Random Thoughts

A Re-channeling of the Left

Ancient Egyptian literature has two classic poems lamenting the injustice and vicissitudes of life, which date around 2000 BCE. The search for equity, fairness and justice is one of the earliest quests of humanity and the Egyptians, Hindus and Jains have the earliest beliefs as the foundation of personal character, rooted in Mat, the weighing of the heart against a feather and Karma. The Hebrews had their covenant and the commandments but accepted the capriciousness of their God in the stories of Abel, Cain and completely in the story of Job. The Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites and Myceneans were willing to accept their fate being at the mercy of Gods and the latter have statements bemoaning how humans are playthings for Gods. The Hindus have the date of origin of humans after Manu, the lawgiver codified the laws of behavior and mention that prior to that Matsyanyaya, the law of the jungle (literally fish as in Swifts famous verse) prevailed.

Thus morality and Gods were artificial constructs, dreamed up by the have-nots to seek peace and solace in their life and urge moderation, restraint and charity on the haves. Buddhism and Christianity were perhaps the most refined latter religions espousing this view. The Chinese, who have always been pragmatic were more concerned with order and peace in this world and Confucianism with its obedience to ruler, father etc. was a desirable alternative to terror and mayhem, which prevailed. Most codes from Hammurabi to British common law were established to be major constraints and punitive stumbling blocks to prevent the deprived from appropriating the material wealth of the fortunate, strong and unscrupulous few, who made it financially or politically by fair means or foul.

This is how the current success and superiority of the capitalist system and Pax Americana can be explained. It provides the great collateral benefit of a civil society, reduction in crime for the bourgeois, who constitute the majority and already have the fire of aspirations kindled, to drive them forward on the hope of more power and money.

The wits of the large middle class are numbed by the opiate of consumption and the intoxication of affluence. On these tame sheep shoulders rest the foundations of democracy. The lack of aspirations and opportunities, their inability to postpone gratification are the cardinal causes of the entrapment of the indigent in their hell of misery and destitution. They are unable to hold down jobs for lack of discipline and commitment. They vituperate and vandalize or foment revolutions, which fail because of their contrariness to human nature. Impoverished and oppressed masses gravitate towards socialism or communism, if there are no coercive or restraining factors, even though these prescriptions leave the have-nots mired in miserable poverty or merciless tyranny.

The ills of democracy are the inevitable and shameless suborning and corrupting the government for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Even Plato railed about it and laid out a detailed plan on how to make the chosen ones guardians and then how to guard the guardians. The remedies are unfortunately impractical because the nature of the masses is to be stupid, ignorant and uncaring, while those with vested interests are intelligent, knowledgeable and vigilant. The Left tries valiantly to increase the number of concerned, caring and informed, but fails by attracting only the converted. It is not possible to push up the IQ, knowledge, interest or commitment of common folk. The Herculean effort is to be lauded, but cannot transform "is" to "ought".

I am not recommending that the activists fold their tents and sound a retreat, but I seriously wonder whether their toil would not be better utilized and serve a greater purpose, if they channeled it to improve the lot of afflicted individuals, singly and selectively, rather than spinning their wheels in the quicksand of the road to utopia.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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