Are we living in a world fragmented not only by physical boundaries but also by ideological boundaries?
In India at least until a few years ago we never heard words like ‘right wing’, ‘left wing’, ‘centre left’, ‘right of centre’, ‘liberal’ etc. in our popular discourses. Now even people take pride in branding and labeling themselves as belonging to particular ideologies. People identifying with a particular ideology are often seen attacking others with derogatory terms. In this melee, those who do not stand for any ideology often find themselves isolated. Nevertheless, we have been familiar with social and political systems and ideologies like capitalism, socialism, communism etc.
With the advent of democratic forms of governments different political parties came up and each party began to subscribe to or espouse a single or a combination of ideologies. Individuals also began to openly express their ideological affiliations, thereby supporting parties and issues that was in line with their ideologies.
What is a social ideology after all? It is an attempt to create a system for the society. It is an attempt to bring in uniformity in society. It is an attempt to organize the chaos of group behavior and give it a direction. Every ideology is based on some premises, or beliefs or stories that need not be based on facts. Unfortunately, nature has its own system that refuses to obey any man made model or system.
I find it ridiculous that people subscribing to one ideology or ‘ism’ attack others of being rigid. The fact is that once you subscribe to an ideology and declare yourself as a hardcore follower you are already predictable and you too are as rigid as the other one. When facts that contradict your ideological beliefs come up, you rationalize and you are closed to any alternate interpretation. How is any progress possible in such a case? How can you start on a path of finding the truth in such a case?
Ideology or developing an ism is an attempt to organise truth into a system. Fact is that any attempt at organizing truth would only present a distorted version of reality. In this context the following story is often told:
The devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.
Ironically, without some kind of ism or ideology there is nothing to bind people for a cause or bring them together or give them hope or a dream. And there are many things that need voluntary cooperation of a large number of people. Seen this way, though imperfect, ideologies and isms have their use.
And wisdom lies in accepting that no such system is perfect however loud the proponents may shout that they are the only ones who have the copyright over the truth and the utopia. Internally, the less an individual remains categorized and labelled, the better even though one cannot prevent others from branding, labeling and categorizing. (Those who have read Astavakra Gita would have no problem in understanding this)
The individual should never stop searching for truth beyond all facades. An individual should not close himself to paths and ideas just because these seem alien to what he has known till now. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar often says that we do not have any problem in accepting food from different cultures. Then why do we close ourselves when it comes to ideas (not ideologies) for self-development or for the development of the society?
In Rig Veda there is a beautiful prayer which means, “Let noble thoughts come to use from all sides” (Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah). If seers could have such a noble idea thousands of years back, what is preventing us now from adopting such an idea now when the world is so fragmented, when no ideology or ism has demonstrated to be perfect, yet each has some nuggets of truth in it.