End of decades are a time for pausing and looking back. But we would do good to pause and look ahead instead.
A twenty-year period defines a cohort of a “social generation”. In the cold December nights of 1999, many of us, not computer owners yet, would have worried about the Y2K problem. It all seems like yesterday, and the Gen X and the Millennials are perhaps struggling to come to terms with their biological ages. To offer some solace, new science posits “objective time” as a myth and that time is nothing but a psychological construct. Our rishis apparently used to count time by the number of breaths rather than through the patterns of the Sun. They were cool like that!
As we try to make peace with the impermanence of it all, it is also paradoxically time to think about our legacies as well. From the cold nights of the 1990s to well, cold nights of the “teenies”, we can keep thoughts warm by reminiscing on the incredible journey of the last 20 years as society. But it would behove of a responsible bunch if we exert our mental muscles about the future. Management gurus ask us to write our own obituary notes, sort of prodding us to do work that will stand the test of time. (Politicians tackle legacy issues by getting statues erected, books written, buildings inaugurated with their name plaques etc.)
In 2019, we had the first cohort of Gen Z, born after 2000, casting their votes in a general election. Next time around, these digital natives, the new voters born in a relatively prosperous India will have a larger say. Their eerie sense of media preferences confound strategists and their confidence bordering on irreverence unsettle their predecessors. Ok Boomer! Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the exuding of new hope and new energy is quite exciting.
Also, as we reach 2020 it will be a good time to review and make fun of all the ‘Vision 2020’ documents prepared feverishly in the last decade. Leaders of organisations and states were fascinated by the two 20s in “2020” and commissioned preparation of vision documents through expensive consultants. The Mckinseys and the PwCs of the world should perhaps do the modern PR gimmick – a parody of what they had put together and appear hip.
Nevertheless, it is important to look forward and hazard a guess than just be sitting ducks. Recently, there was a twitter fight, a rare one in which both the confrontationists seemed to make sense. A WSJ journalist and a Republic TV talking-head argued, with a lot of snark, on whether continuously fighting about historical prejudices will help India move forward in the era of AI and robotics.
Let us dwell a bit on the Republic TV panellist’s argument. To reaffirm our identity, which forms the lynchpin for psychological well-being, it is important to fight against the wrongs of history done over centuries, not just by the Mughals and the British, but also by the Congress party and its leftist cabal of intellectuals. As a recent article revealed, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) textbooks still feed into the mind-set of Hindu inferiority and subjugation. The fight for our cultural identity on which the multifaceted development of our society rests will be a long one. Quite simply, 700 years cannot be undone in 700 weeks.
Coming to the WSJ journalist’s contention, it is also time for the current Hindu public intellectuals that have earned their spurs, to get out of the their comfort zones as well. To discuss history day-in-and-day out has diminishing utility. They end up reneging on the moral and intellectual responsibility of grappling with new developments and providing direction to the society. Rarely will readers come along an article in a magazine by right-wing heavyweights weighing in on the upcoming age of Fourth Industrial revolution. Forget about books, documentaries, TV shows! This error and bias need correction.
As we reach 2020, we should also stop and pay homage to our modern day intellectual Kshatriyas who fought for it when things were very difficult. Sita Ram Goel to Ram Swarup to KM Munshi to Arun Shourie should get our wholehearted salutations. Arun Shourie has been at the receiving end for his political somersaults. Right-wingers can try to be more generous with him for his extraordinary contribution to the cause, especially the Ayodhya movement. A glance through his latest book Two Saints and one can get a glimpse of a magnificent mind. A sense of gratitude will only help to enlist positive energies and help us gather the tools to take on the fight to the future.
The recent political events vis-à-vis complete integration of Kashmir, the clearing of legal cobwebs for building a Ram temple in Ayodhya and a move towards making India a homeland for dispossessed Hindus are in many ways solving generations-old problems and making peace with the past. That the political system is doing it patiently within the bounds of our country’s legal framework is commendable. The rate of manifestation of the spirit of India will determine the speed of our progress not just culturally but economically and scientifically as well.
Hinduism as an open system sans dogma melds well with the long-tail ideas of being customisable and scalable. It was on display in the last decade with the advent of social media. Hitherto dormant and distributed forces lapped up democratic tools to scale the Hindu consciousness far and wide.
In the next part, we will dwell on the road ahead.