“Generally speaking, truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of society.” These are words of renowned American philosopher Barrows Dunham (1905-1995). In his book Man Against Myth Dunham argues that people like Galileo or Bruno were suppressed or even killed not because they spoke the truth but the truth they spoke was too inconvenient for the ruling class.
Inconvenient truths are the most dreaded things in the world, perhaps.
Truths are meant to maintain the status quo. Those who challenge the status quo are the people left out of the purview of the prevailing power structure.
Let’s take the example of Marxism. The Communist Party of China was founded in 1921. A protracted guerrilla war was what it took for Communism in China to usurp the existing power structure. What the common people (aam aadmi, in Indian parlance) got was another dictatorship. Mao and Deng and scores of other schools of thought imposed their ‘truths’ on the common people. These truths crushed under military boots the aspirations and dreams of the aam aadmi. Did the status quo change for the aam aadmi? Today, the ideology has changed. China now has a totalitarian capitalist regime. The transition from hardcore communism to hardcore capitalism has been quite easy compared to the birth pangs of capitalism in West Bengal and the slow decadence of socialism in Kerala.
Today China competes with the staunchest capitalist nations. It has piled up nuclear and other weapons. It has marauded the environment ruthlessly. Seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world are located in China. The aam aadmi is digging deeper and deeper into the ground water sources in search of water: at the alarming rate of 1.5 metres per year. The Chinese soil is losing its fertility at the rate of 10,400 square kilometres a year. 25 million people have lost their jobs after the country embraced capitalism. But there is no voice of dissent. Has the ‘truth’ of capitalism sunk so deep in the psyche of the aam aadmi in China? Is the ‘truth’ of capitalism as unquestionable today as the truths of science, or as were the truths of religion in the bygone days?
In West Bengal, the Marxists not only did not protect the aam aadmi but colluded with the capitalists in the recent past. Singur and Lalgarh are the proofs. The Marxist Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, dictated the new ‘truth’ for the aam aadmi: “Capital has no ideology or colour.”
Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala literally proved that capital has no ideology or colour. He grew from rags to riches too rapidly for a Marxist political leader. When he got embroiled in the SNC-Lavalin corruption charge, he drafted his own ‘truths’ and got the ‘inconvenient’ Chief Minister Achuthanandan ousted from the party’s Polit Bureau. Vijayan’s supporters nailed down his ‘truth’ into the psyche of the aam aadmi by means of posters, processions and demonstrations.
The aam aadmi has had truths imposed on him from time immemorial. He has little choice but to accept those truths. Otherwise he would be labelled a Maoist or something like that and done away with. The ‘truths’ of the ruling class are always more important than the aam aadmi.
I began with a quote from Barrows Dunham. Let me end too with a quote from the same: “For Galileo to assert that the earth is a sphere rotating upon an axis, when feudal myth held it to be stationary and flat, was as ‘subversive’ as for a sociologist to assert today that wars originate from the nature of capitalism.” Dunham wrote that in 1947.