Modernism is unacceptable as the basis of UCC
Dr. Javed Jamil | Clarion India
MODERN systems revolve around what I call economic fundamentalism. The persons, forces or organisations whose solitary aim is to garner economic benefits by adopting all fair and unfair means may be called ‘economic fundamentalists’ and their ideology ‘economic fundamentalism’.
Wealth has a central position in economics. But economic fundamentalism tends to regard it as the most, not just one of the essential requirements of life. The business community has, throughout the world and for ages, always cared little for anything but its own economic interests. Businessmen of the past made only individual efforts in that direction and they had little influence over the happenings in their surroundings. They were the cranes that would use their cunning eyes to capture the prey when it came close to them and not leopards that would roar their way through the forest in search of their targets. They did not have any say in political and administrative affairs; the law of the land safeguarded the interests of the common people, or the interests of rulers.
During the last few centuries, especially in the wake of Industrial Revolution, businessmen have organised themselves into an aggressive, domineering, dexterous, ingenious and inexorable class. This class has been successful, rightly or wrongly, in mastering all the new information, techniques and opportunities available to it for the protection and expansion of its interests. This is where economic fundamentalism begins to emerge. Now, businessmen, unlike in the past, are no more weak and submissive. They are not the cranes any more but the leopards that want to rule and roar. They have not only learned to assert themselves but have perfected the skill to push their plans defying all obstacles. Not any longer are they bootlickers of the rulers; the businessmen have now mastered the art of manoeuvring them into submission. From the sycophants they were, they have now positioned themselves in a way that the rulers and administrators even often become their sycophants. Not any more are they silent followers of the rule of law; they have become articulate votaries of such modifications in the law and the socio-political systems as better suit their interests.
The think-tank of the world of economic fundamentalism has taken innumerable steps to strengthen their hold. They have sacrificed the goddess of justice before the eyes of the Statue of Liberty. They have transformed through political manoeuvres the state into their estate. They have incessantly and relentlessly been trying to organise a grand farewell to religion. They have captivated the people’s imagination through the media. They have got the attire of society redesigned so that it looks gorgeous and inviting to their eyes. They have industrialised sex and have discovered the hen that always lays golden eggs. They have relocated the entire educational set-up on the Wall Street. They have monopolised the tree of economy whose fruits and shadows are only theirs; others can only admire its beauty from a safe distance. They have taken science and technology as their mistresses who are always keen to offer their glorious best to them. They have nipped all the challenges in the buds by masterminding popular movements. They have lynched the ‘civilisation’, which has been given a new incarnation; and now Bohemians are called civilised. Last but not the least, they have been busy colonising the good earth in the name of globalisation.
Society Made Addicts
The biggest challenge to the advance of economic fundamentalism was an “undue” emphasis in society on duties and prohibitions. The equilibrium between rights, duties and prohibitions helped in keeping susceptibilities of human beings to worldly desires under check. The inspector of conscience and the commissioner of social conduct were the biggest foes of the emerging corporate world. The target customer of the big business was not an honest, less-worldly, God-fearing idealist whose preferences for self were no more pronounced than for others. The idealists in society outnumbered them and would not let them spread their tentacles wide and across. Their dominating presence indicated that any attempts to suppress egalitarianism would be met with stiff opposition. The backbone of their resistance, therefore, was to be broken. The architects of the Industrial Revolution contemplated that human desires were too strong to be resisted by the common men. But it was an onerous task to convince the idealists. Human desires were mines of gold that must be dug at the earliest.
The great “ideological war” began, with “rights” being its central theme. The self-proclaimed champions of personal rights soon started gaining popularity among the masses, for their declared aim was to fight for the rights of the people. The people failed to fathom their undeclared motive — to make each right a ladder to reach new heights in their commercial crescendo. The individual rights encompassed one’s right to wear whatever one likes including birth-suits. To eat or drink whatever suits one’s taste. To have physical intimacy with anyone and in any style one prefers. To frolic and entertain in whatever manner one feels fit. To view, or show, whatever one desires to. To express whatever appeals to one’s heart or one’s mind. To earn from whatever resources one can find. And to play whatever game one feels like playing. No act should be taboo for man or woman whatever the consequences of these acts on oneself or the environment. It should be one’s and none else’s concern if one’s actions prove good or bad.
Within a short span of time, the concept of individuals’ rights became almost megalomania with intellectuals, writers, professionals and social activists. Their zeal rapidly zoomed because they had discovered some jewels for them also in the newly discovered mine of treasures. Anyone prescribing to the contrary had no takers in the media. His voice waned rapidly to become inaudible for the masses. “Duty” almost ceased to exist and “prohibition” became the most loathed word. The constitution of a large number of countries put extraordinary emphasis on ‘Fundamental Rights’. ‘Fundamental Duties’ either disappeared into total oblivion or were given nominal importance. ‘Fundamental Prohibitions’ had no room at all in the new constitutional setup. Until and unless the “serpent of prohibitions” was killed, society would not feel “secure” and “free”. Anyone talking of prohibitions and duties was mocked as “bloody moralist”, and was looked upon with contempt and derision, even condemned as retrogressive and obscurantist. Anyone advocating the lifting of all forms of curbs obviously became “progressive” and “liberal”.
Religion Banished as a Social Force
Religion, obviously, had no place in their scheme of things. Throughout history, religion has played a significant role in the individual and social affairs of human beings. For most of the people flourishing in different regions of the planet earth and in different eras, faith has been a sine qua non for existence. In spite of the fact that religion has more often than not been defiled or contaminated by self-seeking, purblind clerics, it has earnestly and relentlessly endeavoured to discipline life by erecting the fence of ethics around it. It has almost been a periodical occurrence that prophets and sages arrived with sublime messages of highest virtues, and no sooner did they depart, their followers successively adulterated those with immoralities and indecencies. Yet, it is an irrefutable truth that it is mainly owing to the strong influences on human minds and hearts wielded by religion that truth, honesty, sacrifice for others, justice and mercy have always been regarded as commendable virtues in society.
This is another matter that the constituent members of society have generally failed to put them into practice. Still, what is indisputable is that religion assisted mankind in overcoming dilemma of routine life at a time when it was not advanced enough to objectively discriminate between the right and the wrong. In the midst of all-pervading gloom, the solitary torch of religion shone; whoever had the eyes that could see it, darkness made exit from his life.
The faiths that have been dominant in the world during last few millennia – Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism,. Christianity, Islam and Sikhism – all have, without exception, magnified moral values. No religion preaches falsehood, dishonesty, cheating, bribery, hatred, violence, adultery and fornication. Each of them eschews, albeit in varying degrees, this-worldliness; Buddhism condemns this life altogether; Christianity promotes celibacy; Islam permits necessities and enjoyment of life within prescribed limits and promotes love for other-worldliness. Religion aims at achieving mental peace and gives less importance to material gains. This principle applies to all religions, and this is what annoys the economic fundamentalists most; for promotion of materialism reigns supreme in their scheme of things. Their plan cannot triumph unless people stop getting entangled in the moral quandary and the love of this worldliness ravishes that of the other-worldliness. How will they be persuaded to “enjoy” the “comforts of life” (without unduly caring for right and wrong) that the merchants seek to market with great fanfare if honesty rules the roost in their life? If sex outside the ambit of marriage is considered immoral and illegal? If self-sacrifice lords over their hearts and minds, and deceit and falsehood haunt their conscience?
It first happened in the West where business moguls, involved in rapid industrialisation, realised the compelling need to marginalise religion. Christianity was their obvious target. They sought to minimise its influence in the affairs of the states in Europe. It had played a vital role in the crusade. The bishops enjoyed unchallenged authority and respect in society that helped in exerting their unparalleled influence on the rulers. The monarchs too needed a moral boost for themselves and many of them feared God. They were therefore usually loath to earn displeasure of the religious patriarchs; for any disturbance in their equation with them could loosen their grip on the masses. The danger of sedition constantly hovered over them. But, with the growing fortunes of the industrialists, the monarchs were now better placed to back a campaign for the separation of Church and the Establishment, a demand that had been voiced even in the past but without much of a success. The time was ripe to push ahead, as the rulers and the industrialists could now act in tandem. The rift between this-worldliness and other-worldliness led to the coinage of the concept of secularism.
Secularism, as a movement, began at the time of Renaissance and it aimed at directing society from other-worldliness to this-worldliness. It was presented as an ideology that exhibited admirable development of humanism and the growth of man’s interest in human cultural achievements. It has been in progress during the entire course of the modern history, and critics have rightly viewed it as primarily anti-Christian and anti-religion. Clerics countered the move, but their efforts to stall the march of economic fundamentalism in the garb of secularism proved futile. Secularism showed tremendous progress in Christian countries because Christianity did not have an elaborate code of human actions. Further the priests had begun to crumble under the influence of modernity. Their own depravity made them unpopular. Secularism achieved the remarkable feat of “emancipating” the state in several countries from the “clutches” of religion. One European country after the other started adopting secularism. The economic fundamentalists had won a major battle.
Secularism in India however had the backing of all communities because, unlike the West, here it meant respect for all religions and equal rights to all communities.
In Muslim countries, movements spearheaded by the westernised or leftist elements had to face stiffer resistance, for unlike Christianity, Islam had laid down elaborate instructions even for social, economic and political spheres of life. Furthermore, Muslims have demonstrated greater allegiance to their religion than the followers of other contemporary faiths. Slightest deviation from Shariah usually invited trouble. Even rulers in Muslim countries – they might be having little piety in themselves – applied Islamic principles in the matters related to law and economics. These difficulties however would not deter the antagonists of religion. A virulent propaganda began against the family and social doctrines of the religion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
These started producing results, at least temporarily. The masses in some Muslim countries, especially the elite, were dazed by the pompousness of Western life. The indifference towards religion grew relatively more in those Muslim countries that had spells of French or British rule, or where communism had captured imaginations of some segments of society. The outstanding advancement of science and the secular apparel the scientific education was provided with promoted an atheistic temperament. A section of the Muslim intelligentsia started becoming agnostic, if not atheist. Many got convinced that there was no role of religion whatsoever in the modern world.
The high voltage propaganda by the traducers of Islam gained some success in creating dizziness in the minds of educated Muslims about the adequacy of Islamic principles for growth and development. Whoever harangued in favour of religion was labelled obscurantist, retrogressive or retrograde; whoever advocated allegiance to the Islamic way of life was mocked, derided or ridiculed as a fundamentalist or an extremist. The anti-religion fervour of the Westernised and leftist elements grew in intensity owing to the fact that the traditional scholars of Islam proved unequal to the task of defending the faith unfortunately presenting it in a jargon not understood by the modern man. They usually stuck to the interpretation of the Noble Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah by a handful of jurists that often deviated from the original spirit of the sources and also because they explained them only in accordance with the knowledge their contemporary world possessed about the facts of life.
The infelicitous feature of the whole history of the decline of religion in most parts of the world, especially as a dominant social force, was that the protagonists of all the religions assumed an out and out defensive position. Their defence of religion was generally weak and ineffective as they attempted to use the same criteria as their detractors had, after a meticulous thinking, laid down for examining religious beliefs and practices. They often turned apologetic in their arguments.
But Islam made a quick comeback in the last century, particularly the second half of the century. The chaotic effects of Westernism and communist ideologies have surfaced fast with societies becoming more prone to crimes and unhealthy practices like alcohol, drugs, gambling, homosexuality and sex outside marriage. Family system totally disintegrated. Atheistic ideologies denying the religious morality have brought much greater violence with wars and civil wars than ever before. Presently not only Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, especially in Western countries but Muslims are also most religious people. They have many shortcomings but they are now in a position to thwart the propaganda against Islam in a more effective way.
Though the virtues like probity, self esteem, patience, endurance and truthfulness are also unwelcome, what particularly annoys the economic fundamentalists is insistence in religion on taboos. The practices forbidden by different religions are obviously such that they tend to lure, mesmerise and addict humans. These cause temporary pleasures that may sooner or later be followed by undesirable effects, often severe, on person, family and society. The very fact that they had to be prohibited indicated the culpability of the people for them. They are cocaine that rapidly transforms their users or practitioners into physical or psychological dependents.
Every religion has its prohibitions. Many of them are common with other religions. Christianity eschews sexual perversity; Jainism and Buddhism forbid meat, alcohol and adultery; Hinduism and Christianity are not too sure about alcohol. In Islam, prohibitions have taken a more elaborate form and cover all aspects of life. Taking of alcohol, pork and blood are not allowed and gambling, hoarding, usury, adultery, fornication, murder, theft and bribery are expressly unlawful. It can easily be seen that the habits and practices proscribed by different religions, especially Islam, can produce serious ailments and social tensions.
But economic fundamentalists had little concern for the welfare of the individual or society. (Of course they would engage in specific kinds of “welfare” activities with great fanfare.) They could foresee an extraordinary scope, once the outlets are open in these taboos, for their commercial aggrandisement. Among these sex related taboos have been the biggest concerns. Sex has always posed a big threat to the personal purity of a religiously inclined individual. It is much bigger threat than alcohol and gambling because the latter tend to pulverise a life only after one gets introduced to them. To avoid them is easier. Sex is a biological need that cannot be avoided altogether. Every man and woman feels the desire to have it. Even devout tend to succumb to the temptation of a sexual opportunity. Still, the fear of God would keep them in relative check.
The ousting of religion along with its dos and don’ts in Western society ensured smooth sailing in the future for the big business. They were now on a robust platform to bring about rapid onset of huge transformation of social values. These changes had absolutely nothing to do with the wellbeing of society. They were aimed only at utilising human temptations for the geometrical multiplication of wealth.
Dr. Javed Jamil is an India-based thinker and writer with over 20 books to his credit. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org