Food for Thought

July 9, 2024by Rajeev Hora6

Every thought is valued and respected, if we vow to disagree without being disagreeable.

Non-partisanship is a lack of affiliation or a lack of bias towards a political ideology. Very often, the phrase “you are either with us, or against us” is used to generate polarisation and reject non-partisanship. The implied consequence of not joining the partisan effort of the speaker is to be deemed an enemy and worthy of hostility.

Although the phrase has been in vogue since the Roman days, the most contemporary example dates to 2001. The world was in a state of shock because of the twin tower attacks. The US President at that time, George Bush declared at the highly publicized, launch of his anti-terrorism campaign, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

 Such a choice when presented, limits your choice to only two dictated options. Emotions running high in the heat of the moment, people do often get swayed by such rhetoric. Especially so, those who may be earlier indifferent or sitting on the fence. It is that instance where people tend to park their own thinking abilities and tend to go along with the obvious choice. There are always some who consider the ‘not so obvious’ choices as well and do not feel shy of challenging the obvious.

In that vein, there are many scholars and well-meaning citizens who steadfastly refuse to join mainstream politics. Says Professor Ramaswamy, “Despite a lot of good friends coaxing me to take a political plunge, I have declined the offer. Simply because if I join a party, I will have to be stuck with all the ‘good, bad, ugly’ that is on offer. I will have to relegate my own thinking and ‘freedom of thought’ to the dustbin. And that is not acceptable to me.”

“I haven’t quite understood Professor. Don’t we all have freedom of thought?”

“Very pertinent question, I must say. We may be having ‘freedom of speech or expression’ by law. But it does not mean that we have freedom of thought. Many of us have unknowingly surrendered it to political leaders, religious heads or even family elders. The surprising part is that no one can snatch it from us. It is we ourselves who have chosen to give it away.”

“On the contrary, there are people who have lived in extreme and unimaginable adversity. Yet they have come out of it with their thoughts ‘free and unblemished’. Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela are two prime examples which come to my mind immediately. For them, this ‘freedom’ was far too sacred than anything else. They were liberated and never enchained because of their thoughts even when their physical bodies were otherwise.”

Freethought is often considered an unorthodox and unconventional attitude. But for those practising it, find it perfectly normal and ‘nothing great’ about it. It just emanates from perspectives which come naturally to them. Conversely, society tends to label them as agonistic, liberal, secular, humanist and a host of other names. Sometimes, extreme thinkers even tend to hurl rather derogatory words at them.

A freethinker holds the belief that beliefs should not be formed on the basis of authority, tradition, or dogma. They tend to dissociate their decision-making from biases, conventional ways, trodden paths and illusive thoughts. For them, logic, reason, and empirical observations are the guiding tools.*

Affiliations of all sorts including those of parochial nationalism and patriotism are sometimes to be disregarded for critical thinking and self-reflection, for this action forms the basis of freethought. It was the very few freethinkers of WW II Germany who refused to give up that brought their country back into the international fold. However, at that time, they were hunted down by the Nazis as anti-national. It was freethought which enabled people to challenge slavery, racism, apartheid, colonization  and discrimination when it was fashionable to go with the flow.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in a 1944 essay:

“What makes a freethinker is not his beliefs but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not, he would be unhappy, his thought is not free. But if he holds them because, after careful thought he finds a balance of evidence in their favour, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.

The person who is free in any respect is free from something; what is the freethinker free from? To be worthy of the name, he must be free of two things: the force of tradition, and the tyranny of his own passions. No one is completely free from either, but in the measure of a man’s emancipation, he deserves to be called a free thinker.”

What a three-pointer Russel scores in the end! Freethinking is not about idealism or occupying a moral high ground; it is actually an ever-incomplete journey of emancipation that humbles you by the day.

Thoughts are just thoughts. There are no right or wrong thoughts. Experience and context bring colour or taint to the thought. We keep some, we reject some. The ones we keep, lead to actions and actions in turn lead to results.

Nouveau freethinkers perceive themselves standing on a higher pedestal. They also tend to impose their thoughts on others. However, the more evolved souls who have crossed the stage have a respect for every differential, however extremely bigoted it may appear to be. For them, every idea is a seed for another idea. To be shared with the person who is ready to pick it up.

Towards a better world is indeed a common goal. It is therefore not only about ‘being with us or the enemy’; it is also about wondering why the terrorist became one and much beyond that. It is also about listening to your conscience and embracing the right thoughts even if the tongue may not be able to speak. One day, it just might.

Every thought is valued and respected, if we vow to disagree without being disagreeable.

Thoughtful is the mood,
Horax (Casper)

Postscript Trivia: The pansy flower serves as an enduring symbol of free thought. The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée, which means “thought”. For some, the delicate flower appears to be always in deep thought. So much so for free symbolism!

*Wiki Borrowing

First published at seekmediation.com on 09/07/24.

Our Blog “Freedom of Thought” (A blog for free thinkers who don’t mind laughing along the way!) is a small tribute towards the unprejudiced philosophy of freethought. Please feel free to contribute with your thoughts and opinions with us in the Comments Column below. Name and email not mandatory.

Pl note: Comments get updated by the server two times a day.

6 comments

  • Early Bird

    July 9, 2024 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks very much for giving me enough food for thought for the day. It is definitely going to keep me occupied for sometime.

    Reply

  • Col Nirupam Bhargava

    July 10, 2024 at 5:02 am

    It’s a burning topic in the society today. If I can be completely and truly aligned with humanism, there will a wider perspective of nationalism or patriotism. Valuing ‘good’ in every other individual or organization can only be possible when I manifest the same in myself first. Thereafter, when I decry the evil and embrace the good, it’ll have amazingly wide acceptance….. from both, as it’ll be reflection of my true self on the environment, and not vice versa.

    Reply

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2024 at 4:31 am

    Invariably, the persons in the fray make it either / or by polarising issues thereby creating no middle path, instead Data should be made available and independent agencies should interpret data and publish it/provide access to the common man to determine all issues .

    Reply

  • Richard Duckworth

    July 13, 2024 at 4:32 am

    If your thoughts and action are in sync you have attained enlightenment. Throughout life we strive to understand our thoughts which freely move through us like the air we breathe. Keep thoughts free , just observe and react to those that can sync with your actions. A lovely write up👍👏👏

    Reply

    • Col Nirupam Bhargava

      July 13, 2024 at 5:40 am

      Excellent Buddhist views….. worth imbibing in one’s life.
      👍👍👍👍

      Reply

  • Tejinder Sareen

    July 13, 2024 at 10:15 am

    Well expressed, well written and thought provoking write.
    Yes. Freedom of thought is the most important important quality of human being. It should always be maintained. However we cannot take it to the extreme of freedom of action. In a society all individuals though should be free to think, but as far as freedom of action is concerned it should be bounded by the societal norms and rule of the law.
    Also freedom of speech cannot be outside the societal norms.
    Understanding the difference between these three is the most important which is very uncommon.
    My two anna bit 😊

    Reply

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