Thoughts on “civilization”

The language imperialism of the West is not over

The conflict of Reason and Emotion in human decision making when Time, Space and Life throw situations on them, could be noticed at all levels- as small as wishing a fellow competitor- “All the best” before an interview, instead of “All the worst”, to as large as taking a road less travelled.

For the purpose of this essay, Reason could be understood as the feature of human mind wherein the mind thinks and does some analysis of the situation, and makes a judgement of the situation. Reason is different from instincts in the sense that the mind consciously stops so that it can undertake the thinking exercise and then judge. Emotion refers to the unquantifiable feeling that the humans experience in reaction to a particular situation. It is the experience of the feeling, as a response to a particular situation.

Understanding human experience cant but be linked to understanding the way Man feels and then reacts to the situation providing the experience. Going forward in the essay, I would like to present some thoughts on the question of God; the nature of expression, value systems; their universality; the pivotal role that language plays in a culture; and so on.

Reason and Emotion:

With Modernity spilling water on traditions, Humanity’s fire on traditions gave place to a belief in the ability of Reason to understand the world better and more. The Descartes’ notion- “I think; therefore I am” has led to the Modernity and in practice, the scientific discoveries like Gravity and Heliocentric nature of Solar System are path-breaking examples wherein scientific thinking has surprised humanity time and again, and also provided hope in the instrument called Reason to understand the creator of this Universe, aka God.

Nature already exists and human endeavours have shown that there is an evidence of certain laws in which Nature operates. These fixed laws, which are static in Time and Space have led to

Reason asks for evidence to prove a hypothesis. However, though there is no evidence that Reason has the ability to decipher the creation, the faith in Reason makes humanity spend billions on space research and hence the question of God seems to have been captured by the Physicists from the domain of Philosophers.

The question of God is not solved by Reason yet

Reason is a result of human interaction with nature, wherein humans are not self sufficient and need the support of nature and also fellow humans to survive- a notion held by Aristotle and appears sensible even today, despite the progress of human civilization for 2,000 years after Aristotle. Dependency on nature is very inherent in human life.

Man needs to act to make his life possible. While man interacts with nature to satisfy his needs like food and shelter, inevitably, Reason takes dominance as the object on which man acts has no mind of its own. Or, when the object has mind, humans dominate over them. However, once the force is applied on nature, nature reacts based on the amount of the force that is applied and gives man what he deserves. Force is the language between Man and Nature.

Man’s interaction with nature is exclusively rational and objective and man nurtures Reason more and more while interacting with it. The relationship is based either out of fear, or domination. Fear occurs everywhere where Man cannot dominate and Force is the medium of domination. Nurturing Reason also leads to cause and effect relations, connected by the medium of force. Further, Man needs collective support as s/he can apply collective force and reap more benefits from it. Man also develops solidarity with the fellows for the same reason and hence Reason becomes the cause of social associations. This way Reason, and Nature are intrinsically linked in human interactions with Nature.

Reason, once nurtured through cause and effect, also makes Man question the reason for Life and Existence, as Reason envisages that Creation should have a Creator. This inevitably leads to the question of God, Life and Death. If one believes in Reason, it becomes imperative to apply the logic of cause and effect and ponder about God.

However, God could be both natural and supernatural. Super natural is the area, which Man has not understood through Reason. Or, it is such area, which Reason cannot comprehend. Everything that is comprehended by Reason has a reason preceding it. However, for supernatural things, the reason which precedes the existence cannot be understood. For instance, the reason for Gravity cannot be understood, while one can comprehend the reason for a computer- which is a human creation.

Further, man has no knowledge on the ability of Reason to understand the phenomenon of God, as Reason is proved to be applicable only to the limits of man’s interaction with nature. The ability of Reason to understand the reason for things beyond human creation is not proven yet. For example, the reason for procreation is not understood yet, though the phenomenon could be understood by Medicine.

Reason is the only tool humans have and it is applicable only to natural existence. If God is understood as supernatural, Reason cannot be applied to God, as supernaturality is not the domain of Reason. Hence, one has to believe in God without applying Reason.

However, if Reason really has the capacity to understand God, the linear backward chain of Creator and Creation leads to a Creator standing at the infinity and hence one can argue that Reason can’t be applied to God, as infinity is beyond Reason. Hence God can’t be natural. But still, if God is natural somehow and Reason has not proved the existence of God yet, one has to believe in the existence of God till it is proved by Reason. Reason necessitates a belief in God, till it is discovered with improvement of knowledge.

Further, Reason cannot work as objectively in a social association, as the subject and the object both have minds and intentions to control each other. Humans also need an understanding of themselves, while they interact amongst themselves. But because of the inability of Reason to help humans understand themselves, Emotion becomes relevant.

Reason and Emotion are parts of human expression. When Man expresses his/her experience, the aspects which could not be expressed because of his incapacity to express, stays within as emotion. The rational part leads to the creation of aspects related to utility and conflict like Fear, while the emotional part created out of helplessness of Reason leads to aspects related to attachment and social cohesion like Love.

Another dimension of relevance is: Human experience. Since human experience is a prerequisite for the development of Reason and Emotion, both of them cannot be applied to understand God as Humans have not experienced God. Humans have an experience of only the creation of God. There is no experience of God in its physical form to apply Reason and still since the idea of God is a creation of Reason, humanity has also not been able to deny the existence of God, though not proven. Since experience is a prerequisite for the application of Reason, Reason cannot be applied to the question of God. The faith in logic and belief in human abilities to decipher creation and hence the creator, keep the human efforts alive.

Hence, as of now, only belief can be applied to God.

The vitality and inadequacy of Language:

While the social association has products of both Reason and Emotion, they are manifested in different forms. Where Man feels confident to express something on his own, he creates a basic set of sounds through vocals, called Language, to communicate with other humans to enrich the experience of life while participating in a social association.

Language represents to social consciousness

Language is created empirically based on the mutual need of humans leading them to participate in the society. The participation leads to an understanding of humans about themselves- whether their nature or their needs. In the effort to express what s/he experiences, man understands himself. All understanding of the experience is a feature of Reason. Further, Language reflects the overall needs of the social association and also the emotional states experienced by the individuals involved in the society. Since language is empirical, it is also rational.

Further, since language is a creation of rationality, everything that is communicated through language can only be rational. Language gives a rational status to emotions as they acknowledge their existence and put them into a discussion. Existence of language also tells that humans have
things in common and a generalization is also possible. It also emphasizes that a social association is a rational association as it stands on the footings of language. In the normal course of life, individuals participate in Language and react to it. Such participation in language is a craft, where the craft can
help individuals fulfil their needs better.

However, language is not complete as humans do not have full knowledge of themselves. Only the creator, believing there is one, has full knowledge of the creation. Since the language of God is complete, even when God communicates to humans, humans cannot understand the language of
God till God gives the needed abilities to humans to understand him/her. Hence, as social progress takes place in terms of humans understanding more about themselves, it inevitably leads to improvement in the language and at the end makes the language adequate when the God is discovered and presents them with full knowledge, if s/he intends. The social consciousness of an individual is circumscribed by the language that s/he participates in, during his period of life.

Where Language is not enough, man participates in other forms like Arts: poetry, paintings and so on to communicate. Art is another feature of enrichment of the experience of Life. Completeness of life is not possible till one participates in Art, as total expression is not possible without Art due to the inadequacy of language. However, one need not learn the existing art forms of the day to express oneself totally. One just participates in aspects of expression based on the natural amenities available to him/her, in one’s leisure, at one’s will.

Do Universal values exist?

Gandhi denied the western civilization as a “Good idea”

What follows is that, there is no universal language- as language is created locally based on the needs of individuals and also the nature of the social association. Value systems are a set of common principles to make a social association possible. They are a means of convenience and self preservation for humans. Since Value systems cannot be rationalized beyond a point, there can be different sets of Values which make a collective life possible, while the differences in Values across cultures are equally justified. Within a particular culture, Values are not questioned, or put to test as language has already incorporated those values into its ‘self’ and gives them a rational status.

For one’s own culture, since language is rational, the values also appear rational and since rationality has a universal applicability, every culture perceives their value systems to be universally applicable.

However, a conflict arises when a new culture is encountered. Since the alien language, or the language of the ‘others’ is new, the local culture puts the Values of the alien language to question, based on the local standards and way of life. Values can never appear rational from the point of view of an alien language, till the local language does not assimilate the values of ‘others’ into its own language. Hence, the language in which we communicate becomes vital in examining different cultures.

Inevitably, the culture which overpowers the other culture politically, forces it’s culture and language onto ‘others’- when there is enough scope for such a force. For example, ‘Human Rights’ may appear as a higher value than the ‘Dharma’, when the discussion happens in English- as the language already
rationalized the ‘Human Rights’ of Western Individualism- though any Value can inherently be never rationalized. English language also brings along other values, which it rationalised, like the ‘individuality’ with it into the discussion. The bias of the language cannot be avoided as the language of communication makes particular values rational, and hence it calls for a new language, by
assimilating both the languages to give due emphasis, compare and benefit from the values of both cultures- argued on the footings of Reason.

There are no universal values unless God gives them to humans.

The Indian context:

The English domination in the world unavoidably rationalizes the western values, through its language, and also places them on a higher pedestal, while it attained global domination on the economic front. Language is a social force applied on the individuals, leading to the behaviour change in terms of the value systems.

Family values and Varna Dharma are among the features of ancient Indian society

In the Indian context, with a colonial history and acceptance of English as the predominant language, it inevitably leads to undermining the local values associated like family values, collective living, social acceptance and so on, as against liberty, individuality, independency and so on of the English, as rationality of language brings legitimacy to a value system.

The Universality of the value systems of the West would not be possible without the economic domination, as there is nothing of inherent merit in a value system- which ultimately thrives on the belief systems of people, which cannot be reasoned beyond a point.

It becomes imperative for the post colonial nations to understand the social systems not through the western language, but through their local language so as to avoid the language imperialism of the West. For instance, one cannot equate the Indian value system like ‘Dharma’ to any other value system from the West like the ‘Religion’ or ‘Justice’- because both of them are a result of different social settings. Due to the practical aspects that English is the mainstream language, if Hinduism is considered as a Religion, inevitably we put them to discussion with other religions like Christians and Islam on the standards of a Religion.

Unless we have a language which assimilates both the Western value systems and the Oriental, one cannot benefit from an impartial discussion. Inevitably such a confrontation appropriates Hindu Dharma to the notion of Religion of the west and the Dharma becomes diluted. Conversely, when we call the ‘others’ as Dharmas and look at them from the eye of Hinduism, Religions cannot qualify as Dharmas. They cannot qualify as a Dharma, like Dharma cannot qualify as a religion. To counter the linguistic imperialism, the approach of the indigenous cultures should be to call the ‘others’ as Christian Dharma and Islamic Dharma.

Language is not just a medium of communication, but an instrument of social change. Dharma and Religion may overlap since both are social institutions, but the whole comparison can take a new form if it is done in Sanskrit for Hinduism and Arabic for the Islam, as against English(or Greek, or Hebrew?) for the Christians.

The Constitution as a colonial legacy

Indian state constituted from the Constitution is not value neutral, as values like Democracy, Equality of status and of opportunity, fundamental rights are embedded in the state. The Indian idea of Secularism takes a patriarchal approach accepting the superiority of the values of the constitution over the cultural values of the locals like the issue of prohibition of menstruating women from entering Ayyappa temple. The state measures them against the standard of the western value systems.

To be contd…

How to deal with conflict of value systems in a multicultural society

Multi cultural systems have different cultures operating side by side. For instance, in India, one can find monogamy in Hindus against the polygamy of the Muslims. The state has a value system inherited from the colonial system. Since the role the state plays has the support of state, they can be cosidered to be the ultimate prevailing value systems. However, when state has no value system, the state must leave it to the cultures to deal with themselves. But if the state chooses to uphold a value system, it has to interfere in the cultural systems through the force of Law.

To be contd…