Category Archives: Humanities

The Need for Humanities

Most of us are obsessed with studying courses that would enable us to get a good job and make a lot of money. That is why once the majority of us finish high school, we straight away make a cue for the nearest engineering college or business school. There are very few of us who even consider a college education in the humanities. Subjects like literature, history, psychology and sociology hold little interest for us. And even for those who are interested in these subjects, the desire to play it safe means that most of us will take admission in the standard business and science programs.

Many parents are proud of the artistic ability of their children or the vast amount of general knowledge that they have. However, when it comes to choosing a path in life, they will firmly discourage their wards from going anywhere near the arts. But there are many studies which are emerging in recent times that suggest that an education in the arts would help students from other walks of life as well. Many of the Asian countries who were looking purely at marks and encouraging practicality in their curriculum are now encouraging their students to take courses in the humanities so that they become more creative.

Scientists and engineers should also take a humanities course so that they may delve deeper into the ethics of what they are doing. During the course of their work they are prone to make discoveries and invent machines which have multiple uses. A course in humanities would encourage them to think on the moral values behind the reasons for such use. And considering all that has gone on in the financial world in recent times with so many scams galore, it might be a good idea for bankers to take a course in ethics and philosophy as well.

Humanities also push us to be creative. This is a quality that comes in useful in all walks of life. While analysing complex scientific issues and trying to find ways out of a financial crisis, creativity is a gift that is required by all. Humanities also teach us to question accepted truths and seek to challenge the laws imposed by those in authority. Societies cannot be run by bankers and engineers alone. Society also needs thinkers, philosophers, historians, social workers and artists. That is why subjects that teach humanities should be taken by all.

Essence of Consciousness

The consciousness first emerged as man’s ancestor became aware of his own being, his personal existence, as he singled himself out from the external world and determined his attitude to it. With his emergent consciousness, primitive man noticed for the first time that he existed and how he existed. He began to realise what was going around him. In other words, consciousness is awareness, knowledge of what is going on around one. Such awareness is peculiar only to the human form of reflection. In speaking of consciousness as the highest and purely human form of reflection, one should note its main specific features.

First, man reflects the world as a unity of its external and internal aspects, not only in the form of sensory images, but also in the form of laws and categories, artistic images and so on, through conceptual, abstract thought and speech. Second, human consciousness can foresee the consequences of its own activity, the nature and direction of natural and social processes. This is initially achieved on the basis of life experience, and at the present level of social development, largely on the basis of knowledge of natural and social laws.

Third, consciousness is capable of setting goals, formulating ideals and projecting the ideal results of future activity. Goal setting is a necessary prerequisite of conscious, planned activity. Fourth, the human consciousness appraises reality. In forming goals, interests and ideals, and in taking and carrying out decisions, man is not only guided by knowledge, but also appraises the phenomenon in question depending on the historically arisen personal and social requirements and interests as necessary or unnecessary, useful or useless, favourable or harmful.

Fifth, the human consciousness is characterised by self-consciousness, reflecting not only the external, but also the internal world, and making self-consciousness yet another object of cognition. Sixth consciousness is creative, actively influencing the surrounding world. The function of man’s consciousness is to gain knowledge of the world in order to find the most effective ways of changing not only the actual, but also the possible conditions of social life in the interests of man, in order to meet the requirements, both of the individual and the society. Natural conditions cannot satisfy man whose normal state is one appropriate to his consciousness, one that has to be created by him.

The activity of the human consciousness manifests itself in the functions it performs in the system of practical cognition and transformation of reality. The most important of these are the cognitive, constructive and regulative functions.

Councils and Headmen

Closely connected with the issue of whether land was collective or individual property was the question of whether the essential political institution of the ancient and authentic Indian village was a council or a headman. Some scholars held that the brotherhood of jointly owned village was the true Indian village and argued that the council, an instrument of joint rule and hence isomorphic with that village type, was the essential institution of ruler ship in it, even though it might not seem so.

The typical village of India was the severalty village rather than the jointly held village. Consistent with its form of property and division of labour, the essential political institution of that type of village was not the council of five (panchayat), but the headman. Just as that type of village developed out of a tribal ancestor, so too, his headman was the continuation of the earlier tribal headman and not an intrusion from a developing or conquering central government. There was, however, one village functionary who was just such an intruder, the village accountant, whose rise was inevitable when the plan of taking revenue by means of a share of the produce was introduced, and some kind of public administration was organized. Thus did Need introduce a modern administrative principle into the village alongside the ancient principle of kin-relatedness. One might think that this village bureaucrat would have eventually replaced the older headman, but this was not so. He remained the nominally superior head of the rayatwari village, retaining small powers and much-cherished privileges and precedence rights. Beyond this early insertion of the administrative principle, the ruling institution of the Indian village apparently underwent little or no change. The persistence of the older office of hereditary headman was a symptom of the post-tribal nature of the Indian village community and its caste society.

The displacement of the little republic by the little monarchy as the atom of India’s political economy has had important consequences. To some extent it can be seen as clearing away an egalitarian inconsistency in the primitive, stateless society. The idea that the Indian village was by nature a small monarchy seems much more congruent with the idea of an India divided into ranked or hierarchically related castes and patriarchal households. But some scholars were not prepared in making this shift even to suggest that headman and other villagers were not related to each other by the natural ties of descent.

Some scholars pointed out that the headman and the village officers and elders did not constitute an association. They were constituted by their natural places in the community, by their descent, by their age and sex, and by their clan and caste.

Caste’s Political Economy

The kind of economy that one would expect the caste village to have would meet the following theoretical requirements. It would not be socially undifferentiated as in tribal society, yet neither would it have class divisions and class exploitation. The surplus labour value whether in the form of products (agricultural or manufactured) of cash or of labour itself would be appropriated, therefore not by any exploiting class within the village, but by the state outside the village. The relations of the castes in the village would be characterized by ties of group cooperation and solidarity rather than of competition between individuals. The payments made for goods and services would be determined not by a market but by considerations internal to the village community. Scholarship has obligingly produced just such a village economy. It has been referred to as the jajmani system, after the relationship the village priest was supposed to have with his patrons or sacrificers.

The Indian village is invariably described in discourses on it as containing, in principle if not in practice, a full complement of those occupations, hereditary and belonging to different castes, that were required for the meeting of its own needs. The full complement supposedly consisted in the Deccan (upland area of peninsular India) of people engaged in twelve different occupations. Because they were due shares of the village’s produce, they were known as the twelve ayagars. Each of these village servants whose offices were hereditary, going from father to son, received for the services he performed a fixed annual payment, calculated as a share of the crops harvested by his patron (also received in allotments of land from the corporate stock). The patrons of these village servants were typically the heads of the cultivating households’ resident there.

Indian village were economically organized and self-acting. The economy of the village was self-sufficient and that payments in fixed shares of grain or the equivalent were integral to it. The competition that prodigious social force of which the action is measured by political economy, an inherent feature of modern societies, one that was closely linked with the individual and private property in land.

If Indian villages were ancient communities, then they could not possess any of these features, for they came together as a package. Thus the absence of a free market, of individuals, of private property and of a competitive spirit said to characterize the Indian village were not simply empirical findings for the 19th century theorists; their absence was essential to the type of society itself. Those missing elements were tied to each other and constituted the essence of modern society. They were opposed to the features that formed the essence of ancient societies-reciprocal exchange of goods and services within total unity within the kin group and enmity between groups not so related.

Notions of shares were also important in Indian discourses at an early time. The question is hence not an empirical. It is whether an economy of shares is to be seen as a determinate, unchanged essence of the village as an early ancient community.

Village India, Living Essence of the Ancient

India has been called a land of villages, and if proof is needed of the truth of the description, it is found in the census figures which show that the rural population numbers over 300 million or 9/10ths of the total population. Practically the whole country is parceled out among villages, about half a million in number. A more vivid Impression of the predominance of village life is obtained from a railway journey through India. For hundreds of miles at a stretch village succeeds village, towns are few and far between, and many of the small towns are more like overgrown villages, in the midst of which the cattle are driven afield and from which the peasant goes out with his simple plough on his shoulder to till the neighboring lands.

Scholars and rulers took the village in their discourses to be the irreducible unit, the atom of the state in the nations and empires of Asia. Perhaps more than in the others, however, the village in India came to be viewed as the quintessential Asian village. When it comes to India, it was found confronted with a civilization that is in the eyes of the Asian specialist truly rural in nature.

India supplied Asia with its traditional peasants in the ryots of her village settlements. Indeed, throughout much of the 19th century the Indian village was even taken as typical of both Europe and Asia. Looking upon it with a condescending fondness that borders on the romantic, they supposed the Indian village was analogous with the post-tribal, agricultural village of the Teutons or Germanic branches of the Aryans in ancient and medieval Western Europe, an area of historical inquiry that was being formed at the very same time that the British were settling the revenue in Indian villages. That village in Europe had all disappeared as it became a modern society. India, however, was still an ancient society. The ancient Aryan village still survived there.

Now, it could well be that the importance of the village in the study of India may be due not only to the supposed pre-eminence of the village in Indian civilization but also to this noble quest for our own origins. The constitution of India as a land of villages was also due to the efforts of the British to de-constitute the Indian state. As they were composing their discourses on India’s villages, they were displacing a complex polity with an ancient India that they could appropriate as an external appendage of a modern Britain. The essence of the ancient was the division of societies into self-contained, inwardly turned communities consisting of cooperative communal agents. The essence of the modern was the unification of societies consisting of outwardly turned, competitive individuals. Just as the modern succeeded the ancient in time, so the modern would dominate the ancient in space.

 

Asiatic Communes and Rural Mentalities

An issue that dogged discourses on rural India in the 19th century was the question of whether the village holds or owns its lands in common or whether the cultivating households of an Indian village hold them severally.

There were three modes of production apart from the capitalist. The first and earliest of these was the communal or tribal. The Asiatic mode seems always to be classed as a variant of the communal, a direct development out of the primitive mode that accompanied the rise of agriculture. The Asiatic land form was thus clearly distinguished from the two other pre-capitalist forms, both confined to Europe, the ancient or Roman and the Germanic. Clans were present in all of the precapitalist formations, but they were of primary importance in the earliest or tribal mode and hence in the Asiatic mode.

Persons of the clan community saw the clan not as the result of their cooperative efforts, but as its presupposition. Consistent with this is a further presupposition: the members of the community thought of the land not as their personal property, but as the property of the community. They were merely its possessors; hence the displacement of ownership on to a fictional entity, the clan ancestor or deity.

The primitive society, one characterized by a gentile constitution, that is, one consisting of a confederation of descent groups, was not divided into classes and possessed, therefore, no state the instrument for the furthering of class interests. Within the Asiatic states that arose out of such earlier tribal societies, a division into classes took place, but this was synonymous with the division into villages and the state. The surplus it extracted was, consistent with this lack of differentiation, both a tax and a rent. The same displacement of thought that had occurred within the primitive community was, correspondingly, carried with one step further. The ownership of the landed property of the various communes became, in its turn, displaced on to the oriental despot and his divine double, an imagined god.

The village is, thus, a strange world and the villager a strange sort of human. The village lands on which he labours belong not to him who plows them but to the village as a whole. He merely possesses his land and only then by virtue of his descent from an ancestor and patriarch of the clan, who is at the same time founder of the village. The village itself belongs in the metaleptic thought of the villager, to a remote owner or state in the form of an oriental despot. The unity of that state is based in his mind not on real activities and relations, but on imaginary ones, the presence of the spirit of a clan or village deity and of a despot –and-god couple.

A Cliffhanger of a Civilization

The Anasazi or ancient ones civilization did not live in great cities; they had no writing system and created no monumental art. Despite this, they shared an astonishing culture that flourished in the dramatic and varied landscapes of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico 2000 years ago. The shapes and forms of their architecture, and the distinctive use of colour and design in their arts and crafts, complemented their natural surroundings.  They have made them and their descendants on of the best studied and important cultures.

The wealth and photographs, colour, black and white, recent and historical, reveal the richness of the Anasazi remains. Together with their neighbours, the Hohokam and Mogollon, the Anasazi created timeless images in basketry, pottery, jewellery, architecture and cave paintings well preserved by the arid climate of this remote region.

The foundations of the Anasazi culture were laid between 1000 BC and AD 1000, by people who revealed their spiritual concerns in depictions of animals, spirits and shamans in rock paintings. Increasingly engaged in horticulture, and adapting to a settled village life, the so-called Basket maker period culminated around AD 700. By around AD 1100, Anasazi social life had developed into highly organized communities living in adobe buildings built around plazas, who shared a ritual life that revolved around the sacred rooms of kivas. These rooms were the centre of social and ritual activity, possessing astronomical, mythological and supernatural significance.

Around AD 1000, at Chaco Canyon, a great number of large D shaped settlements or great houses were built beside what are known as great kivas. Hundreds of kilometers of roads linked outlying settlements to this central area. Archaeologists believe that the whole Chaco phenomenon was supported by elaborate and carefully planned hydraulic agriculture, characterized by dams, reservoirs and irrigation canals. The statistics of this undertaking are impressive: some 50 million pieces of sandstone were cut to build just one of the great houses. The dynamic for this development may well have been the extensive trading networks that linked ChacoCanyon with the PacificCoast and Central Mexico, by mechanisms which exchanged shell, timber, turquoise and other minerals.

Between around AD 1100 and AD 1300, these Anasazi had constructed dramatically sited cliff houses, built into rock shelters about 100 to 200 metres below the tablelands. The most famous of these known as the CliffPalace, had 220 rooms, 23 kivas and housed between 250 and 350 people. The Anasazi migrated southwards to the Rio Grande, where they resettled. It was from here that Aztec influence from Mexico made it felt in Anasazi art and religion, with the formulation of cults and societies centred on the worship of ancestral spirits.

Dignified and proud the Anasazi adhere to the mysteries of their religion, and still inhabit the sacred landscape of their ancestors.

Riddance from Naive Attitudes

Naivety is a kind of faulty thinking which is common in people who tend to be losers in life. By its very nature, naivety is never evident to the naive themselves yet so obvious to those who aren’t that they have difficulty in understanding it. There are several subjects about which people are extremely naive and which almost invariably bring them discomfort, misfortune and needless pain.

It is often said that all power corrupts. It is for this reason that some people refuse to seek power. They are therefore content to be followers. Acquiring power, they believe would force them to be cruel and greedy. It cannot be denied this could happen.

If the pursuit of power is shunned, it leaves a vacuum for the ruthless to fill, and abuse of power inevitably follows. Therefore, if there is a strong moral cause then it should be pursued.

Out of a sense of humility and inadequacy it might be protested that one does not have the ability to manage power that one would find such a responsibility overwhelming.

Consider why some people seek power in the first place. They feel inadequate and wish to mask these inadequacies by seeking greatness, as reflected by money, power and status, to strike down their inner doubts about their own worth.

Self-interested people take leadership with a grain of salt. They maintain a healthy degree of caution and scepticism about people who want power so much. But at the same time they are not afraid of taking power for themselves. They know that the most wrenched among us are the most powerless: minorities, children and prisoners, for example. In order to get the most out of life it is most important to have some degree of control: it is the self-negligent who give up that control to others.

Do not take pride in the fact that one is meek. It is better to be strong and use power kindly, than to be meek and depend upon kindly power.

Declining Corporate Loyalty

If loyalty is being faithful to an individual, an organisation, a reason, a tradition, institution or product, then there is some amount of disloyalty in the workplace that has taken a new dimension in the recent times. Corporate employees were of the opinion that their employers would reward their loyalty and good work with job security, generous benefits, and pay increases. In response to global competition, unfriendly takeovers, leveraged buyouts, organisations began to discard conventional policies on job security, seniority, and compensation.

Maximum full-time workers even if not looking for a new opportunity would leave their current position if a better job is offered. Few studies show that approximately 20 to 50 per cent employees quit every year because of escalating salaries. Whatever the actual figures convey, few employees are actually feeling disconnected from their work. Reasons for the same are: the wave of recession, during which organisations laid off huge numbers of their employees with little consideration for loyalty or length of their service; a doing away of benefits, advanced training and promotions for only those who remain with the organisation; and a generation of young employees between the age group of 25 to 40 who had a different set of expectations about their careers, including the need to carry their own brand. These changes have resulted in a sharp decline in employee loyalty.

Employers attitude toward their employees have changed to a considerable degree. The employees are seen as short term resource of the organisation.

The reason for declining of loyalty can be found in the following reasons:

  • employees have started networking, not for fun sake but because they fear loss of their jobs.
  • employees are not taking too many risks in the organisation, and because of this  factor of not bringing too much innovation may negatively hurt both employees’ career avenues and companies’ growth and objectives.

Therefore many employers have started thinking that employee loyalty is dead. The obvious question that arises is that if it is actually dead or surviving on life support system?

It is believed that if an employer shows his employees where exactly the organisation is heading, the efforts required to reach there, and the way they would contribute to success of not only the organisation but also employee success, keep complete transparency, then employers can experience a different and new kind of employee loyalty. All it is required is complete faith and effort on both the employer’s and employee’s part.