In today’s world, we seldom give importance to a person’s wisdom over the power s/he holds. This is particularly true concerning Indian Society. Indian Society has a peculiar set-up, whereby groups of people are divided based on their power in their society.
This setup is termed the caste system. This system, created to divide different activities that are to be performed in that given society, has fundamentally arrested people from one level to another (known as hierarchy). This has, to my knowledge, also, to some extent, restricted the flow of wisdom and brought down our society to stagnation.
German sociologist Max Weber said that power is the ability to exercise one’s will over others. If we go by this definition, we find an underlying aspect of why people want power. We find that power allows its wielder to satisfy its senses and ego. It gives him/her immediate pleasure that they are able to subdue someone’s will. This aspect is a very natural phenomenon and is found in animals and we are also, nonetheless social animals after all.
But we are animals with the ability to utilize our mind. That makes us different from them and hence, wisdom is an important characteristic of civilized groups. Before I move forward in this write-up, I must distinguish between wisdom and knowledge.
While knowledge is knowing facts, information or skill through education or experience, wisdom is the quality of using that knowledge to make good judgement in your day-to-day activity, in particular and in our life, in general.
Why wisdom is the real freedom?
So, it is not necessary that if you are educated, you will be wise and interestingly its vice-versa is also not true. Srinivas Ramanujan, one of the most talented mathematicians to ever exist, never had any formal education, Frederick Douglas was an African slave, in 17th century, who first taught himself to read and write and then passed on this to other slaves. There are numerous such examples.
That being said, it is now clear that for humans, wisdom should be given more importance than power. It will ensure a just and fair society and will successively bring in law and order. It will usher in more rationality in us and give us more freedom, which will eventually weed out social evils such as discrimination, sexism, caste system, dowry, etc to name a few.
However, there exists a long history of a tussle between wisdom and Power. It has been observed that people who are wise challenge those in power. Galileo, probable the wisest man of his time, was condemned by the priestly class for challenging their power; Gautam Buddha faced similar treatment for challenging Brahmanical monopoly in India, Raja Rammohun Roy’s own Mother went against him when he questioned the social evils of Indian society.
Hence, it is quite natural for powerful people to be afraid of wise people. Since they are accountable for their deeds. Wise people question those in power for which they have no answer and hence their legitimacy is challenged.
A Wise mind is need of the hour
This further creates restlessness among the people driven by power and hence tend to commit more corrupt practices in order to keep their supremacy and silence every possible threat.
Look at it this way. Power is the mighty ocean, and wisdom is the ship that sails gracefully and tames the ocean. If the boat is not secure enough (i.e., if one lacks wisdom), the ship and the sailor will drown and get lost in the mighty ocean called power. If the ship is fortified enough, one can sail through the most tempestuous oceans and come out unscathed, mastering the ocean and not letting the ocean master them.
That’s why people like Mahatma Gandhi preach decentralization. Lord Acton perhaps more famously asserted, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Power will be a part of our society. Without it, there will be lawlessness. But giving power in the hands of wise men is a necessity. In the Indian political system, our forefathers have well understood this fact and hence, adopted certain features of federal structure. Apart from that, Gandhiji also taught us to remain non-violent which is a basic virtue to a wise man. Violence is an attribute of powerful and corrupt people, while non-violence is an attribute of a wise person.
Today the whole world is under threat from environmental degradation, the issue of terrorism, rising right-wing political groups among others.
It is, therefore of utmost importance to subsume wisdom to all those who are in power. The wisdom has to be cultivated within your mind. As famously quoted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar that “It is easy to give Power, it is difficult to give wisdom”. Therefore, wisdom has to be developed in a person right from within and the best possible way to do it is through family guidance and a formal education system. They can do wonders in a child’s mind in terms of either showing them the path of Wisdom or the path of Power.
(Ravi Chama is a UPSC aspirant. He has been preparing for the coveted exam and writes as a guest columnist for The Vocal News. Views expressed are personal.)