Brexit brought with it a number of eminent CIAs (Casualties in Action), some who had gone up to battle with the knowledge that they would lose their kephales, in a manner of speaking, if they lost the battle (Cameron, et al), others who had never seen the political guillotines being secretly placed along the way by their own troops (Johnson, poor him) and still others who fought a losing war knowing that they would remain relevant due to their colleagues being in the same boat (rowing away quickly from the epicentre of the political earthquake), such as Jeremy Corbyn. Even as I respected Cameron (the one guy who brought me close to Liberal Conservatism (as defined in the UK)) and enjoyed the antics of Johnson, the one person who has intrigued me lately has been Corbyn.
In a world where the words socialism and communism are still more often-than-not whispered either by the young blood or the ideologues in afternoon sojourns (or so it seems to be) rather than in the corridors of Westminster, Corbyn came as a breath of fresh air. Ironically, he came around when the Labour party apparently had turned ‘too left-wing’, which as I look back at it, it may have (at least with respect to Blairite times), and wanted to gain back a more centrist position. And so they apparently did with Corbyn, one of the most Left-wing leaders in decades. He was projected, in the leadership election (2015), as an outsider in a race full of young leaders like Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. There was no mike drop by the MPs this time though since the non-MP members had won. The trade unions had won. The MPs may have wanted a centrist leader but the interesting rules of the Labour party made the overwhelming groundswell of support for Corbyn in the grassroots truly count. And out came the jeers by the Tory frontbench and the elaborate news-pieces on how the Labour is going to sink into the depths of ignominy (due to their electoral setbacks). But what many did observe (and many more did not) was the refreshing change of conducting the Prime Minister’s Question Hour. The people were getting a say in a more direct way, even though the presentation was not all that wonderful (reading directly from emails can get a tad bit monotonous, especially given the showmanship across the dispatch box).
All said and done, Corbyn has his problems. In a world full of hatred and nuclear arsenals, deterrents are needed. Either each of the countries will have to evolve a shared understanding to reduce their weaponry or the present status quo shall help maintain a delicate peace. Corbyn’s lifelong disregard for the EU was also a point that made his late swing to the Remain side in Brexit seem odd. Corbyn voted against joining the Common Market in the 1975 referendum and was a vocal critic of the EU before he put in his efforts to strengthen the Remain side. Now, with Remain having lost the referendum, the MPs, who have for quite some time been wanting Corbyn out of the leadership role, are baying for blood. But this post is not to either support or criticize the person. It is to support certain ideas that Corbyn brings forth.
Figure: Political Map of the UK (2010 vs 2015). Courtesy: Telegraph UK.
In my recent adventures in the political playing fields of UK (Cambridge, in particular), I have come to interact with members and groundworkers of three major parties in England: Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dem. While the former stood closest to my just-Right-of-center stance that I had since my school-days (Vajpayee’s influence did most of what it did), the apparent elitist ways and certain sections of the party made me grow slightly distant from them. A party that charged around 70 Pounds for a dinner (attended by students) with a certain MP while many still languished in deprivation all over the country surely raised certain eyebrows (including mine).
Lib Dems came closest to what I could call Liberal Centrism while the Labour was divided along the midriff into two groups: the Blairite and the slightly-more-Left. Corbyn may be from the latter but he opened my eyes to a way of possible governance and understanding of the human condition and society, which I had slightly lost touch with, in my quest to see which system of governance could give eminence to fiscal responsibility and certain established social values and structures (which the Conservatives did). The Corbyn way is one of compassion and respect for the poor and the downtrodden, albeit with its issues of ‘where-will-the-money-come-from?’. I come from a country where Lord Krishna is shown to have proclaimed the idea that divinity is present in each being. He is said to have told Arjuna, through the following Gita verse, “Vidyaa vinaya sampanne braahmane gavi hastini shunichaiva shvapakecha panditaah sama darshanah” that an intellectual person sees and treats equally a cow, an elephant and a dog. True intellect doesn’t see any societal or biological differences and he only sees God in everyone and everything. Krishna is also said to have mentioned “Sarva bhootastha maatmaanam, sarva bhootaani chaatmani, eekshate yoga yuktaatmaa, sarvatra sama darshanah” – meaning a yogi, a spiritual master, who has attained the vision of equality or Yoga sees the whole universe within himself and himself within everything/everyone in the universe: an idea quite similar to that of the Gnostics.
Since I do not want this post to be one on theology or divinity, I would leave the interpretation of the idea of divinity for now to being just an expression of the order and symmetries (or lack thereof) in nature. The idea that existence of the human, or any other being, alone guarantees a certain sense of respect and regard towards it (the idea, if not the manifestation of the idea). Each person may be different, may have been born into rich or poor families, black or white families (and the differences can probably never be removed) but we all need to find a fiscally responsible, centrist viewpoint, devoid of dogma and -isms (yeah, I know, centrism has an -ism too), that can stand up for the human condition, in particular, and for nature and the world in general.
Figure: Krishna and Arjuna in the battle of Kurukshetra
I do believe that the development of a collective consciousness (cutting across nationalities, gender, race, et al), and means of production and management of society can be a way forward, albeit with important caveats on how welfare and the welfare states are managed. I would be more open to the idea of a private-public partnership for fuelling the financial pipelines for welfare schemes. I would also like to see more emphasis on personal austerity and a sense of responsibility towards fellow beings, which is easier said than done. This can only come about if one realizes the idea of divinity (or even the humanity) expressed in the existence of each (human) being. God is not in idols or texts as much God exists in nature, in the way things are. Again, I am not referring to any particular God of any religion but rather to a broader idea of the one form of divinity that exists in the collective well being of the environs and beings around us, on this world, and that we can most easily relate with. There is a subtle difference between Marxist Socialism that places the conception of equality above anything else to the extent of elevating it to the position of a (conceptual) deity and Spiritual Socialism that places a rather more gnostic viewpoint of trying to realize the presence of God in oneself and in society. It just so happens that this can be accomplished in the political domain with a mixture of ideas that are seemingly different in many ways: Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism. I like to call it Spiritual Socialism and/or just Centrism. Corbyn may be one who can deliver on this count, on this idea. He only needs the help of his party and of people, in general. On his front, I hope he can help evolve the idea of socialism that he has championed all his life, into a form that borrows the strengths of positions all across the political spectrum.
Spiritual Socialism may be a good start.