`Wretched Aristotle`: Is Politics All, and Reason Redundant?


By Amar Yumnam
During the second and third century of the Christian era, there were religious leaders who professed that revelation was the ultimate and philosophy did not have any more role to play in human life. They characterised Aristotle as wretched assuming that since the God had spoken directly, the period of philosophising was to be given a burial. They simply ignored the fact that the rationality of the antiquity founded on the rational mind of the Greek philosophers was the strength of the contemporary religion itself; the two were not to be considered as complements at all they felt. The absurdity of this approach is being revealed by contemporary researches in Economics, Sociology, History and philosophy.

Why The Reference: Now I must explain why I have taken this reference to the denial of relevance of antiquity as possessing any explanatory value in understanding a society and the contemporary attempts to restore and re-appreciate the value of antiquity in understanding a contemporary society. The reason is to be found in happenings at home. In recent years, Manipur has been characterised by moves and counter-moves to destroy or rescue the future of the land. While the move to wreck the future of the land as an entity is founded more on not-so old religious-politico arguments, the counter-move for rescue is founded on antiquity.

Politics Without Antiquity: I understand that certain developments in the wake of the beginning of Hinduism in Manipur and post-merger policy failures in the development front have caused ruptures in the original spirits that animated the traditional societal life of the land and people of Manipur. But the question to be answered is: Can we really write off our antiquity and simply start off with a new history? Are there examples of successful civilisations not founded on antiquity, or development experiences sustained only on contemporaneous religio-politico arguments? Can a newly-found rationale serve at all as the soul of a society in place of the antiquity? These are simple as well as serious issues to ponder for while emotions may succeed to create a society temporarily, the long run costs are huge. Here we have many lessons to absorb from the developmental failures and lapses of Indian policy-making in this part of the country.

A land is much more than the geography and form of administrative relations, and it involves people and their history based on the strength of antiquity. Examples are hard to find where mid-course reasons and arrangements evolved out of those have served the cause of a sustainable society. In a world with intensifying interactions and increasingly heterogeneous population groupings, there is little else which can serve as the binding soul of a society than the shared antiquity. This is because it is only antiquity which can serve as the specific foundations of any civilisation and development; newer arrangements can hardly be so in this highly interconnected world. Defending a development and a civilisation based on antiquity is definitely much simpler than sustaining one based on newly articulated rationale. The new articulations naturally are a product of the mind of a few, and it may never attain the status and power of the shared antiquity. We should remember that there are lots to be engaged and miles to go before we can make ourselves fully competitive with the rest of the world.

Here we mayrecall the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. He had advised us that a societyand a state has a tendency to persist along with the initial and inherentqualities. A successful republic has necessarily to be founded on the virtuesof the people, and a bad moral state is difficult to modify if once created. Antiquityhas been accepted as the best foundation for the generation of the virtues ofthe people, and not transient arrangements. There are always issues for leadingthe individual as well as the collective mind successfully and unitedly towardsa common goal. And the question remains: Can we at all create a common goalwhich is fully cut-off from the antiquity?

ManipurToday: Manipur today stands at a historical juncture wherewe need to mobilise our individual and collective energies to take on the worldwith confidence by reinvigorating our strengths and ameliorating ourweaknesses. In fact, the land and the people here have no alternative to thisroute. There is neither space nor necessity now for converting thefamiliarities into problematic. The only option now is to evolve a successful arrangementbased on the familiarities. We cannot and should not subject the people anymore to issues of doubts about the outcomes of the proposed alterations torelationships, for the world today is for preparation for competition and notfor articulations along ethnicity, groups or such partisanship.

When theforce of antiquity is destroyed, the time to generate another force as a successfulreplacement would take centuries. No group, ethnic or otherwise, in Manipurtoday can afford to waste time and energy for the generation of this new forcein place of the antiquity. We are already far behind in the global race fordevelopment, and time is not on our side.


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