Clash of Civilizations and the losing battle of Indian liberalism and secularism
I have been reading Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of civilizations recently and this is what struck me.
Huntington argues that once any country crosses the tipping point in modernization it will start rejecting westernization and also most of the values that come with it. He says there are two fold reasons for this.
- As countries grow more and more competent and modern in terms of economy, military power etc ( i.e their hard power increases), they will start becoming more assertive and proud of their own culture and values and will actively try to portray, protect and progress their own culture, religion, way of life and language.
- Modernization tends to alienate and isolate large groups of people because of urbanization and technological advancement. During these times, people crave for a sense of identity and a cultural collective and this will lead to the revival of cultural and religious fundamentalism among its population as religion and culture offer this lost sense of identity that they crave.
A= Rejectionist Response — neither modernized nor westernized
B= Kemalist Response — Both go hand in hand
C= Reformist Response — Modernization without westernization
D= Cultural Westernization without Technical Modernization
E= Initial Westernization to cultivate modernization followed by move to preserve important elements of indigenous culture
Huntington argues that most countries follow the A-E path. As they grow more modern there will come a time where there would be a movement to preserve the indigenous culture.
It looks like right now India is in this inevitable phase of revival.
The overwhelming majority with which the ruling right wing fundamentalist party has won the recent elections undoubtedly has a cultural aspect to it, despite what most voters may claim. Apart from the “progress and growth” narrative, there lies an underlying cultural statement that stands as a testimony to majority voters’ revived interest in nationalism and also religious fundamentalism.
Now the question is — Is the Indian liberal and secular bloc fighting a losing battle? Is this inevitable? Is this a force of nature, a natural order of things, a phase in the cycle of civilization — as Huntington predicts?
So is the jingoism supposed to be expected? All the intolerance towards minorities, re-writing of academic text books, sudden surge in respect for cows and rising pseudo science and false pride — Is all this part of a wave that needs to run its course?
And if yes- then should the liberals and seculars stop focusing their efforts in trying to prevent these sentiments from becoming commonplace and instead look into effectively managing this phase? If there is no way to prevent the saffronization (for the lack of better term) of public sentiments, then should they, for now be only trying to make sure that these sentiments don’t make their way into judiciary and governance?
Should we as a country treat this as an oddity on the journey, a necessary wrinkle in the process of figuring out our identities and assertiveness? Should we wait till the storm weathers out and we all figure out our place in this world or is there still a way one can shape how we would see ourselves in the future?