The intellectual has a special call when the horizon of society appears dark. He/she has the challenge to ignite a spark of light that would illumine the steps of humans in such a society. This task reaches an acute dimension when society seems to have lost its moral calculus. When violence becomes a way of building justice, self-respect and dignity, an intellectual has the urgent work of building the moral imagination of that society to give peace a chance. The real challenge is to find a way to move from destructive violence to constructive engagement to let peace and harmony become a way of being human once again.
How we are in the world tells us about our moral life. Emanuel Levinas teaches us ethics is, therefore, first as it determines what we become. The kind of society that we may be and may have become will be revealed if we care to ask: How we are? It is not enough to look for who we are ( Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc.) but it is important to examine how we are… how we are Indians? This takes us to the question of morality and ethics. Do we have to hate and even kill others ( Muslims, Christians, etc.,) to prove that we are Indians or love for India? Our way of being Indian lies in our moral imagination(s). it is the task of the intellectual to illumine, contest as well as enrich this moral imagination (s).
The challenge to engage the moral imagination(s) of a society can increase the hope of decimals in a society. The enhancement of hope requires us to build on inductive learnings and not just on deductive established truths. This means the intellectual has the noble task of letting the eternal prayer in the Upanisads that prays to be led from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge and from death to life. The canvas of the human condition in India today, does awaken the intellectual to imagine ways to transcend the dark clouds that are encircling our society. How are we to rise above the cycles of violence that bewitch our human communities while still living in them? There is no place to escape into silence. An intellectual has a vocation to be light to his/ her people.
To transcend the dark clouds as well as cycles of violence an intellectual has to cultivate and embody the capacity to generate, mobilize and build moral imagination. Moral imagination requires us to imagine that we are in a web of relationships that include our enemies. This requires us to give the dualistic polarities that animate and sustain all kinds of violence as well as remain open to the mystery of the unknown that remains far beyond the landscapes of violence. It is beyond the landscapes of violence that we may be able to imagine ways of attaining lost self-respect that are so often sought by means of violence. It is the task of the intellectual to lead his people to this topos beyond the horizon of violence. It can certainly open new ways of being human within our existing communities with mutual dignity.
There is an island of peace beyond the ocean of violence. Violence blinds us and makes us believe that it is a mode of establishing our dignity and lost pride. Violence only produces cycles of violence. By violating the pride and dignity of another community or person, no one is truly dignified. It only sets up the spiral of violence when each community seeks to dignify or validate itself by inflicting violence on the other. Our politics today is caught in this spiral of seeking one’s dignity and self-respect through violence and infliction of indignities on minorities and demonising others.
The intellectual, therefore, has the challenge to lead the moral imagination in our country. This new moral imagination has the challenge to bring about an effective and lasting change in our society. Faced with massification into a community that as black-boxed and polarized, the intellectual has the challenge to build mutuality and solidarity. Faced with exclusion and ostracization, the intellectual has the challenge to build support groups and we-feeling. Faced with fear, the intellectual has the challenge to build courage and develop negotiating and dialogical atmosphere.
The moment of the intellectual has arrived. Our society is reaching a turning point. It is for the intellectual to put his little mite and lead the reawakening of a new moral imagination to take hold of our society. This new moral imagination will illumine a new way of being Indian. In this imagination, no one has to be first Hindu and then an Indian. All who are born on the sacred soil of India are Indians first. The politics of denigration that takes away the birthright of every Indian has to stop. It is only by looking at how we are, we can be what we are. How we are today lays a demand on every Indian to be first Hindu and be Indian via Hindutva. Such a politics is a violation of the birth right of every Indian. The intellectual has this noble task to work to restore the dignity and rights of every son and daughter of India.