Fundamentalism’s two faces: the naïve and the power peddlers
I’ve written enough about religious fundamentalism — go through this blog and you’ll see enough on both. What I’m more concerned about is the spilling out of religion on our streets, holding average people to ransom. What bothers me is how a handful of interested religious groups can wreak havoc on average people, burning or banning a book here, driving an author out of a country there, or declaring fatwas of death on thinkers, writers, painters.
I exaggerate. In fact, because the smallest of such religious extremism is reported, analysed and commented upon so quickly and with so much reason goes to illustrate the counterbalancing force against fundamentalism. The handful of fundamentalists seeking to create a constituency of followers in the interpretation of religion in “their” way may be set back by these reports for a day or two or a month. Then they return. Not unlike the trolls online.
It could be simply a case of an acute lack of empathy. I refuse to believe that these small groups of fundamentalists spawning across India and the world are not intelligent. Or that ‘tolerance’ — a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own — is a word that’s alien to them. I’ve met some fundamentalists and can classify them on two types — the naïve and the power peddlers.
The naïve understand tolerance, but only with their minds, not with their hearts. In the Oneness they preach, exclusion is an appendage they lack the capacity to see. So, they might want the whole world to believe the way they do for that alone is the Truth. But anyone who cannot see things that way is immediately condemned. The worst offenders are those sitting in the closed and protective confines of existing organisations, trying to break them down into their narrow jails. At some level, I even have compassion for them — how can you be angry at a madman?
It is the power peddlers, the highly-intelligent vested interests that we need to be alive to, guard against. These are people who in essence are not interested in religion or faiths or belief systems. Their motive is to use an existing constituency for their petty power games. Here again, existing organisations, following a particular philosophy, ideology or religion are the most vulnerable.
Using bits and pieces of the same intellectual or spiritual infrastructure, this group seeks to first break down and then control the mother organisation. Too lazy to start afresh, not intellectually equipped to be able to garner new ideas, with no interest in or affinity to spiritual heights that can carry all the rest, this group of reductionists can do only one thing: destroy.
It is around these two demons that we need to rethink democratic ideas like free speech and lofty ideals like spirituality. While dealing with them, however, we need to be able to distinguish those led by blind faith from those driven by a power lust. The former are relatively harmless, for in essence they seek to push a point of view they ‘believe’ in. It is the latter, who very often uses the naïve, that we need to stop.