I am aware that this viewsletter is certainly out of character with the rest, and also with the tenor of my viewsletters in general. Because I am breaking a spell of long silence, I have intended this viewsletter to be a warm-up touching upon more topical matters. Judging by the current trend, much of them would have become dated, but the emerging truths, I think, are likely to last longer and provide food for thought.
The year 2008 A.D. is gone, leaving behind memories of incidents, many of which were of momentary importance; but a few, unquestionably, momentous. When I describe them momentous, I am not particularly thinking in terms of the glamour, popularity or the thrill, which we often find associated with the so-called ‘great’ events. On the contrary, I see them as milestones in the march of human civilisation. Simply, these few incidents seem to me to have decisively registered the triumph of human dignity. And it is no mean feat, given the ground reality that human dignity suffers the first casualty in a country like ours.
The first event I wish to mention is the launch of the Chandrayan, which bore testimony to the intellectual integrity of the Indian scientists and technologists. The second is the Karnataka Assembly elections that witnessed on a never-before scale, the people’s revulsion and anger at the opportunistic government headed by Kumaraswamy. Here, I don’t want to be seen as one supporting the saffron party in power. Far from it. It is hard for anyone, as it is for me, to subscribe to the ideologies of a party that thrives on the hate culture propagated by Raj Thackeray and Pramod Muthalik. The pith of my argument is that there are and will be occasions like the ones I’ve cited, when human dignity, in its blinding brilliance, will outshine petty political, religious and racial considerations, leaving all those self-styled and self-appointed leaders confounded, gaping, and unable to figure out what went wrong with their machinations. I may add one more event: the presidential election of Barack Obama who has added a little ‘colour’ to the all ‘White’ House.
It is not often that we see human dignity establish its sovereignty. In fact, human dignity does not even receive an indifferent or patronising attitude from the powers that be. Instead, all it receives is a raw deal at the hands of religious bigotry, obscurantism, perverted ideologies, shortsighted political policies and programmes, and countless creeds. The video footage of the gory incident at the law college campus in Chennai did not only highlight the fact that human dignity is at a discount, but has also driven home the sad truth that we live in a crowd and not in a community. Two students were almost flogged to death in the full glare of the TV cameras and the glassy stare of the policemen; it is small consolation that these spectators did not cheer and shout, unlike the mob watching the gladiatorial games in the Roman colosseum. All I could do was to draw comfort from Shakespeare.
“O Judgement! Thou art fled to the brutish beasts
And men have lost their reason.”
The mighty Indian Navy and the Intelligence Bureau were horns locked in bureaucratic red-tapism when a bunch of well-trained and motivated thugs, armed with deadly weapons, reached the Mumbai shores in the most ingenious way. Within a few hours, scores of unsuspecting people at the CST, the Nariman House, the Oberoi Trident and the Taj were mowed down. The media had a field day covering the carnage and devastation. The government woke up to the situation—how else could you describe it?—and despatched the NSG after many lives had been lost. Then our ‘secular’ government at the centre began the diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. From the MEA came the rhetoric first, followed by threats including military action, then an appeal to the international community to bear down upon terrorism—all done with the utmost political correctness, all the time careful not to sound ‘less secular,’ but secretly happy with the political mileage gained over the opposition. Two months gone and the scenes of horrendous killings seem to haunt nobody except to whom the victims mattered. Are we a flock of sitting ducks? Do we have to live forever in fear? Is the famed Indian secularism fast sinking into mindless psychotic stoicism?
Ramalinga Raju is behind bars, and if one goes by the media reports, he is unrepentant, unfazed and confident that he will soon be out on bail. The drama unfolds something like this: An ambitious young man ‘grows’ into an avaricious businessman and egged on by a string of successes, indulges in corrupt practices to fill his coffers. Soon the corrupt man discovers that he is not only corrupt, but is also capable of corrupting institutions, agencies and other organisations which the public hold as incorruptible and sanctified. A syndicate of auditors, bank officials and a conniving government act in collusion with this man betraying the public trust. Ramalinga Raju’s episode is a laboratorial experiment with the theory that the corrupt corrupt. If his success can be called a pilot production, the Thirumangalam by-election result is certainly the mass production of it. What has surfaced is that even the law-abiding or law-wary common man is potentially corruptible and when tempted beyond the levels of resistance, he can betray Truth and Justice for a paltry ‘thirty pieces of silver.’
The history of mankind has been a chequered one, characterised by moral and intellectual darkness, but interspersed with patches of creative brightness that we call civilisation; like the lighthouse that alternates pitch darkness with dazzling brilliance, but not at the same regular interval as the lighthouse. When it did occur, human dignity—the intellectual integrity and moral vigour—stood towering in its full glory and grace, leading mankind farther away from barbarity and savagery. But sadly, such phases have been few and far between.
In the past, civilisations lasted longer before they were eventually destroyed. The Hellenic civilisation flourished until the Turks attacked Constantinople. The Roman civilisation survived for a much longer period, before the barbarians overran them. The reason was simple. The forces destructive of civilisation possessed technologies that were still subject to the constraints of space and time. That provided a respite to civilisation. But not so with our modern technologies that can destroy space and time. Also, they are at the disposal of autocratic governments, lunatic-led states or simply power-hungry and greedy men.
We are on the threshold of a new dispensation in which Truth and Justice will be redefined to suit the ideologies of the powers that be. There will be very little resistance from the masses and far less from the thinkers, since the former will be silenced with money and the latter intimidated into submission.
By the time this viewsletter is published, many more sordid incidents like the ones I have mentioned will have happened. I think the chances of mankind redeeming itself are remote, and the Saviour of mankind is not going to be found in the midst of us. We need to wait for the ‘Second Coming.’
Your English Sir
Wednesday, the 04th of February, 2009