.
In very broad terms, we can always categorise the world civilizations into three types based on their core activities during their formative periods viz. Agri-culture, Tradi-culture and Coloni-culture.
Indian civilization is essentially an agricultural one and Indian culture is replete with the nature, symbols and characteristics of agriculture. Agriculture requires great insight, immense efforts and unlimited patience. The essential nature of Indian nation and Indian people still reflect these three unique characteristics. In terms of culture and civilization, India is the only continuing civilization that has survived uninterrupted for the entire recorded past. All others, be it Chinese, Japanese, Western, American or African, have undergone drastic changes (and revolutions) and are not the same that was one thousand years ago.
Agricultural civilizations do not peak so much and will not die out completely. There will be ups and downs, but within a limited bandwidth. This is very evident in the case of India, whose civilization peaked during the Vedic period and waned during the one thousand years of Mughals and British rule. But immense patience, tolerance and inherent truth and strength in its basic beliefs will ensure its continued presence till the end of time. We do not know when agriculture began, but we know it will never end. Similar is the case of agricultural civilizations. They have no beginning and no end (sanatana). So is the case with Hindu Sanatana Dharma (HSD) which is the core of Indian civilization.
In sharp contrast to Agriculture, we have Trading cultures which do not produce or own anything by their own efforts. All they have is some money to buy and sell agricultural and other products. In the process they make profit which is used for further trading. The civilizations in West Asia fall under this category. Their lands are barren and not fit for agriculture. They never had settlements and used to spend their entire life as nomads buying goods from one place and selling it at another place. Their relationships were transient and there was never time enough for studies and producing literature for entertainment and enlightenment. Their approach to life was one of complete adhocism trying to sort out issues as they come by. Needless to say that such people had no concept of lasting relationships and never found time to introspect on the deepest mysteries of nature. It was easier to attribute everything to a creator and discipline the rogue crowd with fear. The few lasting contributions to world heritage by these West Asians are limited to those from settlements in the present day Iran and Iraq. Unexpected discovery of ‘black gold’ in the 1950s’ that brought in the present day filthy richness among these people have not touched the basic culture of these people one bit.
Quite different from the other two, the culture of colonial people is always oriented towards the loot they can manage from their colonies. Unlike agriculturists and traders, the colonizers do not carry out any constructive work or make or produce anything at all. They are adept only in usurping the fruits of labour by others, just like what we do with the honey made by honeybees. The case of established colonial nations in Europe exemplifies this attitude in very clear terms. Europe is rich today only because of the toil and tears of civilizations in Asia and Africa during yesteryears and even now. Left to them, colonial cultures cannot sustain themselves on the food and wealth created by themselves. They would always need the efforts of others for their own benefit and have developed immense skills (now embedded in their DNAs) in management of others. Extra-ordinary adeptness of the colonizers in managing others by putting ‘friends and enemies’ among ‘enemies and friends’ is evident even today in West Asia, Latin America, Africa and South Asia. It is very difficult for the ‘coloni’culturists who are used to an easy lifestyle to come out of it.
It is very evident that the one and only truly sustainable culture in this planet is the one related to agriculture. No other way of living can provide the food for survival and food for thought together in a sustainable manner. In fact the unparalleled continuity of Sanatana Hindu civilization in India for the past ten thousand odd years without any major change can be explained only on the basis of its agricultural base. Immense hope, struggle, patience and truly secular behavior of a ‘Sanatani Hindu’ – Mahatma Gandhi claimed himself to be one – can be directly attributed to his or her cultural background in agriculture which requires all these attributes to succeed. Continued negligence of the agricultural sector in India by those in power will only weaken the cultural foundations of our civilisation in the long run.