Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Random thoughts 06012016

The West Bengal government should not pussyfoot about containng the fundamental fringe which has raised its ugly head in Malda and other parts of the state. Political expediency and vote bank calculations by the TMC supremo may assure her of a win in the assembly elections bit do irreparable damage to the society.
And how can a group of people be allowed to obstruct the singing of national anthem. They should be imediately put under custody. Sometimes the government and political leaders overestimate the strength of law breakers in the name of communal harmony. This only adds up to their strength. And thereafter the situation reaches a point of no return. Therefore it is necessary to take swift action to ensure law and order. Lawbreakers should be treated as criminals and not on the basis of their political or religious affiliations. Let us not forget how the erstwhile state of Bengal faced the scourge of riots in the pre partition era.

Secularism is under threat from fundamentalists from all religions and being seen as a compromised philosophy. But it is always forgotten that secularism means not siding with a particular religion. It means delinking religion from public life and governmental and political decisions. History teaches us lessons. Bur we do not care to pay heed to them. And therefore history repeats itself. Sad but that is how low level politics destroys a society.

Whenever there is a terrorist attack , a surge of  nationalism and patriotism engulfs the whole nation . This is a very valid and expected reaction . People are entitled to show their feelings for the nation and be proud of it. Further the lives lost by security personnel and common citizen in thwarting such attacks are also worth to be mourned as martyrs. These are all spontaneous reactions and the grief acts as a cementing force to bind the people together. Therefore , the spirit of this solidarity should be respected and the martyrdom requires to be saluted. There can not be a second opinion about it.

But what surely can not and should not be allowed is the tendency to use this groundswell of patriotism by the rulers to hide their inadequacies, inefficiencies and misjudgements . Politics is the art of riding public sentiments , no doubt, but when politicians demand that the citizens have to stand by the government  and support the steps taken by the government without criticism , then there remains  no doubt that something is amiss and such exhortations are being made to cover the tracks.

The problem is compounded when the politicians , now in power,  forget their own reaction to such emergencies in the past , when they warmed the opposition benches. The sheer hypocrisy and the gall in expecting that everybody should fall in line only because the chosen one is now on the ruler's seat is downright obnoxious and deserves to be condemned even more than the  valid criticisms to the governmental response.

Bringing in the dignity and honour of the armed forces and using the corpses of martyred soldiers to generate emotional waves is another common practice by the politicians in power . This actually harps on the feeling of guilt on the general population - See you are enjoying life while these brave men are laying down theirs. It is true no doubt that the blood of the soldier is a huge debt on the nation but along with that we also have to appreciate the fact that as in a family, club, office , society or any other collective organisation, somebody has to do it if there is a job to be done. Instead of  shedding tears only , we should look towards minimising such loss of lives by learning lessons from each and every experience.  Here comes that uncomfortable question  - "Are we learning the lessons and following them ?"

Coming back to the subject of  patriotism , everybody must love his or her country, but should not be so blind as to ignore the flaws or the challenges hidden  behind the facade of loyalty to the nation.  A true patriot is (s)he who does not deny or minimise  the inadequacies or inefficiencies of the system but strives to improve things. The love for the country motivates the patriot to make his country a better place to live. Often  patriotism is confused with the blind loyalty of a nationalist, but there is a significant difference between the two.

The nationalist thrives on the notions of cultural superiority, and tries to ignore or obliterate anything that casts a negative image of the country  even denying the sins of its past. Generally nationalists try to label critics as disloyal without understanding or examining the merits of their criticism itself.  History has enough examples which teach us that everything , even supposedly good things are only good in moderation.

There can be no two ways about patriotism .You're either patriotic or not. Otherwise you can either chose to move out of the country or wage a war against it. But being patriotic is inherently neither a virtue nor a vice because it can be used to support both good and bad things. And what we consider patriotic for ourselves may be in direct confrontation with the patriotism of people in other countries.

Oscar Wilde has famously said - "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious"and much before him Samuel Johnson opined that "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrels ". Maybe even if we do not subscribe to such sweeping philosophy , we still can not deny that an overdose of patriotism is used to glorify the rulers and obfuscate the efforts to build a consensus on their shortcomings . A nation is made up of different facets like its history, geography, economics, politics, culture, language, weather , people, literature etc. which are intertwined with its destiny . We do not have the luxury to consider them selectively, in isolation, at the expense of others.

P.S. The jingoistic fervour that is displayed around Republic and Independence days  as also when India wins a cricket match or tournament are examples of such unnecessary ultra nationalistic nonsense.

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