The Dichotomy

I finally was able to articulate what I have been struggling with for the past 2 years. It dawned on me when I was reading this article in India Together by Rajesh Kasturirangan, “In praise of Conservatism”. Finally it all came together, fell into place.

Inside me, just as in everyone, there were two extremes fighting for primacy. The Radical and the Conservative.

The Radical, did what it was best at doing – it was demanding and rooting for immediate Change, even violent if necessary. It felt impatient, frustrated and highly critical of the way things were. It felt uncomfortable sitting and doing nothing. It would rather reach out and grab at Change than wait for seasons to change.

The Conservative on the other hand believed that Change is inevitable, that it would happen in its own time; in fact it is already happening. It believed that what was required was sheer staying power, utter faith and belief in what one was doing and just getting it done. It felt that plurality of a million butterflies will change the course of tornadoes. That, (as Kasturirangan says), moral and social change takes place on a time scale of centuries, not years or months. That the horizon is too far for a single human being living a single human life, so we need to have the courage to see our dreams only partially fulfilled.

The Radical in me was impatient with the utter optimism of the Conservative, ridiculing and putting up a variety of examples that proved that things were going wrong. That we could no long wait for change to happen but take matters in our hands and force the issue. The Conservative felt tired by the Radical incessant criticism and insisted a belief in dialogue, deliberation and argument that would open pathways into new directions. The Conservative was suspicious of the revolutionary ideas purported by the Radical. While the Radical was distrustful of being co-opted by the Conservative.

One chose the path of the revolutionary. The other followed that dreams of a visionary. One believed in radical change that overthrew and broke down traditions and the other believed in alchemical change that reconstructed traditions to adapt it with current realities.

The funny part of this whole internal battle was that in their own ways, both sides were advocating change. Both were refusing to accept the current reality as a ‘given’. Both were challenging it. There was a common ground, a common destination between them.

Once I acknowledged this common ground, the contest and division just disappeared. I realized I was comfortable being both the extremes. I found both tenable and acceptable. I agreed with both paths.

And this acceptance of the contradiction opened the door that was waiting to be opened. From this point of integration, a third possibility, another way forward became visible.

That we need a Conservative approach, but radical new ideas. That we need systematic methods that would create long-lasting and radical impacts. That we need a stable structure with a radical mindset. That we give up the traditional compartmentalization and start looking for common ground, alternatives and possibilities in all, even unlikely, places.

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2 thoughts on “The Dichotomy

  1. Maya, I really related to this article, feeling both ways myself – one wanting change like, Yesterday, yet the other part calmly knowing that it is already happening, it might just take a little while. As always you have written a very comprehensive and balanced article. Was a good read! Thank you.

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