Title: A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought: Facts, Non-facts and Ideas. Author: J. B. P. More. Publisher: TLPMS & Illakiya, Pondicherry. Number of pages: 197.
A SPIRITED RATIONAL ENCOUNTER WITH MODERN CIVILISATION AND THOUGHT
we are the hollow men
we are the stuffed men
shape without form
shade without colour
T. S. ELIOT
J.B.P. More, the distinguished author of this book A Critique of Modern Civilisation and Thought has scanned clinically in depth the follies and flaws in all the ethos that we have come to understand about modern/western civilisation and thought. The learned and well informed author with incisive analysis has torn apart many inbuilt myths and illusions of this civilisation. He has done so with proven evidence and indisputable hard facts. He has passionately argued with clear ray of reason that the modern way of life and culture is the product of endless greed, insatiable lust for power and savage competitive instincts. This has resulted not only in the destruction of one another but also in the obliteration of whole cultures, languages, religions and civilisations and peoples. This has happened in the American continent, in Africa, in Asia and elsewhere, in the name of certain unscientific western ideas, values and ideologies and the physical and psychological colonisation of other people’s lands and minds since the sixteenth century by the westerners.
The historiographer author seems to have entered the essential core of modern civilisation and thought and, in the process, has discovered the hidden dark circles in them. The shell is all dazzling outside but there is something drastically wrong as we travel deeper into the core of the modern values, lifestyle and structure… the author moves in and around this gigantic structure put up by megalomaniac individuals, craving for power and domination, and underpins the follies and foibles of modern civilisation from diverse perspectives and aspects.
The central thesis of the book is based on facts and non-facts. The author holds that facts like the law of gravity do not create problems, but non-facts or ideas, invented by the brains of men are bound to create problems at various levels as they are virus-infected. The brain is structured to deal with facts and not with abstract non-facts of its own creation. Abstract non-facts can never become facts. The author seems to hold that ideas and ideologies pollute the mind and human relationships and creates never-ending tensions, conflicts and wars in society and the world.
The author strongly holds that all that we have valued about modern civilisation and thought have not solved the miseries of man and has proved itself to be pathetically deficient at various levels of existence since the past two centuries. The author has amplified energetically the shortcomings and fallacies of various aspects of this civilisation and culture through 25 well argued essays, preceded by a long Introduction, which criticises and refutes a broad spectrum of modern thought, theories and concepts.
Colonisation and exploitation have been the bane of this civilisation.The rampant devastation of the diverse social , political, cultural, linguistic and economic fabric of the people who inhabited the vast continents in favour of a strait-jacket ideology, system, culture, economics and politics, promoted by power-hungry megalomaniacs is a tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes. It all began in the 16th century. The so called explorers and the travellers have been the inaugurators of this civilisation the world over. Vasco da Gama and Columbus heads this list, backed by the expansionist designs of the Popes and the European monarchs. The vast populace of the various continents was held captive and became victims of the unspeakable horrors of killings and destruction in Africa and the Americas especially– Black people became slave commodities while the Red Indians were robbed of their lands and exterminated during the expansionist phase of this civilisation. So called progress made by the advent of Industrialisation, technology and capitalism brought in its wake enormous disparity between the peoples and nations, caused innumerable wars in which millions were slaughtered. The author has supported his standpoints and pronouncements with irrefutable facts and historical evidences. The list of calamities and outrageous misdeeds of the so called purveyors of modern civilisation is endless. Western civilisation and the scientists who are deemed to be its pillars promised much, but they cannot put an end to the triple miseries of man i.e. sickness, old age and death. Instead they talk of going to the moon, Mars and Venus as if Paradise is located there! And they spend enormous amount of money to go there! But on earth, the vast masses of people are held in subjection and in utter inequality through various means and pretexts.
As Sri Aurobindo observed in His magnum opus Savitri ‘An idiot hour destroys what centuries made’. This was precisely done by the successive two world wars and the other wars that had followed them, which exposed the hollowness and fragility of western values and the so called high moral stand of the modern/western civilisation’s ethos.
Unbridled arms race and proliferation, wars after wars and killings after killings of human beings in various parts of the world, destruction of animal, bird and aquatic species, forests, lakes and glaciers, the eco-system and the climate, pollution of air, water and earth, never-ending inequalities and injustices in society are some of the appalling consequences of the so called ‘progressive’ capitalist western civilisation within the space of just two centuries…This is what the author has tried to impress upon the readers in page after page of this monumental book.
The author in his profound deliberations, which are far reaching in range and scope, has dealt heavy blows on the various features of the western civilisation and thought by unflappable reasoning and sound assessment. On the whole, his work is a strong indictment of modern civilisation.
The holistic ambiance was totally missing in the birth and growth of modern civilisation and thoughts – and instead, there was a wholesale violent assault on other people’s lands, cultures, wealth and civilisations. It seems, on reading in between the lines of the book, that the author is gifted with “Seeing Intelligence ” which implies that he probed with sharp eyes the deeper malaise that impacted and infected the psyche of the modern/western civilisation and thoughts. A series of well documented facts recorded in pages after pages of the book has effectively de-glamorised the myths and fantasies surrounding the so called high achievements of this civilisation as the sole torch bearer of progress. The author, admittedly, is a neutral observer of the global scene. He has studied the rise and fall of the civilisations. He is well versed in the rhythm of the upward and downward curve of the past and modern thoughts, armed with this supernal understanding he has given to the readers altogether a new unflattering perspective of modern civilisation. It was necessary to chart this course of the maddening ways of this civilisation and its modes of thoughts to warn us about the pitfalls of this complex illusory cobweb of ideas and ideologies of progress which can never bring about peace and harmony in the individual, and in the society.
When the first man dared death and suffered life , it was, as it were , preordained that he and his countless future generations would create endless and diverse forms of cultures, civilisations and modes of thought and so it happened. Again the millenniums passed by and the river banks became the nursery of the great civilisations and cultures.Thought became dominant. The cycles moved on and then came the middle ages and the age of new theories and scientific inventions. Charles Darwin propounded the theory of evolution which declared that only the fittest will survive in the ongoing march of the civilisations. Darwin only announced the evolution of forms not what lay behind the evolutionary complexity of forms. But the westerners caught upon Darwin’s speculation as a scientific fact and used it to justify all their past deeds like colonisation, slavery, extermination and even capitalism. Besides certain ideas invented by western scholars like the notion and superiority of the Aryan race resulted in the terrible holocaust in Germany, the idea and gospel of “Superman” by Nietzsche gave rise to the self aggrandizement of its supporters. J.B.P.More through convincing arguments exposes in this book the pitfalls of inventing irresponsible abstract ideas and ideologies.
As Michel Danino noted that the barely three-century-old Western scientific and technological civilisation, which has erected dazzling constructions on the foundations of greed and plunder is now showing all the signs of advanced decay, its “red evening” is already deepening into a sickening night. On his part, the French thinker Pierre Thuiller has rebuked sharply thus – Westerners remain convinced that their mode of life is the privileged and definitive incarnation of Civilisation. They are unable to understand that this “civilisation has become as fragile as an eggshell…In their eyes, a society is dead only when it is physically destroyed… They do not realize that the decay of a civilisation is inner before anything else … the modern civilisation lives by the moment…” J.B.P.More in his turn has dug deep into the western civilisation and thoughts and portrays its fallacies and dangers in no uncertain terms.
The significant purpose of this book is not only to educate people but also to enlighten them about the essential true history, culture and civilisation, based on facts as opposed to the history as we know of and as we are told, which have been essentially built upon ideas, values and ideologies. It is ‘Grace à’ Monsieur J.B.P.More that we have a unbiased first-hand report of various facets of ‘modern civilisation and thought’ and the havoc wrought by it in the past two centuries. It is also the first large scale attempt to critique modern/western civilisation from a neutral stand-point. The style is aphoristic, conversational and crisp. The different themes are deftly handled with sustained restraint. J.B.P.More has succeeded in putting across the message with telling effect logically and with a high degree of historical perception, consciousness and responsibility… It is for the readers of this book to reflect upon the observations made by the author in every page of this book, written so effortlessly and passionately.
About the reviewer: Surendra Singh Chouhan is an ex-student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE); after finishing his Higher Course he taught for a year in SAICE. He is an international educator and a frequent visiting trainer and faculty in the world of academia who had taught Philosophy to the Chinese students in Shanghai under the auspices of Shanghai Normal University. Presently he is hired by a multinational Chinese company to oversee its corporate interests in Sri Lanka, Nepal and India.