Age of Reason
By Shyam Nityanand Das
There is no age of reason. It is an imperialist construct. Reason is a faculty of human mind and so is superstition. Indeed, the dichotomy between reason and superstition is determined by the historical consciousness, controlled by the most powerful productive forces at a historical moment. So, knowledge cannot be separated from power. Indeed, power determines what is reason and what is superstition. This capacity to control the faculties of human mind is called hegemony.
The so-called age of reason actually is the age of imperialism. Imperialism is a highly discriminatory and exploitative system. It can be distinguished, in the scale of human suffering, from the earlier distorted systems like slave-owning city-states, followed by classical empires (Mediterranean); imperial Confucianism and neo Confucianism (Far East); mysticism-ritualism-casteism (Indian sub-continent); church-feudal dyarchy (Medieval Europe); Islamic theocracies and autocracies (Middle East) and many forms of tribalism, animism and paganism. It is the most inegalitarian, unjust and illiberal, and also the bloodiest age in human history. The irony is that the unimagined scale of discrimination, exploitation and suffering has been achieved, not only through coercion but also blind participation of the victims.
Imperialism was born when mercantile capitalism of the white race, from the 16th to 18th century, armed with scientific inventions like compass (for navigation or looting), gunpowder (for warfare or killing), printing (for proselytisation or spiritual enslavement), and decimal numbers (for calculating the scale of looting, killing and enslavement),[strangely all four inventions were pirated from the Orient when there was no Intellectual Property Right] subjugated the other races, exterminating the red, enslaving the black, impoverishing the brown and harassing the yellow. The three centuries of banditry enriched the new Occidental elite, the merchants and lawyers. Strangely, vast majority of white men still remained in abject poverty, illiteracy and disease. The contradictions between the new and the old (church-feudal) elites, the elite and the masses and among the coalitions of the three divided along nationalities ravaged the West. This was a period of war and revolution.
Technology, organisation and mass hysteria became the weapons of the new elite in the 19th century, as they refined and systematised the methods of exploitation, developing industrial capitalism. Industries were fed by the indigenous white labour and the raw-materials produced in white settlements or non-white colonies. The proletariat, settlements and colonies also became the market for the industrial products. The wealth began to flow from the periphery (colonies) to the core (industrial centres), impoverishing the once developed Oriental and pre-American civilisations. But this evident form of barbarism self-labelled itself as the only civilisation through cultural hegemony. A system of steamships, railways and telegraph was developed, alongwith education system and civil and military services dominated by Occidental ideas, strategies and personnel. However, coercion alone would have made the process unsustainable, so the co-optation principle was adopted to accommodate the new comprador class in the colonies (in India, the babus and after 1947, the brown sahibs). This new class had an Oriental body but an Occidental heart. Hence, a torn identity, fluctuating between Western ‘reason’ and Eastern ‘superstition’, was established.
At the end of the 19th century (Victorian age), the imperialist project encompassed the entire earth. The scale and intensity of exploitation necessitated the emergence of banks, stock markets and paper currency. Speculation became the most lucrative avenue to amass wealth. Finance capitalism was led by large corporations and international bankers. Industries used assembly lines for mass production and advertisement was used to encourage consumerism. It was a period of the greatest human miseries involving two World Wars, Great Depression, Holocaust, genocides, ethnic and racial riots, xenophobic violence, atomic warfare, famines, etc. Socialism took advantage of the horrible effects produced by capitalist greed, lust and competition, promising a utopian dream based on the same principle of materialism. It created further imperialism (Soviet empire), wars, genocides, famines and exploitation. But the elite, both colonial and colonised, prided on its achievements in popular culture, science and technology and corporate and bureaucratic management, carrying on the abuse in the name of high principles like civilisation, nationalism, liberalism and socialism.
The devastation of the first half of the 20th century exposed the weaknesses of imperialism. The colonised elite turned against its colonial masters. The Third World nationalism adopted the modernisation principle, whether in the form of capitalist democracy, socialist authoritarianism or mixed economic-political system. What followed was a new type of imperialism, indirect, consensual, gradual, subtle, cultural and spiritual. Capitalism entered the phase of interdependency (among the imperialist powers) and dependency (of the periphery on the core, alongwith emergence of semi-periphery). The imperial powers (the white West) remained the core, the Third World industrial and commercial centres became the semi-periphery and the vast hinterland (where the overwhelming majority of the population, say 90% resided) was the periphery, totally deprived of its self-sufficient traditional economic, social and political structures. The communist elite preferred autarky and mutual co-operation, cut off from the imperialist metropolis, but squeezed to the last drop the sweat and blood of the peasants and unorganised working class, to maintain their bureaucratic hegemony and utopian five year plans. The Cold War created a new military-industrial complex, which led to vertical and horizontal proliferation of lethal weapons, profiting the imperialists and causing numerous wars and genocides in the Third World, far greater than in the two World Wars. Modernisation destroyed the cultural fabric of all nations, leading to commodification of women and destruction of stable families (in the name of feminism), ruination of social harmony, increasing prostitution, drug abuse, drunkenness, criminalisation and corruption, supportlessness of the orphaned, aged and disabled, etc. Finally, the ecological balance was irreversibly damaged, the natural resources depleted, the land, water, air, the entire living space polluted (through fertilizers, pesticides, industrial waste, carbon emissions, etc.), and numerous species of flora and fauna exterminated.
The 1970s was a period of great turmoil due to unsustainability of state-centric neoimperialism, which lost support even in the imperialist countries where the traditional society was totally uprooted. An age of extremes set in. On the one hand, radical values like teenage sex, abortion rights, homosexuality, nudity, pornography, etc. became more acceptable; on the other, religious fundamentalism re-emerged to salvage the remaining traces of human civilisation. Governments issued currencies, no longer backed by any hard assets and maintained huge budget deficits simply by printing notes (in developed and crude-oil importing emerging economies). Individuals, corporations and nations got so entangled into consumerism that they carried debts to maintain a modern lifestyle. This was the most unstable period in history for the masses, with financial crises occurring every few years. Globalisation, privatisation and informatisation processes has led to the creation of a new globalist elite, totally separated from its cultural roots, while billions die of riots, starvation and disease. The eco-system is on the verge of collapse with tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, forest fires, pandemics and extreme climatic conditions commonplace occurrences.
We live in a hierarchical, hegemonic and neoimperialist global order. The Western elite (joined by Japanese and a few others) are at the top with control over the information and communication industries, global financial corporations, high-tech production and popular brands. Among the emerging economies, China is the factory of the world and India the international BPO, while others like Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. are suppliers of precious energy resources and Australia (still, a white settlement) is an exporter of agricultural goods. Most countries are subsistence economies, relying on whatever incentives they have for earning a living, like agriculture, animal-rearing, mining or tourism. Disparities are quite strong within a country, e.g. a management professional in Mumbai lives an extravagant Westernised lifestyle, while a Vidarbha farmer is forced to commit suicide due to unpayable debt. The globalist elite of bankers, industrialists and media barons is assisted by organic intellectuals and professionals to maintain this repressive system. The middle class struggles day and night to save some money, so that their next generation may get modern education to join the organic class. The vast majority lives on less than what is required by their bodies, with almost no opportunity to rise on the economic ladder.
What is called the age of reason may also be seen as the age of superstition. The external features of reason and superstition may change, but their inherent functions in human mind remain the same. Contemporary homo sapiens have become blind slaves of their senses, carried away by needless consumption, far beyond any rational calculation, totally devastating the biosphere and exploiting their fellow species. The whole system of exploitation has become very sophisticated, with the exploiters always claiming high moral ground. Let us discuss some examples:
1. The elite and their organic servants murder billions of animals everyday for satisfying their palate. But they eat at McDonald’s, KFC or a five-star hotel, where the course is served well-cooked and decorated to hide the ghastliness of the horrible sin.
2. They maintain large philanthropic foundations to help the needy, whose needs are created by them. Without them, the villages would be self-sustaining units and there would be no urban slums and impoverished migrant workers. They have even forced the governments to stop funding schools and hospitals and subsidising agriculture. As a result, people have become needy and they offer some token gift to earn a name as a philanthropist.
3. The tobacco and alcohol companies package and advertise their products as health hazards, yet selling it to the public for huge profits.
4. People are allured to consume useless junk like tea, coffee, chocolate, aerated drinks, fast food, etc.
5. China maintains a firewall that stops unwanted cyber intrusion into its society, while other governments pretend helplessness as the children are fed on pornography, violence and unsocial values (disrespecting parents and teachers, preferring enjoyment to responsibilities, etc.).
6. People are victimising themselves by becoming slaves of modern gadgets and edibles that ruin their immune system and make them dependent, when they could easily do without them.
7. Women are enticed to get out of their homes, so that the elite and the organic class can satisfy their unholy desires. Although promised the moon, many women end up in positions, which exploit their sexuality for corporate gains.
8. The organic class claims that the life expectancy has improved (in India, from 40 years to 65 years), smallpox and other deadly diseases have been eradicated. But the reality is that nature always maintains a balance in the population of a species, unless disturbed by external factors like climate change, destruction of habitat, physical slaughter, etc. The life expectancy has improved because billions of babies are murdered within the mothers’ wombs (abortion); therefore, the natural infant mortality rate has improved. People live worse lives than the pre-industrial age, with the alarming numbers suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, cancer, obesity, impotency, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, asthma, hyper-acidity and so on.
9. Extravagant marriages, dowry deaths, wasteful festivals and parties, alcoholism, cheating religious cults, corrupt politicians, etc. are all products of the consumerist contemporary culture.
Anyway, the list can go on and on. Are these tendencies based on reason? Any intelligent person can appreciate the wisdom of the Upanishads, Vedanta-sutra, Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic literature because they expose our exploitative mentality. But an organic individual who is addicted to sense gratification and exploitation of the masses to serve his corporate bosses may not appreciate the Vedic wisdom because it threatens his desired existence. Indeed, the Vedic reason is antithetical to contemporary superstition based on scientism, parasitism and hellism. The Vedas teach that:
1. We should live according to religious principles, maintaining harmony in nature, our bodies and minds, livelihood, enjoyment, renunciation, etc.
2. We should maintain two levels of identity, one occupational and other spiritual. All other identities are based on false consciousness and cause social disturbance.
3. Spiritual identity is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. It springs forth our relationship with God and is eternal. It can be identified with our serving tendency, as opposed to exploitative tendency.
4. Serving tendency involves giving pleasure to the supreme beloved, God. It is the ultimate religious principle and the primary cause of harmony.
5. God is one from whom everything emanates. He is a person. He thinks. He desires. He loves. He serves. He creates. He also kills and destroys.
6. Since we are parts of God, we also are persons, displaying qualitatively similar symptoms. But we are not as great as God. We can never be the source of all that exists. We are a tiny part of God’s existence.
7. Matter is also an energy of God. It is real and so meant to serve God. The intelligent souls, being unselfishly motivated, continuously serve and glorify God. They see him in everything and use everything in his service.
8. The Vedas contain the contemplation and cognition of God. The intelligent beings study the Vedas and learn about God’s being and his mind. They also consult those superiors who are experts in knowing God’s mind and learn to serve from them.
9. The world is full of cheaters and the cheated. We must have reason to identify and expose them and lead truly worthy lives defying their conclusions.
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