Seeing through the brain fog

Pawanji says that he sometimes wonders how the illiterate see the world, because he finds himself forced to read everything he comes across – Billboards, road signs, shop names, books etc. We appear to largely live in a mental world created by words and images that we confuse with reality.

To see things as they are, we need to come out of the brain fog of manufactured narratives. When our observation or lived experience contradicts a narrative we believe, the result is a cognitive dissonance that can, if we pay attention, lead us towards the truth. Here are some examples to show you what I mean. The first one follows from the previous week’s post.

The narrative: India was a very poor country.
Crack in the narrative: Where did our uneducated, ‘uncivilized’, tribal women get so much silver from? Especially since there are no silver mines here. (Also, what did the colonizers come here for? To improve our lives?)

The above graph is from: Maddison A (2007), Contours of the World Economy 1-2003 AD. Note that from 1 AD to 1700 AD India and China together accounted for over 40% of the world’s GDP. (More information here)

The narrative: India has a largely oral and not a written tradition.
Crack in the narrative: India possesses an estimate of ten million manuscripts, probably the largest collection in the world. (Ref: National mission for manuscripts)

The narrative: For centuries, the Indian social system is primarily defined by an evil caste system.
Crack in the narrative: Would not such an autonomous, decentralized, stable, adaptive, dynamic, self-reproducing social organization, also neutral to all political, economic, and religious doctrines and environments be the most ideal system if one really existed as such? (This is a direct quote from here)

One can go on and on. Science and math and social science will all have many areas that will lend itself to this type of analysis. If our children spent time looking at all their school textbooks with a critical eye, would they have a better education? What do you think?

2 replies on “Seeing through the brain fog”

Reading this I couldn’t help but remember another blog written here earlier – ‘The Cheerful Pandit- Kapil Kapoor’.
While it was an engaging read/watch on how “Indian Intellectuals are Rudaalis, professional mourners”, the part that remained with me is the one where he explains ‘a feeling of inferiority (heen-bhavana-grasth)’. And I felt this heen-bhava is probably true not for few handful intellectuals but it applies to us too; we, as a nation, as a race.

All the three narratives mentioned here have been peddled by ‘modern and educated’ Indians for quite some time.
But what got me intrigued is how did this happen.

If we begin with the evil caste system- only a little bit of effort is required to understand that, broadly, the caste system in our country was never meant to be passed on as an inheritance by birth but was used to be defined by one’s skill set and profession.
However, at what point in time did this use of a system turned towards abuse?
If not like the Intellectuals, am sure there were Muni, Rishis and Pandits who were there at that time, what would they think about this? As if a society , where Sahajta and Saralta were way of life yet all the superstitions, discrimination made their way almost unchallenged.

This brings me to the other two narratives of how we enjoyed abundance- both in wealth and knowledge.
But again the question remains same for me- when and how this journey going down the hill began and why it could not be stopped by us?

Can we really put the blame entirely on the invasions and wash hands off self-introspection? We have been plundered many a time. commercially and culturally, but a few exceptions aside, we failed to hold fort in both cases.
We have a rich history and heritage of Sahajta, Samridhhi, Shiksha, where every individual was Shishta. The world learnt the core of ‘Being/Is-ness’ from us and we failed in our home turf only. Is this because, amidst everything good, we lost out on Swabhimaan, Samman, Atmavishwas?

I agree our tradition was not limited to Shrutis and Smritis. But when we discuss the ills of modern education it also makes me think what happened to the The Vedas, the Upanishads and other valuable scriptures. Did we lose connect with these only after invaders burnt/destroyed them or it went into gradual oblivion due lack of an orderly dissemination process because few from us preferred to keep it esoteric? Just like in today’s age we see, the broader and harder are the syllabi, the better is the board/school.

I present these queries not to discredit the perspective of this blog, but to ponder and wonder how did this happen, with a genuine urge to make a course correction. The flaws and evils of the society did and do exist, and to know this we don’t need to rely on distorted historical records by foreigners; there are tales of authentic and lived experiences from our grandparents too.
If a section of people chose few flaws to bring down our entire heritage as ‘everything IS bad’, to counter this error in judgement, it will probably be equally flawed if we make a start with a sweeping idea like ‘everything WAS good’.
And, if not everything but most of it was good, this time we should learn to keep it and make it great again. Else, we will continue to be either being swayed by the cynical intellectual narrative or some quick-fix sense of national pride, which in any case is doing more harm than good.

Thank you, Shoma, for that long meditation. You raise many points and I think we can have a long discussion the next time we meet. Reading what you have written reminds me of Gandhiji saying in Hind Swaraj that there will be progress and decline in our civilization but the first necessity is to drive out western civilization. In other words, to not get caught in the categories of the west when we look at what we should be doing. Thanks again.

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