Let me stress at the onset: I am no card-carrying leftist intellectual. I have nothing but the utmost contempt for champagne socialists, dogmatic Marxist ideagouges, bleeding-heart genteel liberals who have selective myopia on issues and self-flaggelating (often self-serving) “humanists”.
It’s not everyday you get to see history being made. An Indian batting collapse: common. A defining moment in human progress played out in full technicolor: not so. And that’s exactly what I witnessed on November 2nd with the re-election (or his first election–depending on how you interpret the elections of 2000) of George W Bush. It left me with a profound sense of sadness because the way I looked at it: this election symbolized the culmination of a world-wide process of conservative ossification that has been going on for the last twenty years.
It’s the same kind of sadness I felt when Narendra Modi won the elections in Gujarat after the Godhra riots. Narendra Modi’s policies and his role during the riots were alarming no doubt. However what was far more disturbing was the popular mandate he received after the riots which could only be interpreted as an resounding popular affirmation of what he did. The tragedy was not one facist at the helm: after all history has endured many worse specimens than Narendra Modi and shall endure many more too. The tragedy lay in the fact that his behavior was not considered aberrant and despicable: hence Modi’s re-election to the chief ministership in free and fair polls.
In a way I am comfortable with the Talibans of the world…a barbaric fundamental totalitarian terrorist regime that sustains itself on totally subverting the free will of the people. Such regimes do not last: history teaches us that. What is disquieting is a situation like Gujarat when people’s opinions have been so shaped by fear that the basic quality of collective humanity is lost.
The fear majority Hindus feel may not be irrational: after all proliferation of madrasas teaching the philosophies of hate, minorities who support our opponents whether in cricket or in politics, foreign-funded terror cells, publicly-espoused Islamic fundamentalist agendas emboldened by mollycoddling by the pseudo-secular intellegentsia affirm the notion that Indians are under attack. So it’s high time we stopped treating the problem with kid gloves and search for solutions.
What I dont believe in is the Narendra Modi-Bal Thackeray recipe for the solution: the notion of pre-emptive strike. The problem with the doctrine of pre-emptive strike is that it absolves us of the moral obligation of identifying the enemy. Which is what lay at the heart of the Godhra riots: some Muslim miscreants have set fire to a train so let’s go and massacre as many Muslims as we can so that such incidents do not happen again. That such “pre-emptive” stikes create more terrorists and miscreants is of course the main reason why Modi and Mullah Omar endorse these tactics. It creates more enemies and generates an even more convincing argument for fresher violent pre-emptive strikes.
The irrational, frenzy-driven fundamentalist crowd’s one point agenda is to get into our brains. Besides the “we are under attack so let’s attack” doctrine their other favorite is “back to roots”. That roughly translates to cultural and moral hooliganism: Navaratri celebrations being stopped by Shiv Sena activists on the grounds of vulgarity, Archies galleries being stopped from selling Valentine cards, Kashmiri terrorists making women cover their faces and stop screening Indian movies on fear of death, right wing historian rewriting history, no shorts in TIFR (yes sometimes they do have a sense of humor and aesthetics)… the list is endless. While a previous generation’s reaction would perhaps been to rise up against these moral strictures , it is perhaps a sign of this age that we cower to them and start accepting them whole-heartedly. Why this is so I do not know. Perhaps it is because liberalism and conservatism follow each other in historical cycles…maybe it is because the last generations were so liberal the new attitude is a rebellion against liberalism. That explains why most of India’s youth are more conservative politically than their predecessors for whom socialism and liberalism defined “hip”.
It is a continuation of this trend in the American elections of 2004 that seems to suggest that our entire human civilization has suddenly swung right. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the freest country in the world willingly elects someone who opposes stem cell research, the right to have abortions, endorses drilling for oil in Alaska and propounds the principle of pre-emptive strike. And it does not stop at that: 11 states vote to outlaw gay marriage effectively affiriming the conservative agenda that gays are not “normal” even when science says otherwise. People who would stand to lose most under GW Bush’s pro-wealthy tax policies overwhelmingly vote against their own interests because they feel his “faith-based politics” is more important to them than medicare. The only way this could have happened is because people sincerly believe that it “us” vs “them” where the “them” can be an Islamic fundmentalist, any foreigner, someone gay…the list is endless.
George W is someone I admire because he is someone who stands by his beliefs and makes clear stands on issues and in the world of politics thats something to admire. I welcome his election because I admire some of his foreign policy initiatives and always think that Republican foreign policy is always better than the knee-jerk liberalism of the Democrats.
However what does sadden and alarm me is the death of rationality all over the world and consolidation of the fundamentalistic agenda in favour of faith-based politics. His election is an affirmation of that trend.
Religion and politics dont mix together: the middle Ages is proof of that. Then why now in the age of “englightenment” have we forgotten this lesson ?