Decoding Linear Learning

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Any monopoly of a predetermined somebody/source in imparting the information is a horrifically ridiculous condition that would have been rejected by some of the most venerated thinkers of the East and vaunted Greek philosophers of the ancient times. This ambit includes decrees on the dos and don’ts originating almost exclusively in small parts of Planet Earth but intended for universal acceptance. 

The colonial centuries spanning much of the world spawned the notion and influence of the learned, except that Eastern philosophers and literary giants of Greek contemporaries or predecessors in the East are rarely compared, cited or appreciated in any notable measure down the centuries from the age of the enlightenment to the periods of post-modernity discussions and, of late, wokeism.

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as works of ancient literary glory and distinctly of a larger canvas than, say, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, by way of theme, characters and interconnections in the unfolding cascade of events and incidents, hardly ever find mention in the lectures on literary works and history as far as some of the academic institutions that figure as the world’s “best” are concerned.  Barring few Western scholars, it is reasonably established that the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were composed long before Greek literary works credited by dominant groups of intellectuals as among the most meritorious of the yore.  

One’s critical faculties could risk confusion by declarations of how the “world’s” most beautiful, most handsome, best music, latest fashion and best cuisine are spotted and declared as such. The selection process does not necessarily go for the widest possible universe for proven aesthetic credentials but approved by the palate and pockets of the places where the activity and decisions originate. 

True, the conclusions set trends for billions in the rest of the world to follow what have been adopted by the supposedly irrefutable, exclusive quarters of the world, which also happens to be advanced technologically and economically.

With little difference   

Who decides the aesthetically appropriate; how to discern, appreciate and reject art and aspects of culture; which definitions or art, culture, values and practices are prescribed? 

Ravishing red, emerald green, pallid pink, bizarre black or serene white, ethereal mix of this and that shade and ambience — the descriptions and appreciations depend on the definer and more than those reduced as defenders and passive recipients. At community levels, the local bares it all in the best of the “in” practice. At cosmopolitan stage, i.e. where the dominant class has its sight on, the tone, tune and picture turn different for obtaining the influencer’s approval.

The narratives flow unidirectionally for multidirectional acceptance, giving little, if at all, thought to alternative views. In the colonial culture, too, similar was the practice of lapping up whatever the ruling class did and allowed, but more blatantly and without the least questioning than in today’s world.

In a class system, the idea of what is good for all and what is not flows from the dominant few to the accepting rest. Anyone disputing that flow gets the tag of a radical, misfit, dangerous — sometimes having to bear distancing, shunning or engaged in grave risk to life and limb. Eastern works don’t sell well because it does not enlighten, inspire or entertain the West much. They occasionally obtain a perfunctory consolation in separate categories set up for their versions of the effortful.

The false and the farce narcotise the meek and the subservient. Unquestioning ones wear blinkers or account for passive recipients told who and what constitutes the best or the worst. Registering dissent frequently to the “best” tastes and practices attract attention for rough cuts. Dissent proves of little value, appreciated when it does not pose any threat to the established ones from far off lands and “exotic” cultures. In conditions of economic decline and stiff technological competition, the flow of prescriptions acceptable to vast majorities find stalled. 

What if the emerging new order only replaces the existing monopolists by another set of their clones from a bloc of nations brandishing similar and familiar tactics but with changed datelines? That would mean one more round of suffocating linear learning route. 

On the balance

The net effect of all this: living in an unreal world and covert or overt coercion on dissenting voices. The false and the farce fed by the fraud propels continuity of one-way traffic in basic aspects of discussions and core decisions. The monopolists immerse in illusion that might last long but not for ever — however long the needed change might take.

A case in point is the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. George W. Bush, as the United States president, at one time had an approval rating of 90 per cent, which plummeted to 22 per cent by the time he was set to quit office at the end of his second term. The belated American public’s subsequent realisation of the false excuse furnished to start the war that killed at least one million Iraqis, mostly civilians, contributed to a drastic fall in Bush’s public approval.

Lies, duplicity and the power of dubious practices do not last long without being exposed. So, people should either dismiss the notion of personal glory hoped for posterity. They should advise their ardent supporters not to instal statues and trusts after their names, and dispense with any cult of personality.  Those nursing the notion of nothingness after their mortal remains are no more should shun the activity of installing statues and instituting trusts, ostensibly to glorify their names. Or, do something substantive and deserving to continue and expand initiatives as well as inspire the generations to come to come. 

People crave power and flock at feverish pitch to the powerful. Those without ethical considerations behave with arrogance, indifference or swagger about the positions they hold. The very same ones do not hesitate to bend backwards or stoop to sweep the floors in submission at the sight of someone with considerable clout to make or mar a career or condition. 

Individuals with integrity, conviction, confidence and ability to practise the same proactively make a rare species. That is actually an understatement. Linear communication is essential for justifiable order at different levels of social units —as long as the intent and purpose abhor deceit.

(Professor Kharel specialises in political communication.)

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