Friday, 30 May 2014

Do We Believe in God?

It is commonly assumed that here people believe in God. In fact belief in God implies certain things that we can measure or observe to some extent. Traditionally belief is testified by good deeds. These two can’t be separated. Applying this test we can examine the thesis that Kahmiris are God fearing people.
To believe means one believes in the Fatherhood of God, in unity of spirit that constitutes all of us. It means loving one’s neighbour because he is us as he shares Spirit or Self that is one and indivisible.  It implies a culture where people trust one another because they trust God.
Once upon a time, the question of mistrust was not there as there was no need to tell a lie and no imperative to fool the other as people were united with Heaven. Law was honoured. People had no greed. This is the narrative bequeathed to us by traditions. This is true about the mythical golden age. But then degeneration set in and laws were formulated as Taoist scripture tells us. And then laws were breached as well. But somehow keeping the law was the norm until secular modernity that wrote off any reference to the heavenly law, to commandments, to the law in the depth of human heart. What Modernity did was to substitute secular legal regulations. But law can’t regulate everything. Even faith in the law presupposes certain amount of trust and not just fear in the citizens. As God’s authority was thrown away, there remained the authority of secular reason that expressed itself in legal reason. So the problem of trust is fundamentally a problem of secular reason. We don’t find it assuming such a frightening proportion in any traditional culture. People trusted God is in the heavens, destiny, promises, spouses, teachers, governments or kings etc. That explains why families were largely stable. Business transactions were orally recorded or just witnessed through oral witness without any documents. In Kashmir, to give an example, few decades back land transfers were made without recourse to affidavits or documents. Even today, there is a vibrant institution of wazum in which shopkeepers accept to get payment at some later date without interest against purchase of some item. There were many examples a decade or two back in which children were married off by parents even before their birth. A person agreed to marry new male child to female child of another person even before these children were born.
If we indeed trusted one another, there would be no need for guarantors for loans, no affidavits, no identity proofs. But what I am talking about? Another world. Of course. I am only saying all this is incompatible with belief in God. Scribing our transactions of which the Quran talks doesn’t imply initial mistrust but something else that has more to do with what we in Kashmiri say : Hisab gow maelis ti gobres !
       Today it is sometimes claimed that in certain developed countries people trust a great deal. There is no need to tell a lie or fear one is being fooled. This is true but we can still claim that there is a problem of mistrust. Even if people would generally trust their governments or public institutions many forms of mistrust remain which we could ultimately trace to lack of trust in Metaphysical First Principle. It is difficult to see examples of trust in Heavens, Cosmic Intelligence or Divine Decree, Moral Law, Neighbour. To give just one example of loss of trust: In the past great travellers like Fa-hien and Ibn Batuta could travel across regions and continents and were not required to show passport. Today our techno-legal approach has dispensed with the need of trust.  One can board a plane or bus or park a car or purchase anything on the basis of pre-validated tickets/documents. Everyone is suspect unless proved otherwise.
We may have become more polite. We may not feel like cheating a customer. We play fairly our games. But these things don’t imply we trust. Trust presupposes faith in the uncertain choice the other will make. It operates without any reference to documents, exchange, mutual expectation. It is a gift of spirit. And one can’t trust a neighbour truly if   one can’t truly greet him. Traditional greeting expressions have reference to faith  or trust in Heavens. Even “good morning”  perhaps invokes this. If we are unable to trust heavens, we have hardly any right to use greeting from traditions today. Secular man can’t greet his neighbour if he doesn’t share the faith in fellowship of spirit.
So we can conclude that practically, as a community, we don’t believe in God, don’t love our neighbours and thus don’t trust. And we can’t start believing in God unless we give up our view of self, world and other.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Losing Agriculture and Gaining Nothing

There is a village in Azad Kashmir that has so far not recorded a single case of cancer. This is attributed to organic food locally produced. Few decades ago the similar story was of this part of Kashmir. Where have we gone wrong?
Today we lament Green Revolution, we think agriculture is no longer worth investment, we find massive unemployment of farmers. All this implies catastrophe for a population that heavily relied on agriculture for livelihood. Let us understand how we destroyed our traditional basis for livelihoods and replaced it with something that is elusive and deceiving. And we end up with hardly anything worth having at such a huge cost. I illustrate the case by turning to Ladakh that has been very recently modernized and can be seen as almost a contemporary case for anyone to see. I simply reproduce few passages from a book Ancient  Futures written on modernization of Ladakh by internationally acclaimed scholar Helena Norberg-Hodge that traces the tragedy with all its poignancy.
Throughout the world, the process of development has displaced and marginalized self-reliant local economies in general and small farmers in particular. In the industrialized world, more than 90 percent of the population has been pulled away from agriculture. Now, the same process is occurring in the Third World, only much more rapidly, as rural subsistence is steadily eroded. The same forces that push farmers off the land seek to replace them with the ever more capital- and energy-intensive methods of industrial agriculture. It is assumed that this shift from agriculture to agribusiness is necessary in order to increase yields, and that increased yields are in turn necessary to feed the growing global population. Industrial agriculture, however, has proved to be unsustainable. Its fertilizers and pesticides pollute the water and destroy the soil, and after an initial increase, yields tend to decline. In addition, monoculture makes the crop very vulnerable to destruction by a single pest, while chemical pesticides have tended to disrupt natural systems of pest control. Farmers in Ladakh who have been persuaded to use pesticides tell of a noticeable increase in pests!
Industrial agriculture is now eliminating the diverse range of seeds indigenous to specific environments and replacing them with standardized strains. Multinational corporations and large petrochemical companies are expropriating seeds, particularly from the Third World, and using the genetic information—which represents millennia of adaptation to local conditions—to create hybrids. These are then sold back to Third World farmers along with the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that they require. These hybrids often lack the ability to regenerate themselves, and farmers are forced into a cycle of dependence, buying new seeds and chemical inputs from the corporations that own and control them. As the logic of industrial agriculture unfolds, it looks increasingly sinister. With the biotechnology revolution—the transplanting of “desirable” genetic traits from one organism to another–we are seeing scientific manipulation on a grand scale. As nature is adapted to meet the needs of industry the result is greater standardization and uniformity, and thus increased vulnerability.
The emphasis is not on human welfare but commercial gain. Despite the fact that much of the research was done with public funds, control of this technology is firmly in the hands of transnational corporations, which are now able to engineer plant, animal, and even human genes, to turn them into products that can be patented and sold.
Of course, people have been developing hybrids in one way or another since the beginning of agriculture. The dzo in Ladakh is an example of a crossbreed that is well suited to its environment. What is different about today’s genetic engineering is that the hybrids it develops have no connection with living local ecosystems. Moreover, the genetic base of life is being manipulated without any clear idea of the long-term consequences. What we do already know is that these technologies erode diversity and unravel the web of biological interdependence.
The products of biotechnology promise to be better than nature: pest-resistant, drought-resistant, and high-yielding. But for how many years will the patented corn come up bigger and brighter yellow? And for how long will the tired soil sustain it? For people with unlimited faith in science and technology these are not matters of concern.Vogue for hybrid seeds today should be a matter of concern as it calls for critical reflection.
Horticulturization of Kashmir too is an issue that has more to it than appears on surface. Use of weedicides and pesticides has become normalized and there is hardly any attention to turn organic. Why isn’t any debate on policy change by our policy makers on such issues? Why we keep begging for pesticides, fertilizers and why don’t we consider the costs on health and environment that far exceed gains in productivity?

Poetry as Prayer

A Critique of our Mushaira Culture
I think it can be safely asserted that much of poetry today bombarded in mushairas is second rate if not third rate.  One of the biggest scandals of modern day literary criticism is that it is not qualified for the job as it doesn’t take due note of God or Transcendence. Without proper understanding and orientation towards First Principles, poetry and its criticism are hardly worth attention. Much of what is published in the form of ever growing corpus of poetical collections by new poets largely constitutes a scandal. This poetry is anything but not poetry as understood by the best minds of all traditions, all ages. This poetry is narcissist, expresses rather than transcends personality, and fails in requisite moral qualifications  that are a condition for true poetry. We can’t just, for formality’s sake, begin poetic collections with Hamd and Na’t. All poetry is prayer. Let us see how.
As Dante has said about the Commedia: "The purpose of the whole work is to remove those who are living in this life from the state of wretchedness and to lead them to the state of blessedness.” Coomaraswamy, the greatest art critic that our modern critics don’t care to read, mentions Aśvaghoṣa’s colophon to the Saundarānanda: “This poem, pregnant with the burden of Liberation, has been composed by me in the poetic manner, not for the sake of giving pleasure, but for the sake of giving peace.” While reminding us that traditional authorities warn  us  to  expect  not  figures  of  speech but  figures of thought (let us ask our modern critics the connection between the two)  Coomaraswamy has no problem in flatly dismissing such opinion as  Housman  (“Poetry  is  not  the  thing  said, but  a  way  of  saying  it”)  or  Geoffrey  Keynes  (who  expressed regret  that Blake had ideas to express in his otherwise charming compositions) or those who know only form or advocate art for art’s sake. Frithjof Schuon thus explains criteria of genuine art:
"Perfect art can be recognized by three main criteria: nobility of content – this being a spiritual condition apart from which art has no right to exist – then exactness of symbolism or at least, in case of profane works of art, harmony of composition, and finally purity of style or elegance of line and colour."  We can discern with the help of these criteria the qualities and defects of any work of art whether sacred or not.

M A Lakhani expresses the traditional theory of poetry in these words:"What the poet perceives is the Creative Presence of God—the inner Beauty present within the seer’s own inner being, radiating into a symbolic apprehension of the divine theophany—of God at work in all things". Perceiving things in the light of their symbolic nature, the poet apprehends that “Everything that lives is holy” (Blake). The poetic vision penetrates through to the sacred core of reality. It perceives how “God is incarnate in every human life” (Raine), and how God “plays in ten thousand places” (Hopkins), recognizing the trace of His Presence as “the dearest freshness deep down things” (Hopkins).
Poetic discernment is a form of “recollection”—it is a remembrance of who we really are and of what truly is. We might now define poetry as the vision of Creative Presence...Merton remarks: “All really valid poetry (poetry that is fully alive and asserts its reality by its power to generate imaginative life) is a kind of recovery of paradise.” Poetry can therefore be understood as expressing a nostalgia for the Spirit in the midst of ordinary things.

Poetry “is “remembrance”, both as cognitive receptivity that enables us to “see” and to “feel” the soul of things, and as the invocatory expression that “re-members” or makes whole the fragments of ordinary perception.

Poetry is, as Heaney calls it, a “revelation of the self to the self”. The poet’s “knowing” ...seeks what lies beyond merely phenomenal reality.
The poet’s “escape from personality” is simultaneously an opening into the grace of transcendence.
Poetry requires Imagination which is “the Intellect’s transcendent and translucent vision of participative Presence.” It is not given to profane people, to those who write poetry for either name or fame or money. In short: Those who truly understand poetry have tasted something of God. All great poetry is a form of Hamd or Na’t. A great poet can’t be a disbeliever. This is the judgment of all great ancient and medieval art critics and some great moderns.
 If this is the rationale or ground or warrant of poetry how would we classify much of mushaira poetry for which tax payer’s money is spent? It may fulfill the requirements of rhyme and rhythm or fayilatun fayilaat but is largely ignorant of its doctrinal counterpart – the Divine Measure, the Reference o First Principle, precise usage of symbols, moral and spiritual dimensions of life that are integrally related to artistic dimension. Sufi poets were perfectly aware of this higher calculus or fayilaatun fayilaat of Spirit to which their poetic form conformed. Many modern poets are not. They say poetry is expression of their self or personality, of emotions rather instincts. They want to exhibit their work and that too often for fame or recognition and sometimes with an eye on awards. And the huge army of modern poets express fears, complaints, frustrations, desires, passions, fragmentary views, pathological narcissism. They don’t show the path of gods as Heidegger requires. The Quran condemns poets for the reasons Plato exiles them – failure to uphold moral and intellectual ideal, expressing lower self and ignorant of higher self, lost in wild valleys of desires.  If there is only a small fraction of genuine poetry as defined above and the bulk of it is simply worth not writing or listening and ignorant of the Spirit and true beauty that poetry seeks, the question is: Are our critics keeping a watchful eye on popular poetry recitations and whether they are fully cognizant of spiritual function of poetry? Without necessarily rejecting humourous versification or romantic or sad songs or poems about secular themes – they have a place of their own – we need  to patronize great poetry and clarify what it is. We need to understand the sacred that grounds great poetry or that is sought or invoked or at least echoed in it. A sacred centric criticism of mushaira culture is called for.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Why Trust Is Gone

A common complaint today is there is no trust between people, even between relatives or close associates. In our case, we see that Kashmiris began to lose trust at the mass level in the last decade of the 20th century. Why was this so and can we do anything about it? How is it connected to the changing politico-economic scenario of the world?
First we may note that there is hardly any trust in the broader sense of the term though there is much in the narrow legalistic sense. A world made safer by technology and police and jail and what Foucault called Panoptican is not necessarily a world where trust counts. A world that can be blown up anytime by the whim of any nuclear power, a world that spends billions on checking and verifying travel documents, a world where markets are so unpredictable and crises and crashes never too far, a world that is fighting dozens of small wars at the same time, a world where regional, ethnic, tribal, religious identities are always finding it difficult to be recognized or respected, a world where nations, companies, banks, all are geared to increasing their pelf and power and that too mostly at the cost of other competitors or “neighbours,” a world where Capital rules and bends everything, including values people have cherished for millennia, a faceless world where people have always an anxiety about some identity such as the one on social networks, a world pathologically narcissistc about self-image though every institution depersonalizes at the same time as there is no trust in the uniqueness of an individual who is always to be controlled, to manipulated, a world that trusts machines and not men at every counter, a world that trusts neither God, nor his messengers, nor sages, nor wisdom of ancients, not of primordial or archaic traditions, a world that has very little space for poets whom traditionally people trusted as interpreters of gods, a world sure about only the impending doom of cold death or big crunch and that has lost all certainties including the certainty of Absolute and  objectivity that defines man as a creature with intelligence, a world in which education has no use for intangible qualities such as trust, love, grace, compassion etc is not a world where trust really matters.
Given the reign of the Media (that we may broadly define in terms of certain packaging of signs aiming at achieving certain ideological end), given universal distrust in the most influential media houses regarding their claim to objective representation (we read newspapers and watch channels that influential thinkers have charged with complicity with certain power interests), given our failure to clearly distinguish between the real and the virtual, the true and the counterfeit, given increasingly proliferating critiques of the democratic model that implies massive alienation from the governing elite and loss of faith in elected representatives meaning devoicing of a vast majority of people in the so-called welfare state, given a scenario in which a superpower has no moral authority and its discourse of human rights is exposed to be ridiculous for using double standards, and given the role of multinational corporations linked to principle of mistrust of competitor/environment, given seminal critiques of technological culture or trust in technological solutions to essentially human problems from various quarters, given pervasive mistrust in the discourse of development or myth of progress though officially, everywhere, it continues to inform policies at every level, given loss of faith in any major emancipatory narrative promised by politicians, philosophers, scientists, priests, what can be done to reclaim the lost territory of trust?
Could anything short of a project to transform the structure of economy concomitantly with transforming the moral and spiritual consciousness of an individual – in fact the whole orientation of education that currently serves to fashion people for an industrial or post-industrial economy where trust is either superfluous or absent, suffice?
If everything conspires to erode trust, we can’t just wish it back by sermons. If nothing, we can at least strengthen community spaces. That calls for proper planning at many levels. Ultimately it needs serious attention by all concerned if we are not to leave a moral and spiritual desert for posterity.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Why Kashmir Issue Mayn’t be Solved?

Today almost all of us are skeptical about the possibility of K resolution in near future? Why? Because we at least unconsciously do understand that the forces that want conflicts arestronger. That neither India nor Pakistan nor Kashmiris are really free to solve the issue. Let us try to understand the point and many related questions that we need to handle for the purpose.
Kashmir is more an economic than a political issue. There are no political issues which don’t involve mostly economic privileges. Once upon a time many people believed it is a religious issue. Later even the hardliners in religion came to understand that it should be approached as a political issue. But political issues are not very difficult to resolve. More than six decades and three wars would not be needed if it was a mere political issue that a farseeing or smart pacifist prime minister at the Centre could resolve.  Tossed among contending Stakeholders such as US, China, Pakistan, India and Capitalist forces of the whole, world the poor victims are condemned to languish. Indian politicians are themselves not quite free to solve it. They are dependent on vote bank which is moulded by economic considerations. Politics has, generally speaking, not heeded the language of morality or humanitarianism. We see exploitation of the weaker at the hands of the strong. Colonialism or neocolonialism in different guises has been in one word the history of civilizations. India is still a colonized country. It is enslaved by nationalism and the “threat” from its neighbours. And of course MNCs. War industry is holding it hostage. It has no independent will to think of its betterment. Capitalist or economic forces are dictating its policies. Politicians even if well meaning can’t afford to solve problem in the name of humanity as they are condemned to dance on the fingers of voters who have only their self interest to guide.
Can it be disputed that Kashmir conflict is, among other things, a product of changing dynamics of national and world economy. Why was there partition? Because the British wanted it. Why did they want it? Any satisfactory answer is tied to their long term economic and political interests. Why was nationalism promoted as an ideology? Again nothing explains it better than the thesis that Capitalism required it. Why were two world wars fought and India got independence following the Second World War? Why was there Hitler? Was Nazism simply a political phenomenon or did it have huge economic stakes as well? Why have dozens of small wars been fought after world war second? Around half a dozen are going on currently and if we include countless fights for identity, for human rights, for forest/land rights, for compensations we can see how the world is torn asunder by the warring economic interests?
Capitalism with its armament industry and its currency of blood needs conflicts to go on. Both India and Pakistan are colonies from a larger perspective.
Economic interests of Multinational Corporations, of the military industrial complex that defines the Superpower are hurt by solving regional disputes. Consider one point: Why a nuclear stock pile big enough to destroy the world 100 times over currently exists? How come that weapons are mostly manufactured and sold only but can’t be used till they get obsolete or rusted? In fact disputes are created despite politicians wanting to solve them. There was no need for partition. Nobody desired it. Not the least Jinah or Gandhi. He claimed that he was pushed to the wall? Why can’t the problems of tribals in India fighting for forest rights or their land be tackled? Because development needs displacing them? Why do we need development? Because of infamous Truman agenda that exported the idea of development to the “underdeveloped world to serve to create markets for American goods and long term dependency on their technology across the world. So isn’t it the question of economy? Political slogan of development, vikas, is sponsored by the needs of industry? But don’t we need industry? What industry and for what and costs on environment and human soul are important questions? Can we ignore the point that dehumanization is a product of industrialization? Why was Heidegger, arguably the greatest philosopher of Europe in the 20thcentury against technology? Why such great critics as Gill, Coomaraswamy, Guenon reject modern industrial and technological culture? So questions and questions are there.
Gandhi had dreamt that India would have very small army. He would refuse to live for a single hour in the present day India which has the second largest army in the world. There are enough stores for ammunition but not for food grains in India and rats destroy more food grains in granaries than would suffice feeding all the beggars of India. We have the largest army of beggars.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Forgotten legacy of Ibn Arabi(r.a) in Kashmir

In Kashmir we are today witnessing sectarian fights. We have largely forgotten both Rishis and the legacy of Shah-i-Hamdan and the great Sufi poets. We debate books published by lesser mortals who are neither accomplished theologians, nor metaphysicians, nor thinkers, nor even well informed regarding important things. We say this scholar or sermonizer or TV debator has said this and that. We have forgotten the adage “Never consider inferior thinkers.” We have, to give one illustration, forgotten our great predecessors like Ibn Arabi who has been decisively shaping not only Muslim thought in general but Kashmiri Muslim consciousness through the impact of Shah-i-Hamdan and most of Kashmiri Sufi poets. So let me recall our heritage and point out the great gap that exists between our aslaaf and us. The world is rediscovering Rumi and Ibn Arabi and we are debating only certain political appropriations of them. So where is an attempt to recover or even know our great intellectual and spiritual heritage in current system of education and institutions devoted to culture?  We google shallow discussions or articles on a thinker and debate about their orthodoxy without being able to give a definition of orthodoxy in intellectually respectable terms or modern idiom that other parties or modern educated audience will understand. Why don’t we care about the fact that our new generation don’t know our great predecessors. We can’t understand Shah-i-Hamdan and Kashmiri Sufi poetry without reference to Ibn Arabi.
Encyclopedic scholar, mystical philosopher, mystic, theologian, “the Seal of the Muhammeden  Saints,” Ibn ‘Arabî, known as the “Greatest Master,” is the most influential Sufi-metaphysician and the greatest exponent of Divine Love in the history of Islam. His works are arguably the deepest and densest explorations of varied dimensions of the Islamic Tradition. Though an exponent of mystical unveiling he appropriates the religion of reason of Late Antiquity and builds one of the most imposing “systems” of thought, at once rational, mystical and religious directed towards attaining the supreme aim of eudaimonia, sa’âda which has been the prerogative of traditional philosophies, religions and wisdom traditions of the world. He is, self avowedly, the heir of the prophetic and mystical wisdom of countless generations and indeed it appears that God hid nothing from him and he is undoubtedly unrivalled in unpacking multidimensional meanings and significance of Islamic tradition. Combining in himself all the traditionally recognized paths to the Ultimate Reality – mysticism, philosophy, poetry and religion – he is a man of all seasons representing Islam’s multidimensional – theological, mystical, metaphysical and aesthetical – genius and is, arguably, the medieval Islam’s greatest contribution to the world and quite relevant to the era of postmodernity. Every orthodox tradition can claim him. His notion of man is, arguably the most comprehensive in world history. He is universally orthodox. He is the conscience of world spirituality, a challenge to all secular worldviews and the central theses of rationalistic scientistic modernity and relativist postmodernity which are blatantly ignorant or choose to be ignorant of the rights and joys of the sacred or transcendence.
Ibn ‘Arabî  has impacted upon history of Islam in so decisive a way that none can separate the two. Last 800 years of a great current of Islamic thought is only a footnote on him. His Fusûs alone has received more than hundred commentaries by the best minds of Islam. He has been both praised and reviled. Some have questioned his credentials as a thinker of Islam and it is no less a thinker than Ibn Taymiyyah who stand in the opposite camp. We must not forget that it is so easy to misunderstand him or misread him and great thinkers have misread him. Regarding Ibn Taymiyyah it has been shown that he didn’t have access to the right or whole corpus of Ibn ‘Arabî  (so we can partly understand his differences) could and we must not forget that he was initiated himself in Qadri Order and Ibn ‘Arabî ’s chain of Masters includes the founder of Qadri Order.
It has rightly been remarked that the subsequent Muslim thought is largely a footnote on Ibn ‘Arabî. No other saint has written so much and that too of such a quality. He is the most prolific philosopher-mystic of history. His is the most comprehensive formulation of Islamic spirituality. Ibn ‘Arabî  demonstrates why and how Islam stands for the rights or primacy of intelligence and objectivity. He is the most universal of mystic-philosophers as he has ample room for all kinds of outsiders – atheists, heterodox thinkers, sinners etc. He is widely traveled not only on the earth – human atmosphere – but also in the heavens – divine stratosphere. He has resonances everywhere, in the universe of faiths and philosophies.
There are international societies devoted to study of him. Manybooks and research theses are devoted to him. He is approached for opening up certain knots that postmodernists find difficult to unknot. He has been subject of numerous comparative studies like those of Izatsu, Peter Coates, Nasr, Ian Almond and others.

Friday, 2 May 2014

To be or not to be a Bureaucrat in Kashmir

Reading Political theory on Ethics and Bureaucracy
Bertrand Russell has a collection of essays called Unpopular Essays. Today I am not commenting on it but attempting to write an unpopular essay. Though often reminded of Mark Twain who when asked to comment on heaven and hell said, “No comments. I have friends on either side”, I wish to express suspicions/questions that have haunted me and compelled me not to pray for success to anyone who requests when administrative exams are on. I try to pray instead with Iqbal: Meri dua hae ki teri aarzu badal jayae (I pray that your wish changes). These questions include:
•Generally speaking, masses have felt alienated from bureaucrats and great social thinkers from Marx to Max Weber to Foucault have explained why this alienation is a product of the very system. Modern democracies are controlled by the interests of the Capital or are instruments in the hands of an elite class that has ascended in social hierarchy by a system that ultimately requires disempowering people. Bureaucrats are required to execute the system?
• In a conflict situation like Kashmir where one knows that the interests of truth and power may often significantly diverge, bureaucrats unlike professionals don’t have much freedom to disagree. Curfews, taxes, special arrangements for VIPs, special concessions to particular class, drafting and implementing of schemes that are often skewed in favour of certain class and against long term interests of masses are all managed through bureaucracy.
•An economy in transition or wedded to aids and subsidies and to quotas and reservations due to vote bank interests is an issue of contradictions where neither justice nor efficiency nor welfare is truly achievable. Given the contradictions of a “graft culture” I think it is no wonder that our noblest bureaucrats repent after joining this service.
• Arguably India’s noblest politician, Gandhi, rejected bureaucracy. And he offered to clean the latrines rather than spend the day in a king’s palace. Amongst the most disturbing trends currently witnessed is temptation to join administrative jobs in our talented youth. Through this trend, our best minds are weaned away from sciences, from professional courses, from humanities and from other disciplines where creativity counts and pays and thus the basis for strong future of the State gets slackened. Let administrative jobs be progressively done by robots or computers or a system so transparent and efficient that very few overseers/overlords/supervisors/under or special or not so special secretaries are needed. Let the halo around administrative jobs be removed and see who is indeed ready to be a civil servant in the true sense. I am afraid people want to be bosses, enjoy playing a boss or afsari and perks and that is the real motivation for applying for administrative posts for many. For some noble souls, it is simply pressure to make living that forces them to apply. For some it promises a path to deliver something great. However, all will have to agree, at the end of the day, that no great revolution in history has been made by bureaucrats, that their hands or lips were tied, that they could bring few worthwhile changes (I know some of such success stories but many stories of failure or frustration).
•Bureaucratic jobs are mostly parasitic on other more productive sectors. Bureaucrats take lion’s share of expenses on fuel for vehicles but at ground level it may be the case that grassroots workers need vehicles for better delivery of work.
•The man in the bureaucrat is sacrificed at the altar of cold alienating absurd structure called governance. Governance is, most fundamentally processing of inputs and for this information processing computers and other mechanisms are best appropriated. To give just one example. Transfers and distribution of public funds for public works or ration or gas could be best made by a software to which are fed inputs left to those who can’t contribute to creative pursuits. Computers would govern us better in this respect. But much of the energy of bureaucrats goes in this uncreative endeavour.
• From home to office to rituals of bossing, note writing, discussing files and creating hurdles a bureaucrats’ life is a classic example of the absurd that Albert Camus wanted to foreground in The Myth of Sisyphus. Kafka’s disenchantment with his job is a classic example of sensitive person’s response to an alienating bureaucratic world.
• Most bureaucrats are unwanted. From under to special secretary we have many posts that are done away by Corporates but nevertheless achieve the goals – and quite speedily – set by the organization.
• I don’t deny that we need professional administrators. But I don’t think our best minds should be administrators when administration doesn’t involve, generally speaking, great innovative or creative or productive work. I doubt if, given the choice, the best mind would opt for it or find it challenging enough and I am aghast at a system that tempts or compels the best minds to try this option for the sake of dignified livelihood.
• In the din of files, meetings, letters and explanations creative faculty can’t optimally or even sub-optimally function. That is why there are very few creative works from bureaucrats and why they are not much receptive to innovative thought and projects. That is why no revolutions have been brought by bureaucrats. For them a system, received wisdom, a hierarchy, a set pattern or beaten tracts are more important. Law should be followed in letter even at the cost of its spirit.
• Chances to develop finer things and pursue refined pursuits are meagre while serving a system that is wedded to running machines and almost makes a machine out of man.
• If today our economy is under tremendous strain, debt ridden, our social system almost collapsed, our NGO culture notorious in the world, our cooperatives failing and have a poor academic culture/decadent literary or artistic scenario bureaucrats have a significant part of the guilt to shoulder. But for responsible bureaucracy there would be no beggars, no pseudomystic or cheating faith healers, no lavish wazwaans, no big houses on agricultural land.
• So I humbly request any aspirant for administrative jobs to read history of modern bureaucracy and its complicity with Capital/State Capitalism/Totalitarianism ( I think the ancient and medieval Chinese bureaucracy was somewhat different), look at long catalogue of regrets of honest bureaucrats, take note of analysis of the system by top ranking social and political theorists, count costs – moral and psycho-spiritual – one may require to pay and then opt for it.