Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Age of Anger By Pankaj Mishra

                I have read one book by Pankaj Mishra (I don’t recall the title) about the birth of national/ international leaders and thinkers in India, China, Afghanistan etc.  I liked the book.  The tile of this book resembles the tiles of Eric Hobsbawm who wrote ‘Age of Extremes, Age of Empire, Age of Revolution etc.  I have read only Age of Extreme. These kinds of books survey the global history and society.  They interest me because they are about humanity and not about narrow identities of human beings like area, language or nation. 

            Age of Anger, starts with the instances when murder, terror and aggression were incorporated in politics by national  political activists in their own discourse, particularly those who are not Muslim in religion or origin.  This book contests understanding often repeated in India that ‘all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’.  It also falsifies the theory of ‘Clash of Civilizations’ not by arguments but by facts and history.  Several historical incidents have been cited to establish the case that the cult of belief in violence had been prevalent in the Western thought and action long before the arrival of Muslim terrorists and ISIS.

            He states that the concepts of ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity’ entered the political arena with the french revolution and has since become part of the understanding of the masses.  But masses also imbibed the horrible reality that these have remained only slogans in the political arena for the last 200 or more years and they may never attain the benefits of such a concepts in real life.   

            Pankaj Mishra, brings out the difference in the approaches of Voltaire, one of the representatives of people who have earned reputation and wealth etc through the working of the concepts of Liberty, equality and fraternity’ and who went on to defend these principles of modernity and Rousseau who contested the benefits of such modern concepts in real life situations. He tried to establish a balance between older useful values and modern values. 

            While modernity has been sold for its dreams of having modern facilities in life to millions of people, it has not given even a hint about the unattainable nature of the dreams for vast majority of people because of inherent inequality and modernists who believe in the so called progress never venture to think the environmental and other consequences of such progress and development even if such progress is possible for millions of people.  The development as represented by the western societies cannot be sustained forever.  But having sold these dreams, they have to make others believe in these dreams. 
            Those who have imbibed these dreams of progress now have come to realize that progress is very slow and the benefits of progress do not reach not even majority if not everyone.  These frustrations lead to ‘ressentiment’ (angst) which in turn fuels the anger,  the kind of mindless violence, nobody wants, everybody hates but everybody has to face in their ordinary life.

            There is no relationship between a particular religion and violence.  Violence is in the nature of politics which were formulated when feudal societies started to change.    Reality of lack of progress hits ordinary citizens Unattainable aspirations of millions and millions of citizens spew a few thousand extremist elements who thrive and ultimately pay the price.  But societies which are inherently unequal and which do not have the wisdom to distribute wealth among its citizens on the basis of some other ideology or programme pay a heavier price in the form of unparalleled violence in the long run, irrespective of the outcome of that violence..

            One of the wonderful books I have read.  Particularly in the context of false theories of ‘Clash of Civilization’ types.   It will open new horizons. 

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