Is Critical Thinking The Worst Anti-Social Activity?

Posted by Ranjeet Menon in Society
January 24, 2018

A couple of days ago, I was watching Prakash Raj, a very well known Indian actor on TV expressing his views at the India Today conclave. He was taking on every question, openly criticising the current political scenario in India, and putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the PM and the President of the political party he belongs to. He is someone who is well entrenched and seasoned in his profession, has contacts wherever it matters and has a prosperous life, so he may have sounded arrogant to many. But then he explained why he is taking such a stand. Gauri Lankesh, the well known journalist and a good friend of his, was murdered in cold blood last year and supporters of the ruling party were bursting crackers and distributing sweets to celebrate her killing which neither the PM nor any other party leader condemned. He just couldn’t take it and is letting out the rage that has been seething inside him.

The scourge of any establishment and what scares establishments the most, is critical thinking. In one of my previous jobs, my team leader used to constantly tell the team that the work we were doing could be done by someone with just high school level knowledge. It used to feel like he was underwhelming us but he was right. We were just following set procedures and we were not required to wrack our brains to solve problems. We were not required to invent anything new. Simply put, no critical thinking was required. If we look at it closely, the entire corporate, political and religious spectrum works on the same principle. In the corporate sector, it’s just about doing the work as one is told to, take your salary and go home. In politics, vote for one of those people who have been put before you and that’s it. In religion, read, listen and follow what’s written in religious texts.

If we look at all the greatest inventors in history, relatively very little is known about them other than about their inventions and their work. This is because the way they think is a complete mismatch to how the society works. Their behaviour and lifestyle has never been considered as normal as per societal standards, and they were always treated as outcasts during their lifetimes. This is because critical thinking has always been the biggest enemy to the norms of society. Gautam Buddha had to renounce his kingdom and regal life because he understood that only critical thinking can make this world better. But he had to live his life outside the walls of the society. Jesus Christ tried to be a critical thinker within the society and we all know what his fate became. This is how society has always treated critical thinkers – either keep them out and limit their sphere of influence, or if that doesn’t work, eliminate them.

Religious and political establishments have realized long ago, that critical thinkers are their mortal enemies. When do people start doing critical thinking? When they are content with their profession, earn enough to live a prosperous life and most importantly, have access to information. Deny all of these to people, and they will struggle to manage their lives and take care of their families which will give them little time to seek out and understand what is happening in the world.

First, the concept of wealth was introduced, then financial institutions came along and introduced the concept of money. The Renaissance gave rise to industries and jobs, and money got linked to jobs as salaries. Thus, began our continuous struggle to eke out a living and seek out the elusive prosperity that always seem to be out of our reach. The establishments are also fearful of education which is why rural people in countries like India continue to have less access to schools and colleges and very little practical know-how, and true knowledge of the world is included in the education curriculum.

The establishments have also ensured that people who can do critical thinking are subjugated to them thereby effectively neutralizing them. A simple example of this is wealthy and distinguished people of the society flocking the establishments of God men. Once they are all brought together under one umbrella, none would dare to go against the establishment. This is also how we find plenty of well educated people being a part of, and supporting political parties.

All of this would explain why the political establishment in India is riled and up in arms against Arvind Kejriwal and his party. He is well educated, had a prominent government job and has a pedigree in social service. That is why when he launched a political party, the entire system went into shock. When the system tried to take him down, he found a way to win elections and become a chief minister. What he talks about and the work he has been doing, has been clearly highlighting and differentiating what elected representatives have been doing for the people for so long and what elected representatives should be doing. Solving existing problems in society is another huge setback for the establishments. If there are no problems, what is there for the leaders to highlight and talk about? I believe that they have no vision for the society and people – they are only concerned about taking care of the needs of the establishments. This problem exists in the corporate world as well.

In his bid to create new and innovative ways of governance, I think that Arvind Kejriwal has been forced to go against the establishments, and that is why all of them have ganged up against him. He has made himself a threat to their survival and existence. Similar is the case with Prakash Raj. These people have risen above all influences of the establishments, and cannot be subjugated. In a Malayalam movie called “Red Wine”, there is a character who was a students’ leader in college and fought against the corporates that were trying to usurp tribal land. The head of the company says he belongs to the firebrand category who will not sway under any influence, and can never be subjugated – so he had to be eliminated.

Critical thinkers continue to be the bane of the establishments. LinkedIn has introduced a concept called “influencers”. These are mostly leaders from the corporate world. Hundreds and even thousands of people follow them. People have to understand that everyone is capable of having their own views and opinions from their experiences in life, and do not necessarily have to follow anyone. Until this enlightenment happens, we will all be under the slavery of establishments and will continue living the miserable lives we have become accustomed to.