Monday, July 11, 2011

Return to Radicalism

The economic crisis, that we lived with for the last few years, is finally changing the intellectual landscape: After years of conformity, radicalism is again back in fashion. It is no longer daft not to be at the centre, no longer funny to believe in some sort of world's end theorem - grand narratives are back in fashion.

Is this a neo-modern turn then, in our history? The post-modern thinking, the grand narrative that established the absence of grand narratives, robbed us of beliefs to live for. The fragmentation of working class - every man as an island bounded by mortgage - was complemented by a theory of doing so. The pursuit of happiness, the grand narrative that it is possible to be happy by winning a lottery ticket, took over the mantle of the struggle for rights that the earlier generations waged.

Indeed, there was nothing to fight for. The shopping malls were there, the bewildering choice of objects as a proof of existence of happiness: The TV laid out the perfect life and the theorem that if you couldn't make it, it was all your fault. All the press and all the politicians agreed on almost everything, except for such arcane details that no one cared to understand. The only thing worth knowing was who's sleeping with whom, and suddenly there was a lot of news of the kind, including the Presidents and Would-be Presidents misbehaving. But this touched our lives too, as the taboo on sex was somewhat lifted, and our lives were pleasant with encounters of various kinds, and therefore, busy. In one way, the struggle for equality, happiness, indeed survival, were farmed out to the lunatic fringes of our society and out of fashion.

The economic crisis, as it invariably must, has changed all that. Suddenly the grand narrative that the powerful had usurped, is over. The Presidents and Prime Ministers look shaky. The saving at the banks which we were told to die for look temporary. The mortgages not so forthcoming, the interest rates, held artificially low, staying where they are precariously almost. The world news suddenly puts a lot of disaffected people on the street defying guns and tanks, and a theory of Arab spring is just around the corner. Radicalism is back at the centre of our lives.

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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."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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