The #PakistanProblem: Taking recourse to Philosophy

 

Philosophy is a potent weapon in the arsenal of the optimist – some might even say the last resort of the diehard.  But for a citizen of a country that bears the burden of a Mahatma and is stuck with a fanatic neighbour that fabricates fairytales even for its history, Philosophy, perhaps, is a natural option.

Says Duryodhana, scion of the Kuru family, in the Mahabharatha, ‘I know what is right but I can’t seem to do it; I know what is wrong but can’t seem to give it up’.  Duryodhana had several qualities that could have made him the hero of the epic. But the quirk in his character immortalised him as the ignoble prince whose obduracy and single-minded pursuit of a flawed goal led to the annihilation of an entire race – almost.

How does one treat an entity like Duryodhana? Says Tiruvalluvar: ‘The good alone deserve affection is a refrain of the ignorant; it is the only tool to handle the wicked as well (araththirkkE anbu sArbenbar ariyAr; maraththirkkum adhE thuNai).’  We don’t know the context in which he wrote these words (Tirukkural: verse 75).  But peaceniks in India zealously follow this ideal and lecture the rest of India on the need to adopt this attitude towards Pakistan: Talk with them … keep talking … talks are the only way …, they say. But, as another Indian philosopher put it, generosity towards the undeserving can be called anything but virtue.

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Is there something to learn from a Chief’s letter to his Army?

“In 1986, when General K Sundarji took over as the Indian Army Chief, one of the first things he did was to send a note to all his officers. The letter created quite a stir in the Indian Army at the time, candidly identifying prevalent ills and offering solutions.”

Many of the problems identified by the General are universal, and his suggestions are as relevant for ordinary individuals and professionals  as for the Indian army. Excerpts from the ‘Chief’s Letter’ [From: Triumph of the will | Indian Army | Indian Army officer | The New Indian Express]:

‘Field Marshal Cariappa used to say, “Good officers – good Army; bad officers – bad Army”. We should, therefore look at ourselves first and be not only frank but hypercritical…  Many of us have not professionally kept ourselves up-to-date, doctrinally or technologically; we have felt that we have “got it made”, and rested on our oars; we do not read enough; we do not think enough, …

‘In the practise of our profession, we have not insisted on standards being maintained and turn our eyes away from irregularities (living in a glass house?); we have not been tolerant of dissent during discussion and encourage sycophancy (a result of our having “switched off” professionally?) we have not been accepting any mistakes (due to hankering after personal advancement?), …

‘Finally, some have perhaps unthinkingly developed a yen for 5-star culture and ostentation which flows from new-rich values in our society, where money is the prime indicator of success and social position. This adoption of mercenary values in an organisation like the Army which depends for its élan on values like honour, duty and country above self, is disastrous for its élan and for the self-esteem of the individual in it…

‘All of us talk about “Officer-Like Qualities” and about being officers and gentlemen. I am not sure whether to many of us these terms means the same thing… of putting the interests of the county, the Army, the unit and one’s subordinates before one’s own; of doggedness in defeat; of magnanimity in victory; of sympathy for the underdog; of a certain standard of behaviour and personal conduct in all circumstances; of behaving correctly towards one’s seniors, juniors and equals…’