Today, India is recreating the European ideologies of right, and thus continuing the colonial subservience that got established in this land many centuries ago: in the claims for what is truly desi, or Bharatiye, India is becoming Europeanised. Hence, it is important once again to understand what is meant by “right”, and what it is predicated on, the “left”. Thereafter, I shall give a call for a new right to emerge, one that is born from Asian ethos, whether it be India, China or Southeast Asia, whether it be dharma or li.
First, let’s understand the “right”, and its progenitor of sorts, the “left”. For that to happen, one must glance briefly (for want of time) the European meaning, context and history of “religion”. Europe has for a long, long time believed in what is tangible: hence, it demands references. Hence, Christ, even if he rejected miracles, did perform many, including the Final Resurrection, in the official Church narrative, and so do the saints continue. Thus, Christianity moved away from spiritual content, from Christ himself: to orthodoxy and ritual-making, and further on to missionary activity and urges of superiority. Christianity became a power-play: to some extent, any religion, whenever institutionalised, is, but Christianity also got stripped of its spiritual core, which is the life of a religion. That is why, today, most people in those lands which practised it have turned away from it: rituals cannot hold sway over anyone. Islam, on the other hand, for a comparison, though also very much beholden to power-play from its origins itself and heavily relying again on moral laws and rituals, retains its spiritual core: and hence its sway. These are the two great religions (in terms of number of followers) that the world has seen, apart from Buddhism, which though retains many of its philosophical concepts quite alive to be purely classified as a religion. To classify the breadth of Hindu thought as a religion is a mistake, so I wouldn’t discuss it here, though sects of the Hindu tradition do fall under the definition, but still loosely. To go back to the history and context of religion as understood in the West, religion was the reason, or the excuse, for a lot of blood-shedding. An excuse for the Crusades was religion: and even today, Europe is afraid of that happening yet again. (As usual, geography plays always the supreme role.) Since religion became a tool of power, and those holding religious office mere corrupt functionaries wielding or selling their influence, Europe lurched from one bloody pogrom or war to another. England and France kept on fighting, and so did England and Scotland, since Christianity got divided into several strands; the Spanish Inquisitions and the horrors of the Nazi regime were all in the name of religion, and in fact were aided by religion. Truth-seekers, such as mystics or scientists, were often patronised, but were also often persecuted: as happens today as well, but not in one name anymore. Thus rose something called “humanism” in Europe: ironically in a very cruel French Revolution and its aftermath. The first humanists were anything but humanists, and they seldom are even today. As science progressed, the form of tangibles in which Europe had always reposed faith also changed. Miracles could not be proved, were always hearsay for the one who hadn’t witnessed them, and, most importantly, were often not reproducible: instead, technological miracles, such as your microwave oven or portable phone, were reproducible, reliable and life-facilitating in many cases. Thus, science, and even more so technology, became bedrocks of this new humanism: and anything tainted with religion started to be viewed with “tolerance”, with suspicion in other words. As power always lags behind societal changes, apart from Robespierre, it still was in the hands of kings and priests and men: it was not in the hands of an ambitious man from the streets, of an educated professor or of a woman. Thus, a new movement, called the “left”, arose: predicated on hate, or suspicion at least, of religion, mysticism and je ne sais quoi. Instead, the left advocated progress that can be measured with better tangibles, with je sais: thus, money became the substitute for happiness, income equality replaced family warmth, and gender equality rhetoric suppressed many natural inclinations. Science was further funded by the left, which dominated academia: biological, philosophical, anthropological and psychological studies furthered all that the left argued for. While championing free thought, the left made sure that anything said out of sync is removed: so a CEO of a company, if he expresses his own opinion that gay is sickness, is removed as it’s deemed to be too outrageous, and similarly a Google employee is removed for expressing some more aspects of the gender equality argument. Thus, only a certain subset of tangibles came to be viewed in favour, not all. In the meanwhile, of course, all that was not in the space of the accepted tangibles was thrown in the court of the newly crowned “right”: who were not necessarily spiritual, but were just not deemed to be worthy enough of entering the left club. Thus, mass murderers or terrorists would be classified as “right”, considering that they were acting from religious impulses. Religion became “right”, antagonism to religion became “left” (thus the classification of Stalin or Mao as leftist type of mass murderers). But what if some religion did not preach hate of others, did not ask for converting others to something, did not deem others’ beliefs to be inferior? What if one did not have a religion?
Hence, we need a new right, our right, in Asia. India did not have a religion till it was told by its invaders and colonisers that it had one. It did not have national boundaries, either. China did not, and does not still have, a religion. In Hindi, one uses “dharma” today to translate the Western word of “religion”, though their meanings overlap only in a few men or women. Similarly, in China, one still asks, what your faith is, not what your religion is. As India and China influenced culturally most or even all of South and Southeast Asia, let’s keep our discussion to these two. To understand what our new right is, we must understand what the Europe’s right was predicated on: an opposition to antagonism of religion. And Europe’s right expresses that opposition by ramming down the throats some crystallised idea of some nation or religion, trying to stifle everything else. Since, in India (or China), we never had any such experience, why should we adopt their left and their right? The left in India is meaningless: it tries to remain alive with the caste discrimination, but castes are a very small component of thought (and, conceptually, it is quite debatable if castes are something wise or not). Since we did not suffer from crusades or pogroms or mass exterminations of some religion, the left is meaningless in India: if the left has no role, why and how could we support the right that opposes something that does not even exist? The Hindu thought has never left the Indian mind: so why should we so forcibly associate it with terror in the minds and hearts of our own selves and our brethren? Instead, we must adopt a new right, an Asian right: one that re-valorises ourselves, not through reaching some past ideal (whether it be “Ram Rajya” or the pre-1820s China), but rather through re-valorising our ideals as interpreted in our languages, not those of others. In India, our language has been of acceptance and of plurality: tolerance itself is not a value to us, for we do not “tolerate”, but we “embrace”. Our values should be to seek knowledge, not to assert what is the best, the highest, the foremost: such tangibles hold value for the West, not for us. For us, of value is the wind that blows through a peepul tree, the satisfaction that one gets on reciting a Hanuman Chalisa or hearing an azaan, the experience of cycle of time and seasons in our lives. Knowledge-seeking is again the value of China, something for which Xuan Zang travelled to India (and not for conquests, unlike the Western Alexander); both India and China have celebrated insularity, for contentment is of the highest value for the most elevated form of mind. The highest mind is silent: speak those who are still fulfilling their egos (like me). The new Asian right must come from this: its foremost manifesto point would be to celebrate diversity and plurality and embrace it, and reject narratives of exclusion, in the name of caste, religion, nation or race. However, the European left also seems to espouse the same, but one must not be fooled into believing that to be the case: the Europe’s left originated in, and persists in, antagonism to spirituality and intangibles, whereas we celebrate life’s manifold expressions through spirituality and intangibles. The European left is based in trauma and subsequent hate and disdain, and looking back; the new Asian right will be based in love and subsequent embrace and acceptance, and looking at all times.