The rationality of men is antithetical to the nature of men. For them to be in the cohort would be something that opposes the fabric of our existence in any realm, be it social, political, spiritual or individual. The nature of men is maybe the one thing that philosophers, of any time, agree upon. It’s a paradox how those who prevailed during times of war consider men as peace-seeking—only due to the ignorance of men of the said nature before the initiation of war. Human nature is not in isolation with rationality; it is as relative as the human being itself. It is the accumulation of traits through social conditioning that man itself has created that makes the pedagogy of said human nature at crossroads yet in the cohort.
Human nature is not just a mere reaction to the environment and events, but it is a way of life, evolution and transcendence. It is that fleeting movement of rationality amid war when a general realises the war could’ve been avoided. It is the realisation of a slave that freedom is worth fighting for or not worth fighting for; it is the belief of a teenager that rules are made to be broken, and it is the choice of a policeman to put his life on the line for a cause bigger or even smaller than himself.
The fact that we try to understand human nature is a testimony to the fact that human nature is, at its core, what the time and society of the time make it to be. It could be against the pre-set motion of society, separate from it or even conformity with the notion. Hence, another common characteristic that thinkers across the centuries (that I have so far deduced) have agreed upon is that change is an inherent quality of our beautiful species.
A society that presents its ideology systematically and in an institutionalised way successfully manages to propagate the ideology and often instigates the morality of men. The moral compass tends to shift with every generation; the nature of change presents a young adult along with the tides of conditioning with a choice: to be the Machiavellian man or the Hobbesian one. Both at their core are different, but present peace as the one way forward. The ensuring peace again presents man with a choice, who reflects free will at its helm—to either build upon the thought set by the preceding generations and dig into it with a rational spoon and a philosophical fork or to set sail in search for new avenues that challenge the society and eventually seeks to transcend them.
The American novelist James Baldwin summarised it best in his famous quote “Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.” With this as a mere prelude, contemporary issues that inherently deal with ideas and dissent in our politically-woke environment where the personal is as political as it comes. With an emerging focus on elements such as sensitivity, awareness, scientific maturity with another sect that accepts nay appreciates art and philosophies for their authenticity; another parallel development is the acceptance of traditions in an orthodox and rigid way with little to no incorporation of newer ideas and technologies.
To cite a very recent issue, the fee hike in JNU—although less in amount but humongous in proportions—has the interests of the economically weaker sections at its heart with a tremendous ideological war in its mind. The public university nears a ₹60,000 price tag, which statistically speaking, is half of what an average poor Indian earns in a year. The internet has been divided among those who support the administration with a simple “Itna bhi mehnga nhi hai” (It’s not that expensive), and those who support the students with a strong “Education is not a commodity” mentality.
It doesn’t take a mastermind to figure that it has become an issue of the right versus the left, the rich versus the poor, the “haves” versus the “have-nots”, privileged versus the suffering, and everything that comes with. It is the sheer academic excellence that JNU provides (equally to the rich and the poorest of the poor) to its students that makes JNU a dream for students like me. The culture and environment that trigger the flow of ideas in the beautiful campus make it even more alluring. But the real beauty lies in the equality of it all; the same dream is shared by a domestic workers son who struggles to complete two square meals a day as well as a kid who studies in crazy expensive schools. It is when two contrasting classes of the society break bread together that true harmony is seen, and if dissent emerges from the cohort of classes as one, we must acknowledge that something is not right.