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Notions Of Nation: A Toxic Potion

26/02/2016 2:12 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Ruckus.

Babble.

Chaos.

Irreverence.

Arrogance.

Protest.

Bullying.

Questions.

All this and more happens every time the nation starts defining any concept... it could be anything stretching from nationalism to terrorism. What we never see are solutions, answers, a convergence of ideas and an acceptance of dissent. Never are there people held accountable. All that ever happens is mud-slinging, shoe-throwing, scuffles and jostles. Yes, people get hurt, psyches get hammered, voices are silenced, and surrounded by an uneasy calm everyone goes back to whatever they were doing.

Melodrama: a peppy potion

Forget what the issue is. Forget what it is that people are fighting about or want to debate and achieve. This is what has been happening these past few days in the second month of 2016...

The police too, forget that they are not being paid to stand and watch or wait until kerfuffles graduate to scuffles.

People like O P Sharma run around with limbs flailing to hit out. People on the television shout without even attempting to be coherent because they know that no one is actually listening. The nation is busy concluding. Groups, and they could very well be lawyers, take the law in their hands and feel joyous about challenging the Supreme Court. Services, and I mean the police too, forget that they are not being paid to stand and watch or wait until kerfuffles graduate to scuffles. Students forget all the subsidies that come from the money collected from tax-payers and run around shouting slogans that even they probably don't understand. Politicians, as usual, appear only to make stand-alone inane statements that are always correct and also incorrect, if that is what you are determined to prove. Journalists, who have an equal number of unethical dolts amongst them, take umbrage to the way mobs are prone to behave cry about how unfair the world is.

What happens to the common man?

The literate and internet savvy common man also has a battleground: social media. He takes the abuse-hurling and name-calling to the digital world. Those not thus privileged probably stand in front of paan-shops having a few extra zarda flicks and fearlessly airing their opinions. People from the Page 3 fraternity feel that unless their statement is printed they haven't done justice to all the gulps of red wine that the sponsor has arranged... and so we have meaningless words like "amazing" and "disturbed" floating aimlessly between vague references to Kanhaiya, JNU, Bharat Mata, disobedience, national flag, universities, politics, and of course, art and culture.

The impact of notions

Try and update your Facebook timeline or tweet about what you think freedom of speech should be and in no time there will appear friends and strangers telling you that you have no notion of such complex terms.

Freedom of speech.

Sedition.

Pro-India.

Anti-India.

Rights and duties.

Terrorism.

Nationalism.

Anarchy.

These are just a few of the keywords that can jangle the nerves of the strongest man these days. We forget, however, that most of us have mere notions of what they mean... and this has nothing to do with the levels of intuitive abilities or text-book erudition of a person. This is because these concepts change over time and are always contextual. For instance, in a world where we love to talk about going borderless, convergence of cultures, and unity in diversity, why do we want to blabber about nationalism? These definitions are determined by where mankind has reached in their march of being civilized... but, oops! Are we civilized yet?

In a world where we love to talk about going borderless, convergence of cultures, and unity in diversity, why do we want to blabber about nationalism?

Nevertheless, even notions have an immense impact and this is what we need to really understand. We need to stop scratching each other perched on flimsy cages of notions.

Navigating through it all

Some people, even when they are sitting listening to speeches or going on protest marches or sprinting across the court premises to snatch mobile phones, are actually thinking of the taste of those New York cheesecakes that their cousin brought back or are lovingly looking at the latest Gear S2 on their wrist or are actually thinking, "How does this skinny journo have a mobile phone that is more expensive than the one in my pocket?"

The truth is that even the staunchest of us is forever navigating through rivers and streams that have nothing to do with the massive and dangerous waves of unjustified emotional surges that surround us at such times.

So we have a choice here. We can stop, take a step back, and remind ourselves that thinking of that cheesecake is better than hitting a person who is probably also thinking of samosas or kachoris. What I'm trying to say is that navigating through the insanity of ideas that we do not completely understand is dangerous and that it is by far better to let the right people do it.

Navigating through the insanity of ideas that we do not completely understand is dangerous and that it is by far better to let the right people do it.

I know that conflicts are always about deciding on who the 'right' people are and that skirmishes happen when what the right people do is perceived as wrong or insane. Take the example of the commissioning of the BRT concept for Delhi... and then its subsequent dismantling. No one is sure if what the right people have done will be construed as right in the years to come. So it is with complex issues like nationalism and freedom of speech. There are myriad interpretations and perceptions that are so powerful that they can fool anyone. I cannot possibly suggest a solution but what I can say with confidence is that they emerge finally from debates. So let the fight and the conflict remain away from the realms of the spoken word and the written word... let people have the right to speak and write about what they think is correct without the aim of inciting weaker minds to misconstrue the message and act irresponsibly.

What is fantastico music?

Come on now, I am not talking about Messi and his exclaiming 'Fantastico!' when he first saw the Tata Zica... I am talking about the notions of nation that have throughout history caused turmoil everywhere in the world. So from Hitler and the Nazis to Afzal Guru and Kashmir, it is these notions of dispute that have always begun on a rather subliminal level to slowly cross the boundaries of the mind and convert idea scintillas into social conflagrations. This is what should never happen.

Action is all about encouraging the music of healthy debates to weed out misconceptions.

Why must people like Subramanian Swamy want JNU to be closed down for four months so that the hostel may be "fumigated" of unwanted elements? Why must he recommend that "those having proven record of being jihadis, Naxalites and LTTE terrorists must be expelled"? Why must any form of conflict of opinion escalate into a tsunami of scuffles that lead to scarred minds? Why must governments wait and look for scapegoats instead of taking definitive action to diffuse a conflict?

Action isn't about allowing goons to manhandle those who hold unpalatable opinions or letting the police search and arrest those who have views that rattle the politicians. Action is all about encouraging the music of healthy debates to weed out misconceptions. But most important is to first ask everyone to ration the potion of notions that they have... and to stop breathing fire because of them.

You can read more posts on my blog: The Real Fiction

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