Monday, June 15, 2009

Interesting Article - Century of Forgetting

Excerpts from an interesting article that appeared in the Indian Express Op-Eds -

Century of forgetting - Bhanu Pratap Mehta, Indian Express, 16 Jun. 2009
...1909 was the year in which the first near complete text of Kautilya’s Arthashastra was published. Four years earlier, Rudrapatnam Shamashastry had discovered the palm leaf manuscript that would define his legacy. But while he recognised the significance of the text, even he could not have anticipated the revolution in Indian self-image his discovery would bring about.

The text became a focal point with which to contest every cliché that had been used to define India. A society that allegedly never had a rational state suddenly acquired one; a society defined by a dreamy moralism suddenly acquired a narrative of steely realism; a society without a history of political thought acquired a master text in political theory; a society without sophisticated economic thinking acquired insight into the foundations of wealth; a society without a strategic culture acquired a veritable theory of international relations; a nation with ostensibly no political identity acquired a prehistory of political unity.

The more serious threat to a broad humanities culture does not come from the market. It comes internally, when scholars no longer believe that the purpose of education is to distinguish the truly valuable from the merely fashionable, the purely instrumental from the genuinely elevating thought. Classicism was not about glorifying the past or scholastic pedantry, it was a fundamental resource to be deployed, reworked, deconstructed, and sometimes even lampooned in the process of a deeper understanding of the Self.
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