I have also come across expressions of similar thoughts and feelings both in India and in Europe and the United States. However, I think there are multiple grounds that generate such questions. Here are some I have been able to identify.
1. When people hear me say that the western intellectuals of the last three hundred years or more are completely wrong, invariably people skeptically wonder whether I think I am such a genius. Anticipating this (mostly) unexpressed question, I tell them that it is not a matter of psychology; I show that my theory answers the question (without making ad hoc assumptions) why the western intellectuals have been unable to see what I see. Even though they fall silent at this point, I suspect they do so not because they are convinced but because they do not know what else to say.
2. I have often heard that people think of me as very arrogant because of the `confidence’ with which I espouse and defend my theory. This perception arises from their deeply held (often, implicit) belief that sciences of the social are not possible. They seem to think that all claims about society and culture are mere opinions and that one ought to be modest in expressing them. Bold claims are equated with strong `ego’ and arrogance because one is merely expressing one’s opinion of oneself. Therefore, when I say that without the mistakes of the earlier generations, there was no possibility that I could what I think I am doing, again, they fall silent. Once more, the silence is not because my argument convinces them but because they do not know how to continue such a discussion further.
3. At the same time, they also `like’ the following sort of claim: “I am not very intelligent but, sometimes, the discovery of truth befalls a not-so-gifted person.” This appears to tickle them enormously, and they are prepared to forgive this kind of `ego-flattery’ as long as it is clothed as self-deprecation.
4. In India, I suspect that yet another consideration plays a role. That has something to do with the relation that some Indians have with the so-called NRIs. On the one hand, I notice that some Indians are peculiarly subservient to the NRIs; on the other, the same people also show contempt to the NRIs. Such people want to demonstrate to the NRIs that they, those who live in India, are somehow superior and `know’ their society and culture better than the NRIs do. They present themselves as privileged citizens of India by denigrating the NRIs in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. While busy playing out this role, they are also servile in many ways. I have not figured out this phenomenon; I do not even know how specific this is to the Indians.
5. Compounding these is what someone once called a “school boy conception of science”, which probably dominates the Indian intellectual circles. This attitude makes one believe that scientists are like smart pupils, who sit down and quickly work out the solution to some problem or another. There is very little appreciation of the messy and fragmentary nature of scientific research, which is nothing like this smart `school boy’ conception. Many NRIs I know also share this conception. Having been successful in some or another endeavor in the West, they believe that all they have to do is use their `brains’ to `solve’ the problems in India. They seem to assume that social sciences merely awaited the arrival of such `intelligent’ people and that, during the course of all these centuries, only idiots populated these domains. I do not know which of the two groups is more tiring or boring: these types of NRIs or the group I speak of in the previous paragraph.
- Is the hypothesis about colonial consciousness ad hoc?