Let me straight away confess that this topic for today’s 2 on 1 Friday posts by Shackman and me has been inspired by a remarkable book by Rudrangshu Mukherjee, “Twilight Falls On Liberalism”. It is a concise book which one can easily finish reading in one sitting if one is not distracted by domestic chores etc. In fact, as one starts reading it, one wishes that there will be no distractions.
RM looks at the issue of liberalism from the point of view of a historian and despite being in opposite ideological camps, I found his writing interesting though I don’t agree to some of the conclusions that he comes to about India. His choice of a message on the cover of the book – “Bigotry nurtured by a political ideology has made people, as it always does, blind and intolerant” clearly places him on the Liberal side! And, by inference, since I point that out, me, on the illiberal side.
The word “Liberal” means different things to different people but, in India is used mostly by people who have studied in the English Medium stream, still heavily under what we call Macaulayism. This self called elite, derisively called the Elite Liberal Intellectual Mafia (ELIMs) by lesser mortals, live mostly in cities and have no clue about the culture and value system of the vast majority of Indians who live in semi urban and rural areas of India. These vast majority march to completely different drum beats and the so called Liberals here do not understand that rhythm or value system. They exchange their views in the English media and condemn the populace who elects others perceived to be illiberals by their standards. So, if you were to read Indian newspapers in English, you will find words like majoritarianism, nationalism, patriotism, communalism, bigotry etc which mean different things to the English speaking minuscule minority and different and positive emotions for the vast majority of Indians.
John Stuart Mill put it well: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value … of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.” The problem with the Liberals of today is that they think that all the others who do not think like themselves are illiberal and are not worth the bother. The others on the other hand, are not even aware of the existence of the so called liberal thought and how it tries to become the deep state.
It is this dichotomy that Rudrangshu Mukherjee has sensed and used to juxtapose to a global trend and comes to the conclusion that Liberalism is in its twilight days. I agree entirely with him on his conclusion but, am disappointed that he has not suggested a liberal solution to what he considers to be the problem. I wish that I could but, accept that I cannot and just be happy that I understand why Liberalism is in its twilight years and leave it at that.
Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same subject. I am willing to bet that he will be, for one of those rare occasions, on a very different wave length than mine.