The term Macaulayism is derived from none other than Thomas Macaulay, who was the inaugural member of the Supreme Council of India. I am referring to a time when India was under the British yoke and the Indian National Congress had not yet been formed. Unlike the many who had blindly welcomed modern western education, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was circumspect and critical. He welcomed modern western education for its scientific spirit and emancipatory ideas, but stayed deeply rooted in traditional Indian knowledge which, though he accepted had been corrupted by the priestly classes for their own benefits, still held the potential to transform the world in a radical manner for the betterment of not just mankind, but all creatures that are an essential part of this cosmos.
Intellectual subordination of the Indian mind has always been a conscious preoccupation of the West. The western world needs a certain ideology (to borrow from Marx) to support its glittering superstructure, which is in reality a rotting tomb of consumer-driven production for those who already have more than enough. This is the greatest tragedy of our times. We have the capability to produce enough for everyone’s needs as well as desires (to a large extent), yet our capitalist world’s so-called benefits wait to trickle down at an absurdly slow pace.
So, what exactly is ‘intellectual subordination’? To me, it means the liquidation of traditional forms/culture of knowledge to that of an alien entity. It is a known fact that the Indian culture has very rich and highly advanced sources of knowledge. Over a million manuscripts have been preserved for centuries and this is not just a testimony to the extensive knowledge and culture of South Asia, it is also a proof that we have deep-rooted mechanisms and sentimentalities that have helped us to preserve them.
The Western intellect is centered around ‘man’. Man is the centre of the universe and all is fair for the sake of his preservation (as Hobbes tells us). The liberal thinkers construct the ideas that govern the world today. I do not intend to ridicule to the western intellect in any sense of the term, for its veneration and adoration is indeed justified on many grounds. However, uncritical adoration is the hallmark of a decaying civilisation. A vibrant civilisation is one where a balance is struck between all traditions of knowledge and intellect on the basis of rationality and value. This is exactly why I do not dismiss western values in any manner. I implore all my fellow Indians to recognise that they see western values as the antithesis to the thesis that is Indian values. This Hegelian dialectic method leaves us with a synthesis that emerges out of the two value systems. This is what we must strive for if we seek to move towards a global culture.
A very respected and revered professor at my college is fond of telling his students that the Indian education system seeks to manufacture parrots and donkeys; it is only due to the sole effort of our students that a few human beings are manufactured in the process as well. Much like Macaulay’s statement that I have quoted right at the beginning, the Indian bourgeois are too enchanted by the material riches of the west and has devised an education system that manufactures components of its capital infrastructure. Yes, we manufacture engineers, doctors, and professors, but our lives are forever seeking to fulfil the western ideal of a consumer driven, self-centered and almost narcissistic lifestyle.
Unlike the western notion of ‘rights’, duty or Dharma is emphasised in the Indian tradition. Dharma means ‘to hold, maintain, keep’ (Monier Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary, 1899) the cosmic order of things or Rita. Everything in the universe is in a state of flux, but this change has a definite order. The cosmos consists of living and nonliving entities which are not independent of each-other, but interrelated. Man is not the centre of the universe, but a part of a magnanimous cyclic process. Time is not linear. The present, the past and the future are always in harmony and in unity.
The implications of such a conception of the cosmos are limitless. We need not root the justifications for environmental conservation on mere aesthetics or our own survival; we can begin to value the environment and all other things simply because they exist (as Kapil Kapoor rightly points out in ‘Decolonising the Indian Mind’). Due to the vibrancy of our civilisation, Shramanic critique provided a check against the growing corruption in the Brahmanic system and the enlightened men were now shown a way towards harmony and stability by adopting the ‘Middle Path’. If the world today could adopt this path, hunger and war would go extinct. However, cycles must be repeated and the degeneration of man is but inevitable (movement towards Kalyug). Similar waves of reformation through syncretic and Islamic tides purged the corruptions of the preceding systems.
The Indian student is unconsciously Euro-centric. English is mandatory, Hindi is optional. English writers are the authority, Indian writers are flimsy. Aristotle is a known philosopher, but who is Yajnavalkya? We are too eager to catch the eyes of the west, too uncritical of their assessments about us, too bedazzled by the shine of their skyscrapers and too lost in the clinking of their dollars. Don’t be mistaken again, I hold nothing against the west and their philosophy. Objectivity is a fraud in social sciences (so I have learnt through a brilliant professor) and I am no one to judge the intellect and philosophy of an entire civilisation. What I hold to be unreasonable and pathetic indeed, is the Indian inadequacy and neglect at valuing its rich traditions and philosophy.
In a developing country like ours, the Indian student must not confuse the issue at hand with the ‘salad bowl’ versus ‘melting pot’ multicultural debate. What is at stake is the very consciousness of the Indian mind. If you are prepared to live a life of intellectual subjugation, a life where you hear only their side of the story, a life that is devoid of the lessons learnt by one of the oldest civilisations in the history of mankind, then stay silent and uncritical. Or else, bring about an immediate change in the education system. I am not talking about Sanskritisation of academics, nor do I support preaching religious orthodoxy at schools; I simply demand that the floodgates of the Indian philosophical discourse be opened to the Indian minds lest they rust through uncritical adoration of the west.