by Ac. Krtashivananda Avadhuta
The two essential desires or vital characteristic (prana dharma) of human beings are –security and freedom. So far as physical security is concerned, everybody needs food, shelter, clothes and medicine. Besides that people wants an environment, that is free from overt and covert violence. In India if we consider $1 as the minimum wage for poverty line then 75% people or about 800 million people are below poverty line. Only about 30% people enjoy the bounty of globalisation. And the social environment is influenced by mafia-politician-capitalist nexus. Hence in what kind of environment people lives can be imagined. Women’s situation is worse. In this country in every 20 years about 10 million unborn babies are killed simply because they are girls. Three rapes happen per minute. 40% women are victim of family violence. Besides that 70% women are victim of other violence.
Freedom in physical sphere is limited. But people expect some freedom in political, economic, social and religious sphere. Our constitution guranteed unlimited accumulation of properties. Naturally on the economic tycoons enjoy that right. Political freedom under the guise of liberal democracy is a misnomer. In country like India, liberal democracy only safeguards the interests of the people of ‘wealth’ , feudal classes and party bosses. Common people can neither appreciate the slogan of economic freedom and for them political freedom means to through a paper into a box in every five years. What is liberal democracy?
After the collapse of communism in the erstwhile Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it has been argued that liberal democracy is the ultimate evolution of socio-economic system. These proponents of western liberal democracy also promote the idea that the west has a moral duty to promote liberal democracy all over the world. Globalization of economy flourished in the background of liberal democracy. This aroused a deep question about the political and philosophical justification of liberalism.
The idea of liberalism began to gain intellectual and political importance in different parts of Europe since the 17th century. Liberalism considers the individual as the ultimate and irreducible unit of society. The view that the individual is conceptually prior to society and can in principle be conceptualized and defined independently of society, is called individualism. This is the basic concept that lies at the heart of liberal thought and shapes its political, legal, moral, economic, methodological, epistemological and other aspects.
“In the liberal view, individuals define their individuality in terms of their separateness from others and feel ontologically threatened and diminished when the boundary of their individuality overlap with those of others.……… Liberal individuals seek to run their lives themselves, to make their own choices, to form their own beliefs and judgments, to take nothing for granted or as given.…… They remain suspicious of, and feel nervous in the presence of, feelings and emotions, especially those that are deep and powerful and not fully comprehensible to reason or easily brought under its control.……… How an open society can be created out of closed selves is a paradox to which no liberal theorist has paid much attention. Unless the self learns to open itself up to the thoughts and feelings of others and maintains both an open mind and an open heart, thereby creating the basic pre-conditions of a genuine dialogue, society can never be truly open.”1 Parekh Bhiku, Cultural Particularity of Liberal democracy: Prospect for Democracy: Polity Press UK,1994.
The idea of individual freedom was the article of faith during European Renaissance. But this idea of individualism could not fully transcend the influence of nationalism. History have witnessed ruthless suppression of individual liberty in Afro-Asian countries by the champions of individual liberty. Europe itself witnessed two devastating world wars under the influence of nationalism.
Liberal democracy asserts that the State should not engage itself in any large scale social, political and economic goals and welfare program. The duty of State should remain confined to ensure security and to allowcc liberty of individual to accumulate property and to control the means of production and to maintain law and order.
In Afro Asian countries the identity of individual is connected with the community—tribal, caste, religion, ancestral etc. That’s why in most part of the non-western world democracy in the sense of free elections, free speech and right to equality, has proved far more attractive than the concept of liberalism. Millions in non-western societies demand democracy, but in a suitably localised form, whereas they tend to reject the influence of liberalism considering it to be subversive of what they most valued and cherished. According to their understanding, liberalism breaks up community, undermines the shared body of ideas and values, places the isolated individual above the community, encourages the ethos and ethic of aggressive self-assertion, rejects traditional wisdom and common sense in the name of scientific reason, and weakens the spirit of mutual accommodation and adjustment. Forcing standard liberal democratic mold to these societies is bound to bring disaster.
The Athenian democracy was grounded in a sense of community whereas liberalism is individualist and finds it difficult to offer a coherent account of community. As the liberals define liberty in individualistic rather than communal terms and see little value in active political involvement as was promoted by Athenian democracy. Democracy in the Athenian sense does not satisfy their deepest aspirations and has at best only a marginal place in the conception of a good life. The Athenian democracy trusted the masses, whereas the liberal is deeply suspicious of them. For these and other reasons liberalism neither can accommodate nor has a need for classical democracy.
What kind of democracy the liberal democrats wants? James Madison(1751-1836), a liberal democrats of America, defined, during the Constitutional Convention, “democracy is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” Actually in America and in many other countries democracy in real sense of the term does not exists. What is followed is polyarchy. In this system a small section of population is in control of decision making for the economy, political sphere, cultural sphere etc. In other words the power should be placed in the hands of only to those who are ‘responsible man’ or ‘wealth of the nation’. The rest of the population is supposed to be passive and acquiescent.
Robert W. McChesney wrote in introduction to the book PROFIT OVER PEOPLE, by Noam Chomsky,:
“Neo-liberalism is the defining political economic paradigm of our time—it refers politics and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit.….”. For the past two decades neo-liberalism has been the dominant global political economic trend adopted by the political parties of the center and much of the traditional left as well as the right.
Simultenously every religion curtail the freedom of women. Though some society allows equal rights of women in legal documents but in practice mail chauvinist attitude and traditional dogma influence the behavioural pattern. In the national analyses for Family Health in India it has been found that 53% of girls below 18 are forced in marriage by their parents, in contradiction to the constitution. Some institutions ignore the legitimate rights of women under the pretense of God’s ordain. Hence freedom in real sense in religious, social, economic and political spheres remained a far cry.
Freedom also means liberation of intellect. That means mind must discard all forms of religious and socio-economic dogma and narrow sentiments. Neo-humanistic spirit or the spirit of unity in diversity can be achieved only when the intellect is liberated. And to realise freedom from the influence of psudo culture, mind must be able to conquer unbridled passion. This ultimately will prepare the ground for spiritual freedom.
Hence the effort for freedom in physical, intellectual and spiritual realm is a coherent process and not an isolated one.