29 September, 2020

The Idea ­And Its Mutant

Not tainted ‘opportunism’ but conscience subjugated by ideology is what stands between idealism and the Leftist. Choosing empathy over polemic may turn the tide, leading to reconciliation instead of the familiar spiralling of crimes and suffering.

Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Idea ­And Its Mutant

Before discussing the idealism of the Left, it would be a good idea to think about what we mean by these terms. Let us start with the second one—is there any such thing as ‘the Left’? If the term refers to a political monolith, clearly the answer is no. The international communist monolith broke up decades ago and today even the fragments are fragmented. The Naxalite movement, which began with an attempt to build a party, had its proponents squabbling bitterly even before the CPI (ML) could be born; and today there are scores of claimants to the ultra-left tradition in India.

Idealism, in its philosophical sense, means either that reality is all in the mind, which constructs the world; or that reality is permeated by structures of thought, and so all truth is an individual perspective. In everyday usage, idealism refers to forming and/or pursuing of ideals; and it can be combined with a sense of impracticality, as in “starry-eyed idealist”. There was indeed a time when philosophical idealism was connected to idealism in the...



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