The Demise Of The Intellectual?

Posted on December 22, 2011 in Specials

By Sohini Chattopadhyay:

Life is a very strict regimental walk on tight ropes where one slip is going to take you deep down into an abyss of oblivion. It’s not as pessimistic as it sounds if we make peace with the chasm. But then, it is indeed the proverbial rat race and that too in a critically acclaimed circus.

So what makes a 21 year old philosophize (albeit with vague results)? Well, school days were those glorious moments when competition was restricted to classrooms, till Board Examinations happened. And then admissions, university examinations and all those strings of successively tiring phenomena. There are the text books for examinations, the guide books that cater to superhuman marks that include a 99 in English though I always thought it is impossible to perfect a language because of its inherent flexibilities. Science is what the reality of the earth is, arts is how we perceive it. But of course, to build a career, to get good marks, it is essential that we stifle individual imaginations in the exam paper, forget our individual perception of the world. Once we learn to do that, we can effectively stifle independent thinking in other spheres as well, because our education is determined by marks and similar parameters.

Of course, marks are not the only criterion on which a person is judged, he has to be a Jack of most trades, if not all. The curriculum vitae should boast of a winning streak since kindergarten sack-race and egg-and-spoon days, a benevolent social activist in the making, a Shakespeare with words, an argumentative debater, good internship records, singer, dancer, smart, good oratory skills, impressive personality, etc. of course all of us wanting to live a successful life tries to indulge in such a personality development. From this emerges a polished package, and attractive marketable product of the human mind that is intelligent no doubt, but successfully trained to adjust itself to the demanding situations of the world, street smart enough to not question it with bluntness. Even our intellectual questions are often trained to fashion itself in some pre-determined way. Of course, a philosopher not well versed in Aristotelian logic is a madman, they’ll say.

And so we shall all rush to our glories, adjusting and readjusting ourselves with the demands of the world. That’s okay I suppose, as life is short and we must make most of it. The pessimistic me would argue that this must be at the cost of killing the independent unfettered intellectual that resides in everyone’s minds and that is so essential in our nation that I believe requires a silent constructive revolution in the sphere of thought. The optimistic self would argue that the intellectual is not dead. It will come up from this flexible class of rat-racers who have faced many challenges of the world. And the realist will just hope that whatever happens, lets just hope that we shall be open to new ideas for all times to come, in spite of straight-jacketing our lives into streams of pre-determined thoughts in military proportions.