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January 11, 2007


Your website is beautiful, informative and Excellent..

Daily life can be made happier. It is a matter of choice. It is our attitude that makes us feel happy or unhappy. It is true, we meet all kinds of situations during the day, and some of them may not be conductive to happiness. We can choose to keep thinking about the unhappy events, and we can choose to refuse to think about them, and instead, relish the happy moments. All of us constantly go through various situations and circumstances, but we do not have to let them influence our reactions and feelings.

by Swami Vivekananda
12 Friday Swami Vivekananda’s Actual 144th Birthday

Ah, the elusive middle path! The hardest of all our quests.

Sociopolitical change is best when organic—rising from the bottom rather than imposed from the top—the odds of assimilation improve dramatically.

True in the ideal / simpler circumstances. The Panchayat, tribal laws, the culture of Nyaya. These afford a system of give and take which have a way of working towards solutions which are acceptable to all members. They all operate well within relatively homogeneous societies where the aspirations of the group are to a large extent uniform. The problem begins when society becomes more complex and increased centrifugal forces of individuals and group politics start to operate.

Historically, in such instances, enlightenment tends to come from the top down - not necessarily with undesirable results. The conversion of the king, the elite and the powerful, often have changed societies for the good.

As for the tug of war between enlightenment and romanticism, there too the choice is not as stark and exclusive as we fear. I think the human brain is capable of wearing many hats (think Leonardo da Vinci, the most brilliant of multiple hat wearers). I posted a link at my own site today which asks a similar either/ or question.

It is funny that while the pursuit of the ideal consumes most social debates, some find unusual happiness by just being wholesome and second best. :-)

It is true that the impetus for social change often comes from above or without. But for such change to be assimilated well, it has to then resonate at the bottom, catch fire with the masses. Otherwise, what we'll likely have is a caricature. A lot of folks have studied internally/externally inspired social change in the context of democracy. When imported, it is known to take root in some places, and not at all (or partially) elsewhere. Ultimately, the conditions for its success have to come from within and broadly so (even though the impetus may be from above).

This is how we also develop as individual humans. As teens, say, we respond to fads, peer pressure, role models, or fear of the stick from a parent or teacher, but unless we see the worth of an idea clearly and consciously, we won’t embrace it for the right reasons and won’t be at peace with ourselves.

I'm not saying that change driven from above is always undesirable or harmful (though it pays rather well to be skeptical of social engineering). I am saying that when social change is driven from above, the odds of assimilation are worse than if that change had been organic to begin with. The point in my post is about the odds of assimilation (which, I submit, remains true for complex societies too).

The choice between the ideals of Enlightenment and Romanticism need not be stark at all, as I said myself (“tread the middle ground”). However, in real world sociopolitics, people have chosen quite starkly and exculsively, as I noted too (Stalinism on one end, the Third Reich or the other).

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