To begin with a cliché, agriculture still remains the original culture in the sense of having discovered a working harmony with nature at various levels. From that harmony arose the essential rhythm required to build and sustain civilization. The industrial revolution dealt the first lethal blow to this rhythm, a blow from which we’ve not recovered so far. The word “revolution” is typically not associated with agriculture for a profound reason. Every revolution is a disruption whereas culture is the maintenance of order.
A marked outcome of the industrial revolution, which grew on the tombstone of the Christian darkness of Europe was the eventual erasure of the Classical Life without which the industrial revolution itself would not have possible. Classical life was the seed and the bedrock of the Renaissance, which was succeeded by the so-called age of Enlightenment.
Our story roughly begins after this: specifically, around the French Revolution.
For the first time in human history, a new class, or a new species came into existence. In its infancy, this new class hadn’t acquired the pervasive moniker that over the last two hundred years has become a global phenomenon and a force for unmitigated evil and the cause of several blood-soaked wars and genocides. Used as a collective noun, this class is known as Intellectuals.
And for the first time in human history, this class declared that all knowledge, wisdom and virtue of the ages were primitive, useless, restrictive, and oppressive, and therefore had to be discarded. The brilliant P. Johnson characterizes this class as follows:
There’s a deep-seated reason why this new class advised society to discard past wisdom: hubris and inferiority complex. Till their arrival, the people that society looked towards for guidance, solace and succour were “men of God,” i.e., soothsayers, savants, monks, mystics, philosophers and poets in the true sense. These guides of society considered themselves as servants of the innate divinity manifest in all of creation. Their job was to merely interpret the message of this divinity to the best of their ability with utmost humility. None of them were imbued with the hubris that they alone had the “final” answer to all problems of humankind.
However, the selfsame unaided intellect of this new species not only appropriated the role of these servants of God but arrogated Godhood to themselves by waging war against God and destroying him. They were neo-Prometheuses: from Wolfgang von Goethe who accused and challenged God in his Prometheus up to Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound where his hero snatches the fire of the Gods and brings it to mankind.
Thus, Goethe writes what can only be termed as adolescent rebellion:
Cover thy spacious heavens, Zeus,
With clouds of mist,
And like the boy who lops
The thistles' heads,
Disport with oaks and mountain-peaks;
Yet thou must leave
My earth still standing;
My cottage, too, which was not raised by thee;
Leave me my hearth,
Whose kindly glow
By thee is envied.
Unlike in Aeschylus’s original classic, Shelley’s Prometheus does not reconcile with Jupiter (or Zeus) in the end. On the contrary, Shelley makes Jupiter lose all his power by making his supportive elements abandon him. Stripped of all its dazzling jewellery, Promethus Unbound is essentially a political poem and his hero is a leader, redeemer, and victor of an intellectual revolution that leads mankind to true equality and utopia. Like his compatriots of the era, Shelley was also deeply delusional making pompous proclamations like, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” a sharp and yawning contrast with the Sanatana tradition where poets are akin to Rishis and givers of Darshana.
What is noteworthy among Goethe, Shelley and their ilk is how they fall back upon pre-Christian Greek and Roman lore to reject what is essentially a Christian God who dumped Europe into a millennial pit of murk, ignorance, and Church-inflicted superstition and disease. Greek and Roman Gods like Zeus and Jupiter are not the jealous male God of Christianity who has no form and therefore no beauty. It is incredible to believe that Shelley & Co weren’t aware of this basic, straightforward distinction. But to their credit, they also mercilessly lampooned the Church and the clergy.
However, what better alternative did they offer given the fact that they had usurped the role of being the guides, reformers, redeemers and heralds of a Brave New Utopia? The usurpation was built on the debris of a wholesale dismissal of the past including all that was good and noble and magnanimous and virtuous enshrined in it. In its essential consequence, it was akin to the destruction of grand Hindu temples by marauding Islamic vandals who could build nothing remotely better to replace them.
For about three centuries, France retained its preeminent throne as the global wrecker of social order, a wreckage singularly accomplished by generations of intellectual theorists whose original granddaddy was Jean Jacques Rousseau. His imprint remains intact till date.
Rousseau vastly burnished the work pioneered by another Frenchman, Voltaire, the original iconoclast who said that reason alone would supply all answers to all problems plaguing humankind. But with a caveat: they, the intellectuals were the sole repositories of reason. With the benefit of the same three centuries of history, it is reasonable to conclude that this new species of intellectuals was the new Prophet Mohammad of a new Godless religion with none of the tempering restraints of religion.
In many of firsts, Jean Jacques Rousseau unilaterally affirmed his right to reject the existing order in its entirely and rebuild it from the ground up. And how did he propose to rebuild it? By applying “principles” that he himself had fashioned. And what gave him this right? His abiding love for humanity, confidence in the power of reason, and the infallibility of his powers as a reformer and intellectual. The two most influential products of this sort of armchair theorising were Emile (or On Education) and The Social Contract. But who or what would enable this level of grand and sweeping “reform?” Answer: politics. Thus, Rousseau is also the progenitor of the common but highly accurate perception about intellectuals: that they are failed politicians.
There is no greater proof of Rousseau’s destructive role and legacy than the fact that he was indirectly responsible for engineering the bloody French revolution. He died much before the revolution but the ideas that espoused and propagandised throughout his life led to it. Here is the tribute of the mass-murderer Robespierre, to Rousseau:
Rousseau didn’t go unchallenged both in his own lifetime and later but some of the ideas that he seeded eventually grew into monstrous trees which are yet to be felled. Perhaps they never can be.
For instance, the system of education that most of the world follows today can be traced back to Rousseau. Second, he is still the patron saint of revolutions, in a broad sense. Any progress for the good in societies and countries happens gradually, slowly, and organically, necessitates sacrifices, and demands generational patience. Rousseau was the master of impatience: the good had to happen overnight and revolution was the preferred method. Third, he was the forerunner of the brand of individualist literature that dismisses or denounces classical and epic themes preferring to focus on the trials and sufferings and perversions of the individual protagonist. The fourth has proved perhaps the deadliest: arguing that man’s innate selfishness leads to hoarding, mindless acquisition and destructive competition, Rousseau concluded that private property is the source of all this evil. This was the fertile soil that Karl Marx later ploughed and extracted a substantial harvest.
The iconic D.V. Gundappa provides one of the most incisive critiques of the damage that Rousseau has wreaked upon the world. Writing as early as the 1930s, DVG says:
Johnson is brutal:
This became the cardinal mantra for all intellectuals ever since. Apart from operating as messiahs and prophets, intellectuals also performed the role of the surgeons of the society using politics as their scalpel. As history shows, every single surgery they have performed, patients have haemorrhaged or bled to death.
Chief among the distinctive traits that these intellectuals embody is the impossible assumption of creating utopia based upon pure fantasy, which wears the garb of what they call “ideas.” The fantasy-turned-idea then becomes a “theory” cooked inside the kitchens of their idle, impatient, and delusional heads. The ultimate utopian goal is the same: a new world of milk and honey and love and compassion and brotherhood and equality with politics as the vehicle to usher in this world. The reality of these three centuries is the lived proof of this utopian failure, a failure of genocidal proportions precisely because this fantasy was attempted to be implemented.
Small wonder that Walter Benjamin characterised these intellectuals as people with “spectacles on their noses and autumn in their hearts.”
The other great forte of these intellectuals is making sweeping generalisations about entire societies, history, and the world itself. These are truly delusions of grandeur and magnificence of untested abstractions: no “idea” is concrete, specific and none can be placed in the real, practical world. What follows from this is that other specialty: passing uninformed judgements on things which they’re ignorant about. Faithfully following a mixture of Rousseau’s half-baked demagoguery, they consecrate oppression as if it is a holy creed while pretending to “fight” against it.
And finally, over these three centuries, their credo, derived from the aforementioned fantasies and delusions, has become a self-serving superstition, whose sexed-up version is calculatedly inflicted upon young and impressionable minds.
The progenitor of this infliction is another Frenchman, Jean Paul Sartre, the seminal granddaddy of today’s liberal wokes.
To be continued
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