We all constantly hear the lament of how our education system is in a mess. Education today is no more about exploring new ideas, seeking multiple forms of knowledge and an eagerness to get introduced to hitherto unknown terrains of intellectual wealth. Job security precludes the possibility of appreciating the beauty of the expansive world of education. Also, given the rigid societal positioning which has a bearing on the way we approach existing reality, a teleological goal is the only thing we endeavor to achieve, irrespective of the means. At the same time, is it really rational to blame this mindset singularly on all the people whose life has become a bland, mechanical repetition of the same old activities everyday?
To think, is indeed a sign of leisure that one enjoys in life. To say that a particular thing is right or wrong, good or bad and think about its possible consequences requires time. The plurality of this vision fails to jell up with the monochromatic lifestyle of the present. Achieving something at the end of the day becomes the sign of one’s hard work. The tangible nature of this ‘success’ naturally overpowers the grossly intangible form of intuitive deliberation and deep thinking. Thinking invariably falls into the domain of elitism. To ponder, reflect, question and receive myriad ideas demands not just interest but a stability that ensures time to be handled on our terms.
A rickshaw puller, a mason, watchman, an indigent farmer and all such people are tied down to a system that assures time for the affluent. Along with what Karl Marx would call surplus value that robs the workers of their due, it also robs them of their right to think. The onus of critical reflection then falls on the well off section. It is they who should pick up the mantle and strive for intellectual egalitarianism. This ‘they’ is the great Indian middle class. The term can appear deceptive if we apply western economic rationale to define them. In lose terms, this group of people over here includes all those people who can afford to think sans having any overbearing pressure to jettison it completely under the name of backbreaking work all day. Students who form a sizeable portion of it, should be at the forefront of exercising this virtue. An honest effort will lead a continuity in the ‘process’ of thinking and not merely exercise it in sporadic ways benefiting a small coterie of the population.
Thinking in itself is all encompassing. It inherently comes with no strings attached. A sense of being open minded and receptive to ideas comes in built. Following the process, thinking seamlessly blends into acts of questions. Moreover, the former acts as a scaffolding to the latter that eventually carries the grain of a new change for common good. Thinking, to use Rousseau’s words, witnesses a positive change from an ‘actual self’ to the ‘real self’. The latter has the potential and the obligation to see the development of oneself as that of the entire society. It purges off the self-fulfilling attributes of an isolated individual in pursuit of a society that marches toward the realization of social justice. The emancipation of the emaciated, is the duty of this elite class who possesses an invaluable leisure called time. The transformation envisaged may sound regressive and paternalistic in some ways. However, in an age where systemic fault lines get perfunctorily covered under a fragile set of inducements, the societal obligation of this elitist class has to be triggered now more than ever. That is, in fact the least that can be done to overhaul and kick start the more fundamental churning required in our fragmented and hierarchical society.
To be endowed with this precious gift should come with its checks and balances. We cannot afford to live in a parallel, virtual world sustained by our economic largess bequeathed to us by our forefathers. After purportedly being a law abiding citizen, in living our lives according to the constitution, the benign neglect of what this leisure entails in its totality smacks of the perverse side of this elitism. This dark side can only be reconfigured by the one’s who actually wield the power to think.
Suraj Kumar Thube is currently pursuing his MA in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is interested in Indian politics and Indian political thought. He spends most of his time reading books, playing football and listening to Hindustani classical music.