This is a guest post written at my request by my close confidante and friend Koushik Sekhar with whom I have discussed this topic threadbare on a number of occasions. He is more articulate than I am as the post will reveal and hence my request to him to write this post for this week’s 6 on 1 Friday blog post.
Over to Koushik.
Covid is not the immediate threat to mankind. Covid is merely the messenger.
There is a more serious threat to mankind- a kind of epistemological disaster and Covid related problems is only a symptom of a deeper malaise . It is a steadfast refusal by the elites of the world to acknowledge the value of knowledge generated by earlier societies and to accept that the generation of knowledge does not have barriers of time, space, race etc. Moreover there is an attempt to eliminate or suppress knowledge that does not generate wealth for the few or which threatens their power.
Decades of globalisation has made it so that these elites are no longer define-able by geography or a political affiliation or education or race. Hence taking aim at the root of problem is no longer so easy as the threat is amorphous and not easy to target and work upon.
This attitude that ‘all conjectures are conjectures but my conjecture is more science than yours’ is deadly for the future of man especially when the conjectures are failing badly. If this isn’t deadly enough, the way institutions are used to muzzle the spirit of enquiry among the outsiders of the systems makes it a larger threat to the world. And lastly , an attitude that ‘all vested interests are vested interests, but mine is more science than yours’ is also prevalent. I am not sure which is causing more damage to society as the competition is lively and tremendous.
To name a few, the new class of global elites have no answers for huge problems we face:
1. How to maintain a happy society with constant economic output or even if economic growth is not possible.
2. How to have social stability in a society where technological advancement is seen as the goal and highly disruptive, to society, technologies are unleashed at a rapid pace.
3. How to handle societies which have become destructive and want to spread their ideologies to others who have better solutions using any means fair and foul.
4. How to manage highly heterogeneous societies which want to have separate rules for each of its constituents.
5. How to guarantee rights to people when they have near zero duties
How to leave the world as we found it.
The attitude of these elites has been that if we pretend that these problems do not exist they will go away. They have spurned knowledge that did not come from them or came from sources unacceptable to them. But these problems have become too big now and the chickens are coming home to roost. Propaganda is no substitute for logic nor can it solve problems created by a long history underlying such propaganda.
As I could not phrase it any better, I am quoting from this excellent blog on the topic.
‘pratyaksham hyetyormūlam kritantai etihyorapi, pratyaksheṇāgamobhinnah kritanto vā na kinchan’,
essentially meaning that ‘in case of a conflict between direct evidence and inference/scriptural evidence, direct evidence shall prevail because it is at the root of both inferential evidence and scriptural evidence’.
Adi Shankaracharya, the first Shankaracharya said: ‘gnānam na purushatantram, kintu vastutantram’ — knowledge is not derived through word of command, but though objective reality.
We need the intellectual vigour encapsulated in the Indian proverb which states that ‘truth spoken by a fool is preferable to lies spoken by the great Guru Brihaspati’, also known as the planet Jupiter, the giver of all wisdom.
There are serious epistemological problems in the world today. The Aristotelian logic is no longer adequate to understand reality and solve problems and is at the root cause of many of the problems we have today. We need to understand nuance which is ever present in nature and reality and our logical systems should be in consonance with that.
We are increasingly becoming exclusive instead of being inclusive. Many of our values are driven by ‘either or’ rather than by ‘and’. For example : the framing of the LGBT issue as one being either pro-LGBT or anti-LGBT is seriously deficient. The truth is that society has to be both pro and anti-LGBT at the same time. Pro LGBT as far as providing them safe spaces are concerned and providing them protection and avenues for self-sustenance; but society also has to be anti LGBT in so far as it being discreet and not impeding the lives of other people.
Today’s elites consisting of bankers, businessmen and politicians have become equivalent to those that tried to punish Galileo for his heliocentric theory and a lot of mainstream scientists are tagging along as they get their share of the booty. Such scientists are not scholars in pursuit of the truth.
Truth doesn’t need advocates or us. We, the mankind, need the truth as it helps us manage our societies and avoid making disastrous and irreversible decisions regarding environment, family, culture, food, education which can set us back by 100s of years. In the last 100 years, we have done a lot to move the clock back. It is not clear how far we can push in the wrong direction without being able to turn back.
I am an optimist. I believe that this too shall pass and one day our descendants will look back and see how foolish we were about so many things. But right now it is imperative that we do not believe things at face value that are fed to us and question what is right and wrong. We need to look for ideas, concepts and hypotheses that provide alternate solutions to the prevailing wisdom as the prevailing wisdom is not working. We need to have only one permanent affiliation namely that with the truth and all the rest our affiliations and associations of political, material and religious kind are only the means to that end.
We also need to update our epistemological tools drastically.
The steadfast inertia/ refusal to not do these things that is perhaps a greater threat to mankind than Covid. In fact the impact of Covid itself is much larger than what could have been because of this mindset and this will reveal itself as the efficacy of various successful approaches taken by the discredited ones all over the world come to light after the Covid storm has passed.
The pursuit of truth has taken a backseat for a long time now and its cumulative consequences are amongst us. This is the most serious threat to mankind.
This is my take on this week’s Friday 6 On 1 blog post topic. The other five bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Padmum, Raju, Shackman and Conrad. This week’s topic was suggested by Raju. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.