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The Inadequacy of Human Cognition And Cultural Politics

By Ghulam Mohammad Khan

22 September, 2015

The institution of human intelligence is as good or as bad as any other Institution. As a sign can only mean within a complex system of signification, human intelligence or understanding can also never be imagined outside a complex network of social institutions. In the history of the entire civilizations of the world, we see the growth and evolution of human understanding varying in accordance with the ecumenical, dominant cultural forces or institutional indoctrinations. Here my point is not that the innate capacity of human creativity had always been quiescent or dormant or that the institutional structure had always shaped it, but that it had always been less influential and more influenced. Indubitably, it is only the brilliance of human ingenuity that the possibility of being of any institution can be imagined. But once the institution is born its begetter begins to bate. It is the coalescence or interfusion of various institutional forces within the territory of human mind, which operates not less actively but more passively, that our understanding of the whole is formed. The birth of the institution, which is that moment in the progressive history when human intellectual mechanism is less or not at all encroached by any institutional discourse, will not be the subject matter of this write-up but, an attempt will be made to discuss the sway and flow of power within the institutional framework of a society which is mostly long-lasting and becomes more and more powerful as it slowly cements its control over human intelligence.

The history of the idea of power of the institution and the history of the whole humanity’s intellectual and imaginative effort can never be understood outside a larger system where both of these survive in a relationship similar to that of signifier and signified in the Saussuarian linguistic system. Looking back at the history of evolution of this relationship the phenomenon of human cognition had always been passive and less vibrant in the over-arching, imperial system of sociological discourses. The institutional technology, deeply entrenched and embedded in the human society, on the other hand had always controlled and directed the capacity of human intelligence to suit to its own constitution. As the postmodernists like Roland Barthes believe that the birth of reader breaks off the authorial control over the text similarly, the birth of an institution abates the strength and growth of human cognition. The ideologies formulated and brandished by the institutional technology had mostly been prejudiced and lopsided because, it discards and disregards much of the disinterested human intellectual endeavour. Over the period of time this technology becomes so powerful that it easily conditions or programmes the system of human thinking and the whole masses unwittingly accept and participate in this institutional oppression.

A single powerful institution enslaves the mechanism of creative thinking of the whole community. If we consider it with just a dash of extra cerebration we can come close to the fact that there is nothing like the emancipation or liberation of human thinking for, it had always evolved under the domineering ‘Influence’ of powerful external forces (institutions). Human understanding is determined and indelibly stamped by the institutional structure of the society though humans are mostly inadvertent to such forces.

The ontological phenomenon what anthropologists call ‘culture’ and sociologists call ‘society’ happens to be already there and a self-fashioned or a fixed pattern of powerful thought reigns there as a supreme deity. Though we are all born intellectuals, but the ideological design of our culture is always potent enough to overwhelm it. Once our intellectual essays are permanently repressed, we develop a habit and get used to live under the ‘influences’ silently working on our cognitive machinery. Therefore, if locating the point of our ‘actual being’ is the question then, as the Italian sociologist Antonio Gramsci believes, we have to ‘create an inventory of all the traces historical processes have left upon us in order to begin critical elaboration to understand ourselves and the world’. And when we consider or carefully ruminate free of the manacles of the corrupt cultural discourses, we shall see that the human cognitive mechanism is almost dead. Our intellectuality has become a domain or a rendezvous where only the varied cultural forces meet and every moment we grow under the ‘influence’ of these forces. These forces almost deal with everything that an independent human mind can possibly create; it is so because it is designed to crush, to rule, and to suppress.

Those who are in power and govern these forces take to all possible deliberations to ensure a complete control over the natural capacity of human reasoning, and finally to reinstall it to suit to its purpose. In this connection the noted American sociologist C. Wright Mills writes in his book ‘Character and Social Structure’, “Those in authority within institutions and social structure attempt to justify their role by linking it, as if it were a necessary consequence with moral symbols, sacred emblems, or legal formulae which are widely believed and deeply internalized. These central conceptions may refer to a god or gods, the ‘votes of the majority’, ‘the will of the people’, ‘the aristocracy of talent or wealth, to the ‘divine right of kings’ or to the alleged extraordinary endowment of the person of the ruler himself.” When social behaviourism and personality structure evolve under such a fabricated pattern of society, all human intellectual efforts make nothing but merely reflect the bearing of this pattern. Under such circumstances human understanding can hardly be claimed as reliable or adequate or authentic.

The institutionalising of a new trend of cultural politics in the polychromous Indian social order is nothing but reinforcing the same institutional engineering of the country. As long as a panoptic cultural (institutional) terrorism prevails, human cognition processes are useless and irrelevant. The worst thing that could ever happen to the hardware of human mind is when an unwanted software is forcibly installed on it. RSS’s All India Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya’s opinion, ‘secularism is irrelevant in India’ is a newly designed software by the majoritarian culture, all set to be forcefully programmed on the collective hardware of Indian sensibility. Vaidya believes that saffron ought to have been the one colour on national flag because different colours represent a ‘communal thought’. My question to Vaidya is how saffron stands out as the only non-communal colour? How can colours represent communal thoughts when India had celebrated these colours for ages? Every government has the right and responsibility to govern the state judiciously, but no government has the right to push forcefully every ideology down the throat of its citizens. Slowly but conspicuously our nation is heading to a situation where the collective thinking capacity of its citizens will die or turn defunct, and where the self-motivated, self-corrected, and powerfully institutionalized discourse of the Big Brother will unopposedly hold the reins.

Ghulam Mohammad Khan, PhD Scholar at Central University of Haryana
Email id: [email protected]


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