While reading a rant today against Arundhati Roy (Not again!), I came across a new (balancing) label. Neo-Marxism. The ranter says that she and others like her are neo-Marxist ‘intellectuals’. Since my political views have a lot in common with hers, I couldn’t help thinking that I too could be accused of being a neo-Marxist (‘intellectual’ or not).
The idea offends me. So much so that I have decided to declare in advance what I am not. What I most certainly never was. Or will be. I hope this will save the time of those (if any) who bother to pay attention to me and then may want to rant against me. I hope this would allow them to make better use of their energies.
Just in case.
And these are the things I wasn’t, am not and will not be:
Not just that. I don’t believe in a sudden (violent or non-violent) and quick revolution that will change the world overnight magically. I am almost sure that there will be no final victory and living happily ever after. There can only be a continuous long struggle which is unlikely to completely end ever. Because there are too many things (abstract and concrete; human, inhuman and non-human) which are too strong to be overcome easily. I am not even sure whether some of them can be overcome. Even to overcome a few of them is not going to be possible through just polite academic discourse and a bit of charity here and bit of social work there.
In other words, a dystopia is very likely (almost certain if we don’t try to keep preventing it continuously) but a Utopia is out of the question.
The fact is, I am not even sure whether I am ‘very left liberal’ as I have written on my Orkut profile (which no one visits, including me).
Sure, I might be a lot of other things which people like the above mentioned ranter might find worthy of attack. Or those who advocate ‘let’s discuss it over dinner and not make a fuss’ even if it’s a matter of thousands of lives (or deaths). The latter variety includes those who claim to be admirers and even followers of Gandhi. As far as my knowledge, intelligence and reasoning goes, Gandhi was a Big Fuss Maker (even if not big enough for many) for any cause that he was active for.
That takes me to another disclaimer. I am not a Gandhian either.
Am I a socialist? Am I a leftist? Am I a liberal?
It all depends on what exactly these terms mean for the person who is asking. They could be used to mean anything.
The other day I read someone’s comment on the Outlook website ranting against ‘communal Congress’ and raving in favour (favor for the dominant party) of ‘secular RSS/BJP’.
Even as a BJP national leader was feeling diminished by Nepal being declared a secular republic.
But I am not going to give out disclaimers about not being a communalist or fundamentalist or anything of the sort. Don’t think it’s necessary.
Am I definitely something? I could be, but I am not much interested in being labeled. I want to do many things. I have been many things. I am many things.
Who the heck cares? And why on earth?
Yesterday I wanted to see a movie: a not too depressing one. When I looked through the collection, I came across Finding Neverland. I wasn’t sure whether I had seen that movie before or not, though I remembered seeing Finding Nemo: I had seen it just a few months ago. Since there weren’t many options, I decided to check out this movie.
It turned out that I hadn’t seen it. So I saw it. A movie about a writer? That was enough incentive, but there were also Dustin Hoffman and Kate Winslet. Not necessarily in that order.
To be frank, I didn’t dislike the movie as it went on. However, I started getting uneasy as the words to the effect ‘Believe! Just believe!’ were uttered frequently. And these words were more of a summation of the theme of the movie than a minor highlight. The viewer was not being asked to believe in religion or God (at least not explicitly). So the cause of my unease was not related to believing in religion or the God. The author was asking other characters and the viewer (or the reader) to believe in fairies. In a place called Neverland. Yes, I know the name of the place was meant to be ironical, but the exhortation of believing, just believing, was quite genuine.
I also know that everyone needs the enjoyment offered by some escapist fare at least once in a while. It can even be a positive thing when your spirits are so low that you have to take a break and forget about the depressing reality for a while. Even the most ‘cynical’ or nihilist or ultra pessimists have their own kind of escapist fare. And so do those who believe in directly facing the reality and trying to change it for the better, even if very slowly.
The sincerity of the writer and the other characters of the movie was making me like the movie, but the mantra of ‘Believe! Just believe!’ was putting me off.
I should confess here that by the end of the movie the escapist philosophy was getting a slight edge over my usual outlook. That set me wondering whether escapism may not be a valid way to improve the quality of life. I am what I am because I am constantly susceptible to these self-doubts. Even about the most fundamental issues. Earlier it used to bother me, but now I know that it is not such a bad thing. I mean I know this from my personal knowledge, experience and reasoning, not from what others have said. Learning from personal experience is different from just being told about something. Anyway, I was wondering whether I was wrong in dismissing many escapist works of art (whether high brow or down to earth).
It just happens to be that J. M. Barrie is one of those rare ‘great’ (English language) authors whose books I have not read so far. So I started reading about him (and the movie and the play on which the movie was based) to resolve my transient doubts about my stand against escapist works of art.
And what do I find? On the Wikipedia page itself there was this bit of information:
The lives of the Davies family were rife with tragedy following the film’s optimistic ending: George died fighting in World War I in 1915, Michael drowned with a friend at Oxford in 1921, and Peter grew to hate his identification as “Peter Pan”, eventually committing suicide in 1960.
So, the reality before the play (Peter Pan) was written was not as bad as shown in the movie, but the reality after the play was written was as tragic as it can get for a family of the class to which the Llewelyn Davies boys belonged.
Evidently the ‘Believe! Just Believe!’ philosophy didn’t prove very helpful. Even to the family for which (or based on the members of which) the play was written.
The world may be as bad as I thought it was, but at least I am free from this new unease. Now I can again enjoy escapist fare once in a while.
Without Just Believing.