Monday, August 30, 2010

Waiting for the Renaissance Man

Suddenly, our lives have become difficult. Bad news is everywhere: Terrorist threats, global warming and great recession spoilt our party. As the Cold War ended, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and made a new start, but this relief is all but gone now. Worse, we only have ourselves to blame. It now seems that we are incapable of living in peace.

The bad news isn't everything though. We have made significant progress since the end of Cold War. Remember, we did not have any of this - the Facebook/MySpace crowd, read-write web or iPhones - then. Whatever is the bad news, we have made tremendous progress and opened enormous possibilities. Just that the media is so intent on bad news that such optimism sounds out of place.

I am an optimist, but I think bad news is for real. I am as concerned about global warming as anyone else and do not deny the human responsibility towards it, but I refuse to see it as the end of the world and haven't yet started building my arc (or headed out for the cave). Terrorism seriously threatens our way of life, and all freedom, which is central to modern life, but I see that as a problem of disenfranchisement rather than a part of human species which turned irreversibly bad (as the race-based view of terrorism dictate). The current recession is going to be deep and long-drawn, and impact our generation of people deeply, but the later generations will come out of it, learn the lessons and build a better future. In summary, I think a balanced, concerned view of the world is crucial, rather than unthinking optimism, but we haven't reached the edge of ending yet.

Such concerned optimism leads me to write this blog, lament the lack of sensitivity and respect among fellow citizens, denounce xenophobia and narrowness, and enthuse on new ideas and possibilities. Both aspects of our world seem equally true. It appears possible to change the animal instincts of men to something more noble, and the reverse equally true. Human history, from this daily reading, seems an unending battle between the idealist optimist and the pessimist realist, and between the optimistic realist and the pessimist ideologue at a parallel.

So, being sane and being human dictate keeping the faith and seek to change the fate of the humankind, one person at a time. This is a task our education system, increasingly narrow and focused on dispensation of marketable degrees rather than usable knowledge, singularly fails to do. If an increasingly frenetic world left the task of creating the modern citizen on its education system, it has proved too far short: It has bowed down in front of the Goddess of Wealth (who seems to be a City Girl in the current incarnation) and given up its original function. If we wanted our education system to keep alight the spirit of critical consciousness, which sows the seeds of all progress, our universities and colleges have replaced such lofty goals with the pursuit of conformity, a recipe for the bozo world. Indeed, the education system doesn't, can't, exist in isolation, but it has to perform as the fountain of our collective conscious, not the sewerage of our collective sin.

So, I shall campaign for the education system to be restored in its original place, a role of creator of consciousness and not a maintainer of conformity. I shall suggest broadness of education, rather than the narrowness of skills, should define the agenda, even in our age. Men, above all, wants to have the freedom to be themselves: That indeed is a more dire necessity for anyone than owning a mortgaged leasehold house. I, the optimist, will believe that everyone starts with a pure and open mind, a sense of curiosity, respect and engagement, till the tabloids and Murdoch-oids offer a convenient goggles, taint the world and build the hedges of fear and exclusion.

Ultimately, the world is in balance, and which way it goes depends on the second coming of the renaissance man: An open, curious and tolerant individual, who must withstand the toils of the journey to find and assimilate knowledge and rekindle the human spirit. Who may balance compassion with enterprise, see themselves as persons in the society than as towers of self-serving intelligence, and who will believe that changing the lives and minds of the fellow citizens is a nobler goal than any one can find.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

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