Sunday, May 18, 2014

The task of preserving the best about our Heritages

(This is the text of my paper presented at Maharaja Siyaji Rao University seminar on Heritage, held at Gandhinagar, Gujarat,as part of the State Government's 'National education Summit' during September 2013)

Theme of the seminar : 'Towards educating young India'

The task of sieving-out the evil aspects of heritages, and preserving only the best about them


Discussions on heritage always revolve around what in the past was deserved to be preserved. They never touch the very difficult task of successive generations and cultures in weeding out the evil aspects of every heritage.

No culture has ever produced a heritage that was free of evil aspects. Take for example our own Indian culture and heritage. Weeding out its evil practices like caste based un-touchability, ‘sati’ etc. was an equal or even more difficult task than that of preserving what was unique about it. So, whenever we discuss heritages, we should also include the difficult process of sieving out their evil aspects too, so that we could stop the unrealistic and unhealthy trend of glorifying the past blindly by sections of political and religious groups. Political groups often use such techniques to sway voters emotions, and come into power. . 

In fact the  task of every culture and civilization was this weeding out the evil aspects of past cultures, and contribute a more civilized history for future generations. If we look the history of the world it becomes evident that,  this process often took place naturally, at times through the eruption of bloody revolutions and foreign invasions, or at other times, by the work and activism of great writers, and great men of mind and wisdom.

If we look at the net result of the above natural process today, we would observe that the very evolutionary direction of human civilization throughout the history was a story of such cultural and heritage-wise improvement. The course of nature itself ( or the evolutionary direction ) has defeated many attempts to impose dangerous and divisive cultures and traditions upon humanity. How did the 2nd World war take place, and how did Hitler’s dangerous attempt to rule the world by invoking and indoctrinating his countrymen about the glory of Aryan heritage, is still alive in our memory. 

This paper will attempt to remind the educators, and the scholastic world in general,  about the need of including stories and task of nations and cultures in fighting the evil aspects of every heritage also, in their  discussions, conferences and seminars on Heritage.

Keywords: Heritage, evils of wrong heritages, fight of nature to weed-out evil aspects of heritage, evolutionary direction.   

Full paper


This paper intents to touch the following 3 aspects of Heritages:

1)     The responsibility of the scholastic world to necessarily include mankind’s fight against its own evil Heritages also in its education endeavors, besides the glorious aspects
2)     While preserving the Heritage, the special care needed in choosing the net essence of every Heritage, instead of roaming around its popular and superficial symbols.
3)     The paper also attempt to expose the connection between Heritage preservation and the political power-structure of the States.  

Human civilization seems thriving on a perennial conflict; between its tendency to hold on to the past, and its evolutionary needs of future. If we look at the history, we always see a clear tendency of nature, always favoring the winning of such evolutionary needs of the future. For this reason, our age is today free from the many evil practices of the past like human sacrifice, witch hunting, slavery etc world over, and sati, child-marriage, un-touchability etc. in our own country.

For this paper, only intangible heritages are referred to, as tangible monuments are considered as mere symbols of the total cultural aspects of a heritage. Heritages, when it is preserved for the sake of history, it is meant for future generation’s knowledge purpose. But it should be carefully distinguished when it is preserved for sole political purposes. In the second case, the process would high-light only what was best about the past, while they tend to hide the evil aspects under the carpet. In the American history, the blood and annihilation of the native Red-Indians would always be hushed down, and only the hard-toil and sacrifices of the early pilgrim-fathers would be highlighted as stories on Heritage. In India too, we tend to highlight only our glorious contributions towards the world-heritage, while the evil practices that we have mentioned above would always be put behind the curtain.

 This assembly here is an assembly of philosophers, thinkers and other men of mind. We are not supposed to be blind followers, or flag-bearers of any particular heritage. Instead, we are supposed to be the torch bearers of the wisdom and light for the entire world. So our responsibility do not end in merely exposing the evil aspects of every Heritage, but we should also be clever enough to dig-out the unique aspects of every past Heritages that would be the leading light for every age and culture. When we follow this responsibility, one thing about the sharp contrast between the Eastern and Western cultural Heritages that has not received world’s close attention yet, deserves special mention here. It would also reiterate the great  prospects of Eastern, or more specifically the Indian cultural Heritage here.

It was merely a historical accident that the Westerners had built-up the modern world around the ancient Greek Heritage, instead of the opposite world view always advocated by the Eastern Heritage. This was the reason why modern world was predominantly built-around the principles of materialistic science, and we always follow a  development model akin to capitalism and its blind exploitation of natural resources. The two Heritages were always at opposite poles as far as their attitude towards life and existence was concerned. Let us listen it from a Western writer himself:

Mr. Marc Edmund Jones (in his Book ‘Occult philosophy’– ‘SAMBHALA’ USA), wrote in favour of the greatness of Eastern traditions by equaling it with the classic Greek tradition in every sense:

He writes: “Any effort to determine causal connections more than two millennia afterwards would be futile, but it must be remembered that developments in philosophy east of Indus, paralleled vary completely to those among the Hellenic thinkers. It may as well have been pure historical accident as the circumstances of any particular genius, that led to the building of modern western idea upon the Grecian rather the Hindu Contribution”

The drastic difference between the two mother Heritages of the world as far as general outlook towards life and existence concerned, is evident from the various  writings of Francis Bacon, one of the pioneers of modern science. Science’s   general attitude towards nature and life, is crystal clear from his following coinages:

Ø       Nature had to be haunted in her wanderings ( word ‘haunting’ refers to that age’s witch hunting traditions in Europe)
Ø       She should be bound into service
Ø       made her a slave
Ø       put her in constraint
Ø       to torture-out the secrets of from her
Against the above world-view of science, what the eastern thought, especially Hinduism stood for was :
Ø       Take care of,  or even worship  rivers, trees and mountains
Ø       Feed and protect every life form. Hindus revere cows,rats, monkeys and even snakes.
Ø       Bow even before one’s enemies before putting them to death.
Ø       Treat the reproductive organs like penis and vagina as sacred and pure.
Ø       Treat  guests as one treats his God

We know how great was the loss to humanity on account of the said historical accident, as  world is paying its high price today in the form of innumerous issues of exploitation of the weak by the strong, gigantic inequality of income, status and living standard  in society, blindly exploited oceans, rivers, mountains, forests and even the atmospheric life-air ! The newly discovered science, or the principles of Ecology emphasizes and reiterates the relevance of the Eastern way of life and development. In order to survive for long, we have to look after our water resources, mountains, forests, air, and even other species in the life sphere, instead of blindly exploiting them in the name of science and development.   

If the East is serious about a reversal of the course of the present world, it must work-hard to propagate our kind of opposite heritage and life-view in the world. Such an initiative would be our paying true homage to our  Heritage, and improving its prospects in the world.  

Another unique Heritage of this great nation that did not receive deserving exposure and popularity in the world  was the non-violent way in which the Father of nation Mahatma Gandhi had defeated the mighty British-empire. His method, though popular in modern world, has not gained a deserving wide-spread acceptability as a leading principle in our multitudes of fights for freedom.  

What we touched in the above few paragraphs was  the extreme caution needed from our part in choosing what to preserve about every Heritage, while giving equal care in throwing light upon mankind’s fight against eradicating the evil aspects also, of every Heritage. Only our strata of men in the world, that of thought, philosophy and mind  could undertake this job with responsibility and balance, as political and religious class may twist the facts to suit their goals.     

Power and Heritage, and the ultimate direction of nature

We can always observe a close relation between power structure in any society, and the heritage it leaves behind. Past glory will always be around the achievements and success of the powerful and their agents.. So, all heritages tend to be intangible stories and tangible monuments and artifacts around their great successes and achievements. A nation, or a region under slavery would never want to pass over their kind of heritage to her future generations !

Such plain examples lead us to suggest that man invoke heritages to identify his ‘self’ with something glorious in the present or past. His superficial self, the ego, does not have any other means to relate itself with, other than what is tangible in the external world. To keep his self-identity even after his life time, the ones in power always attempt to build tangible symbols of their power and glory. The history writers, poets and artists of all the past ages were fearful subjects of the Kings, and  they were under compulsion, or under sacred duty to praise the ruler as a matter of custom, practice and tradition. So, what we have in the form of evidences of past heritages may not be always genuine evidence of truth, but intentionally constructed symbols of their glory, specially made for the future.

It was only after Renaissance and the European enlightenment that the mind of man had become free, and he was able to picture true realities of the past, fearlessly. Thereafter, the scientific and scholastic world could  account and describe past Heritages truthfully. It is today that our class of men, thinkers and writers and philosophers got hold of our sense of reason and enquiry liberated and free, and are able to objectively analyze every fact truthfully.   

When we have a close look at the direction of overall human civilization so far with such an open and free mind , it becomes obvious that the story was that of a slow but  steady win of a certain kind of human progress; ie, the win of more and inclusiveness, plurality and equality over the past tendencies of exclusiveness, highhandedness and inequality. Therefore, any open minded enquiry on the direction of human civilization would be compelled to accept the above stated, clear evolutionary direction of human progress, ie. despite the tentative win of the forces of exclusiveness and highhandedness of the rich and powerful at many instances in history, the overall net effect was the victory of the opposite forces.

In India, we had the terrible history of caste based supremacy of certain men over other men, child marriage, bride-burning etc, but what we have today is a society meritoriously free from those past evil heritages.  If we look at world-over, the humiliating tradition of slavery in western nations, the holocaust, the perils of two world wars etc are just faded memories. Modern world has, by and large, succeeded in leaving those past evil events and practices behind, and move ahead with a kind of universal sense of freedom, multiculturalism, plurality and equality.

Specific efforts of the world, and its eminent men and institutions in saving it from the evil effects of negative heritages  

Now let us focus on the great task that the world and its eminent men and institutions had put-in to fight  the evil aspects of its negative heritages:

First let us consider major stories from foreign  nations.

Slavery:  Let us first take up the case of slavery, one of the most heinous heritages that the western world had created. Though slavery existed all over the world from time immemorial, its institutionalized form had started with the colonization  of the world by the Western powers in the 15th century. In the new institutionalized form, the chief victims were the various African people. As the newly found land of America had become the most active field of activity of the colonizers, slavery flourished there the most. The mostly agrarian South American states could not survive without the slave population to run their large farms.

Abraham Lincoln, though his chief intention was said to be a unified America than liberating the slaves, had to fight a fierce internal war that cost the nation one billion  American dollars. The human-life loss was more than 600,000, a figure that exceeded the total death-toll of the 1st and 2nd world war put together ! The duration of war was 4 years. It is said that the total number of slaves who got liberated  was far less than the  number of soldiers lost their lives in the war. In other words, the cost of getting rid-of an evil Heritage was much more than the net-worth of the evil Heritage itself !

Slavery was one of the most heinous heritages of the Western world, and what we have seen above was the huge prize that it had to pay in eradicating it.

Holocaust : ( The State initiated genocide of the Jewish people)

Holocaust was an attempt of a political leader in Germany, Adolph Hitler, to cerate a particular kind of Heritage for his country men, as well for the ‘master race’ he believed his countrymen belonged to. ( ie. the pure Aryan race) His oratory skill and the systematic state propaganda had made the entire German people to accept his mad ideas, and they joined him in his mission of exterminating about 6 million Jewish people, out of the total 9 million of them lived in different European countries.

There was no greater shock than the Holocaust to the modern world. It had never imagined that such a horrible thing could happen during their time ! Hence, the steps taken by various nations in the world to immune themselves from similar future happenings have no parallel. Among them, perhaps The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum may be the most visible institutional initiative.

Since its dedication on April 22, 1993, the Museum has welcomed nearly 30 million visitors, including more than 8 million school children. It has also welcomed 91 heads of state, and more than 3,500 foreign officials from over 132 countries. The Museum's visitors came from all over the world. Its website had 25 million visits in 2008 from an average of 100 different countries daily. 35% of these visits were from outside the United States, including more than 238,000 visits from Muslim-majority countries.

Then the United Nations General Assembly voted on November 1, 2005, to designate January 27 as the "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Besides the above referred museum in USA, there are scores of other similar  memorials and museums in different states of America. Almost equal number of memorials and museums are there in France, followed by at least one or two memorials and offices dedicated to avert similar future events, at many nations in the world.  

What we have been discussing above was the hard task of mankind in freeing the world from its evil legacies, and the intangible heritages. We hinted above that more than any specific work of men in this direction, it was mother nature who evolved Her own mysterious strategies to achieve the result of cleansing the world from  evil Heritages.
 In the case of Holocaust, it was the defeat of Nazi alliance by the rest of the world that ended the reign of the evil heritage of ethnic and racial hatred.

Few very ancient evil Heritages :

Now let us move to some of the very ancient evil Heritages of the world that we were able to successfully overcome. It is about the ancient practice of selling of old parents for their meat. Bertrand Russell refers to this old practice of our ancients, in his book ‘POWER’ and how we might have over-come it.

He says; “ at some stage in the development of civilization, it must have occurred to some men of unusual foresight that he could, while his children were young, produce in them a state of mind which would lead them to keep him alive in old age; presumably he was a man whose parents were already disposed of” (  book ‘ power’ Unwin -1960, p.160) That highly imaginative foresight really worked. Respect for parents has become an important pillar of human morality in due course.   

He also refers to the origin of  natural aversion of the 6th century BC Greece towards the evil practice of human sacrifice. Though the Oracle at Delphi tried to retard the above humanitarian reform, the good sentiment of the people prevailed over, and gained victory at the end.

Kings always wanted to retain the Heritage of monarchy. He would say, “ monarchy is good, and I am glad that I am a monarch “ A heritage, when  good for some one, turns pain and death for some others. We should repeat, nature’s task always was to preserve the universally advantageous heritages for the good of future generations.  

European colonization:  It was a glorious heritage for many European nations, but end of life and liberty for many Asiatic and African nations from 15th century till mid 20th century. It cost the world  innumerable freedom struggles, blood-baths and destructions  to save itself from the calamity. Many nations and their people under long years of colonization still struggle to wiggle out form the psychological and economic deprivation that the calamity had inflicted upon them.

The Indian Story:  Though our great nation was the birth place of few of the world’s most important religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, and was the major hub of what we called in the beginning as ‘the Eastern thought and heritage’, our struggle to save ourselves from some of the evil aspects of our Heritage like child marriage, Caste based social discrimination etc are still continuing. We could stop Sati like blemishes from the list of these evil heritages with the help of social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and the stern legal measures adopted by the then British Viceroy, Lord William Bentick  

Free India fought the ancient heritage of caste-system by enacting various laws from 1950 onward. The fight to eradicate the evil was more through legal initiatives like ‘reservation’ and quota for  government jobs to members from the down trodden communities. The opening up of the nation towards eradicating this evil Heritage was total for  free India, as one of the central figures in the Indian constitution making was a Dalit, Dr.Ambedkar. In the later years, India even had a Dalit President of the nation, Dr. Narayanan.

Though caste based discrimination is legally abolished in India, the evil is said to be still alive in many interior pockets of  rural India. The fight against these evil Heritages was indeed much heavier than the job of preserving what was glorious about our Heritage.


The chief purpose of this paper was to warn against the general tendency of Heritage studies to always go for its glorious aspects.

We are men of mind, the torch bearers of mankind’s wisdom and mental sanity. We know that modern world is still not fully free from its past tradition of the upper-hand of the rich and powerful. As the US ‘occupation wall street’ agitators used to cry out, it is still the rule of 1% elites over the 99% ordinary men. So, the threat of evoking imaginary past glories in the name of Heritage is very real even today. We, the minority of men of mind should be extremely careful in preserving and highlighting what ever was best about past Heritages, while equally exposing and highlighting the evil aspects as warning signals.

World media do not show any responsibility towards maintaining any such discretion between good and bad Heritages. They are here for ‘describing and narrating events, and not to judge any of them. They often get played up in the hands of their political and industry masters. Therefore, the voices of plain reason and sanity has no effective outlet in the present world, due to the monopoly of media in the realm of mass communication. Such sad aspects of the present world demands greater vigil and pro-activism from our part, the minority men of thought, philosophy and mind. We are supposed to be the torch bearers for the future generations. 

Jai Hind !

Abraham Joseph
Independent scholar from New Delhi,
And Founder of conscience of the society: a registered non-profit organization that is engaged in philosophical and polity research on themes like Man’s faculty of reason, self, mind, spirituality and finally, a reinvented democracy
Mob: 9891168448

Acknowledgement of references :

Edmund Jones, Book ‘Occult Philosophy’ ( Sambhala, USA)
Bertrand Russell, Book ‘Power’ ( Unwin books, London)

Wikipedia ( about UN initiatives to prevent future Holocausts)

memorials and museums )




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