We are living in times of disquiet and despair. A Third World War is growing before our eyes, involving more and more nations and creating battlefields in different parts of the world. Europe is suffering from cultural amnesia and seems ready to undo the achievements of generations in just a couple of years. India is growing economically, but the country is losing the potential of her young generations, as her education system and political institutions are in a dismal state. Obsessed by its alleged ‘national interest’, the USA has created havoc across our globe with a tremendously harmful ‘foreign policy’ that preaches ‘freedom’ while breeding terrorism and that feeds ideologues instead of forming intellectuals. Added to this grim picture is the fact that – in every society – ever more people are experiencing deep unhappiness, anxiety, and depression.

We need to bear witness to these events that we are living through; we have to think about them reasonably, systematically, and humanely; we should find directions to alleviate at least some of the suffering; we have to try and conceive a better future for our children. In the face of events of this magnitude, we would expect the media, academics, and politicians to take up these tasks. Instead, they are most active in reproducing clichés and ideologies that cause even more harm to our societies. Even worse, they refuse to give space to alternative voices that truly challenge those clichés and ideologies. Hence, it is high time that these voices make themselves heard. On these pages, you will find the reflections of one such voice: S.N. Balagangadhara, also known as Balu.

After growing up in an orthodox Brahmin family in Bangalore, Balu spent years working as a Marxist revolutionary in India and the rest of Asia. He travelled to Europe in search of a better understanding of the philosophical foundations of Marxism and ended up studying philosophy at Ghent University in Belgium. Living there, he discovered through his own experience that cultural difference is a fascinating phenomenon whose reach and depth we neither appreciate nor understand. Since the existing social sciences and humanities could not help him make sense of this experience, he developed a research programme for the study of cultural difference. Later he began to guide an international research group consisting of Europeans and Indians who work together on a programme that gives completely new and scientific perspectives on the Western and Asian cultures.

Today, Balu is as much European as he is Indian. With his own future behind him, he wants to spend his remaining years contributing to a better understanding of our present and our future. He is a witness to our times …


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