Essay on the inter-connection between Culture, Politics and Religion
India, since independence, has been passing through a momentous phase of developments in practically every field of national activity. New vistas are confronting us with hopes and challenges. A great democracy is forming itself for the first time on Indian soil and, despite manifold obstacles, is moving steadily towards its goal.
An academic approach to our political life is sure to be of use exploring life-giving and sustaining guidelines, extracting the general significance of day-to-day events and communicating it in a national perspective to an interested public.
Such an approach itself is the product or an intensive study of the theory which has been formulated on the basis of earlier practice in various parts of the world. It ensures dispassionate observation, inquiry and a genuine interest in the pattern implicitly present in the phenomena.
Development of Thought:
If culture, at its best is concerned with the finer sense and sensitivity of man, politics is the aspect of human activity, based on instincts, desires and ambitions. Political scientists of the behaviorist school believe that it is no use evaluating political activity in the light of norms and patterns of the higher life.
They prefer to study realistically the patterns emerging from the regularly surging political activity around them. But the political scientists has to take into account both idealism and realism as two facets of political behavior and establish his thesis on this integral foundation.
Religion should not be confused with culture. A man of religion is not necessarily a of culture. To be a religious man means to be a subscriber to a body of dogmas.
In spite of his ethical behavior and moral fervor, a man religion may not be able to practice in his own life the formula for dynamic culture, the one that is based on a reconciliation of the spirit of one’s times with the genius of all times. We have to think of religion not as a bound of dogmas, but as the science of the infinite.
Unless Science is guided and regulated by the voices that have been heard through ages, there can hardly be any hope for peace and delight in this world. Nor can there be any future for the diffusion of culture among the larger masses of mankind.
One of the distinguishing features of political science that it is a science of the behavior of coalitions. One opinion is that it is primarily concerned with action in the name of the state or government. Others think that the struggle for power inherent in every society is its distinctive feature.
There is the third view that the pride of place should go to the realization of moral ideals. Wit Riker, the author of The Theory of Political Coalitions, who holds that traditional methods history writing, the description of institutions and legal analysis have been exhausted, remarks that political science has join economics and psychology in the creation of genuine sciences of human behaviour.
For it has to rise above the level of wisdom literature by applying to political behavior theories like the theory of games.
While it is certainly valuable to study the political behavior of average human beings and discover the principles or patterns that underlie this Phenomenon, it is equally desirable to study the political behaviour of people like Gandhiji, Sri Aurobindo, and Abraham Lincoln, to mention only a few.
Their behaviour also is human, though it may be exceptional. Riker feels that a study of authoritative allocation of value is mostly reduced to the study of coalitions, for decisions are almost always taken by groups or sub-groups which are coalitions, whether at the level of the individual, the party, or the nation.
He adds that the general decision making model is deeply biased towards the leader who wants nothing but power, the opportunistic leader, who uses ideology simply as a tool in building and winning coalitions. One may agree that the leader, who pays himself nothing of material value, has a bargaining advantage over the leader who tries to make some profit for himself.
One who takes a cynical view of human nature is not surprised by the fact that the “typical leader of a coalition is the opportunistic leader”. But there are other potentialities in human nature too.
What about a leader like Gandhiji who wants neither material gain nor power nor prestige, nor continuance in his role and yet can lead a coalition like the Congress of pre independence days to a remarkable, if not a total, victory? Even the word “charisma” cannot explain the fact that idealism and a love of truth are responsible for the phenomenal success of such a leader.
The charismatic spell itself might be due to his idealism and love of truth. An analysis of leadership needs as much rightfully to be presented in detail in a book on political science as an analysis of average human performance. One need not be a cynic in one’s anxiety to be a realist.
The idealist, on the other hand, need not recoil in horror from realism though in may be sordid. The political scientist has to take into account both idealism and realism as two facets of political behaviour and establish his thesis on this integral foundation.
It may be, as Hermann Heller says, that political science, dominated by the empirical and positivistic schools, and recently by the behaviorist, “seeks on methodical grounds to avoid any idealistic formulations and to limit itself to a causal descriptive presentation of the political existent”.
But there are, as Heller himself admits, certain unchanging constants in the political process which elude the practical reason of the historicizing and soliloquizing relativist.
One of these constants is the nature of man as the products and at the same time the molder of his history. But when human nature itself is an uncharted sea, the unchanging constant is also an unfathomed one. As Sri Aurobindo says in the opening paragraph of The Ideal of Human Unity:
“The surfaces of life are easy to understand: their laws, characteristic movements, practical utilities are ready to our hand and we can seize on them and turn them to account with a sufficient facility and rapidity.
But they do not carry us very far. Nothing is more obscure to humanity or less seized by its understanding, whether in the power that moves it or the sense of the aim towards which it moves, than its own communal and collective life”.
It may be worthwhile, therefore, in our application of theory to any political problem, to view it from an angle that integrates the two aspects of “polities” as a behavioral science and as a “policy science” or political philosophy.
Like the United Nations Organization, political science should at least figure out the charter of human rights while confronting us with development that are gross violations of the charter itself.
If some schools of political thought have no use for norms and patterns of human conduct, they can hardly be expected to influence political activity itself which is an unmitigated raw expression of human nature.
Some may hold science responsible for crimes that ought to be laid at the door of politicians. But scientists, like everybody else, are at the mercy of politicians. Politics has been described as the science of power. It is also the science of the utilization of power, whether it be horsepower, manpower, or atomic power.
Scientists have helped establish mastery of man over his environment. The politician, however, has utilized science for forging destructive weapons. The politics of the split atom is far more dangerous than the power games of preceding ages. The atom is so small that two hundred million atoms, laid side by side, would total only one inch in length.
A billion atoms cover only the head of a pin. An atomic blast can destroy the whole world. Atomic energy is, therefore, absolute power. Scientifically speaking, we live in the Atomic Age.
Politically, we still belong to the Stone Age. The same old passion for domination and self-aggrandizement is ceaselessly at work in our midst. Our intellects have grown in Himalayan proportions but our hearts are still like un split atoms.
Providence seems to have determined to teach wisdom even if we are unwilling to learn it. Because atomic energy is absolute power, it can easily annihilate the human race. Nations will have to behave with other nations out of this fear of annihilations, if not through love.
If culture is to prevail, atomic power has to be harnessed to uses beneficial to man. It may be used for increasing agricultural production by introducing radio-active tracers in fertilizers. It can bring about a revolution in food-handling methods. In the field of medicine, radio isotopes have been used for locating and curing brain tumors.
Atomic power has made possible, in the field of industry, better textile and metal working plants. The shortage of coal and oil is said to be made up by atomic fuels.
It is in this direction that knowledge and power have to be harnessed to the services of man in a cultured society. The Politician has to stop brow-beating the scientist and exploiting him for mean ends.
The temple and the church are empty today, perhaps for good reasons. But the laboratories are full. More than the laboratories, it is the cinema theatres that are packed to capacity.
This would be a great thing if the films that we produce observed the right values and did not exaggerate sex, or the struggle of one class against another, or the worship of the Goddess of Getting On. Science is a benefactor, for any advancement of knowledge is bound to be beneficial.
But there is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that conceals itself behind science. This is the unashamed greed and selfishness of man, backed up by political power. We speak of one world, but how do we explain the extermination of American
Indians, the destruction of Hiroshima, and the balance of power that foments continuous unrest in South-east Asia and in West Asia? If science has freed man from the horror of numerous diseases, it is now subjecting him to many more diseases hitherto unknown.
Applied science has in a large measure, banished as much joy from life as the human misery it has alleviated. It has turned man into a machine for making more machines.
Science has brought about a direction less and rudderless world in which life becomes a nightmare and man a physical and mental wreck, a prey to unknown psychological diseases and a victim of hysteria and mass hypnosis. Applied science threatens to be a Frankenstein strangling its own creator.
An infinite longing to unravel the mystery of the world has been the basis of science. This has led to certain great results. But curiosity can also take an unhealthy turn when it is allied to evil or ignorance. It is human nature that has to change if science is to be put to better use.
Religion should not be confused with culture. A man of religion isn’t necessarily a man of culture. To be a religious man means to be a subscriber to a body of dogmas.
In spite of his ethical behaviors and moral fervor, a man of religion may not be able to practice in his own life the formula for dynamic culture, the one that is based on a reconciliation of the spirit of one’s times with the genius of all times.
We have to think of religion, not as a body of dogmas, but as the science of the infinite. There is a logic and science of the infinite even as there is a logic and science of the finite.
This does mot mean that we should rush to the other extreme and be victimized by one religion or “the other. Religions have divided mankind. But religion in the singular, the spirit of religion or true spirituality, has always united human beings.
Christianity may turn into churchanity and Hinduism degenerate into a number of polytheistic practices, but the essence of religion is love. The true spirit of religion has always said: “Listen to your conscience or inner voice, live in its light, even if the world goes against you”.
The true spirit of religion has always said, “be whole, you are three in one a house divided against itself a divided being whose -word conflicts with deed, deed with thought and thought with feeling are a shattered person, integrate yourself.” It also says, “Let service be your watchword. “May love prevail. Let there be harmony between nation and nation.”
Men of vision like Ashoka, Abraham Lincoln, and Gandhiji laid down their lives for reconciling the politics of time with the politics of eternity