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When believing is seeing: The surreal world of intellectuals

When believing is seeing: The surreal world of intellectuals

The coronavirus has eliminated many things from public life. Like protests by liberals and intellectuals.

Have you been to any such gathering? It’s quite an experience. Whether it is a literary festival, a Not-In-My-Name protest, or a meeting to support a cause. The look, the feel, the atmospherics—everything has a surreal quality about it. Having attended quite a few such meetings in recent times, I feel competent to make some remarks about them.

First the look and feel. Regular folks, lesser mortals like us wear, or want to wear, good clothes. Men go for Raymond, Reid & Taylor, J. Hamstead, Arrow, Louise Phillippe, Van Huesen; women love Nalli, Satyapaul, Manish Malhotra. Great liberals and intellectuals, however, prefer khadi and Fabindia.

Ordinary, normal people prefer the beautiful and the bright—in colors, designs, styling, everything. Intellectuals prefer the ugly and the gloomy. The duller the color, the coarser the fabric, the more depressing the look, the better.

When a normal couple is alone, they make love; when an intellectual couple is alone, they discuss ‘sexual politics.’

When ordinary men and women, people like us attend a marriage party, they rejoice in good tidings. Liberals and intellectuals, on the contrary, don’t approve of any marriage unless both partners are of the same sex. The normal marriage they view with suspicion, often as a fodder for the perpetuation of patriarchy. Anything hetero-normative—that is, sexual attraction between men and women—is an abomination.

If you ask a normal person, who are their favorite film actors and actresses, they would say Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhubala, Suraiya, Hema Malini, Madhuri Dixit, Kangana Ranaut, and so on. If you ask an intellectual the same question, the answer would be Balraj Sahni, Smita Patil, et al.

Now Sahni was an excellent actor, but I wonder what kind of man would like to take his girlfriend to watch <em>Do Bigha Zameen</em>. So, let’s have a closer look at intellectuals. A quick Google search will give you delectable quotes: “an intellectual is a person who’s found one thing that’s more interesting than sex” (Aldous Huxley); “an intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows” (Dwight D. Eisenhower).

I would like to focus on the distinguishing features of intellectuals, the most important of which is: while for people like us seeing is believing, for liberals and intellectuals believing is seeing. We perceive phenomena and then come to some conclusion; mostly, experience guides us. This is what science is all about.

But intellectuals know the Truth—yes, that’s how they look at it—and cherry-pick facts to doll up their version so that it could pass off as the Truth.

They know before any investigation that the killing of Maoists was the result of a fake encounter, that the police version is ‘full of holes.’ In their scheme of things, what they perceive and conceptualize is knowledge; the opposite is a malevolent construct of ‘false consciousness.’

For people like us, facts are sacred while views are free. For intellectuals, it’s the other way around. Since views are sacred, to uphold their sacredness, facts can be freely chosen, highlighted, or suppressed.

Twisting and tormenting the truth in the name of upholding it: this is the most important mission of intellectuals. Unsurprisingly, they often end up supporting Islamists, the murderous Maoists, green terrorists, all manner of unsavory characters. And that too in all sincerity and earnestness, with the certitude of the self-righteous.

This is what adds surreality to the world of intellectuals—wallowing in mendacity and sin with the clear conscience of a saint. One could feel that surreality at intellectuals’ jamborees..