Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Religion: Of the Bygones and Amnesia

Consider the following statements:

1. "Let us not get into the muck of the past lest we become the very thing we hate."
2. "Fundamentalists/fascists [...] will provide "lessons" from "history" as reason and justification for inhuman actions. So did Adolf Hitler and his crew in their Final solution to the Jewish question."
3. "If we do the same thing to those who have wronged us, what is the difference between us and them? Revenge is a very negative feeling and will not do anyone good."

These three statements are often heard among the moderate majority of Bhaarateeyas. So what is the common thread binding these three statements? History.

One fine day, something happened and because of that one thing, a whole population was asked to abondon some of its core values that it had been carrying for millennia together. Crores and crores of people had to wake up to something new called "secular India". Well, things dont quite work that way. People dont change suddenly.

In this context, lets consider a section of the urban middle class youth. These people have not yet realised the fact that the mindset and perspective of a people are formed as a result of centuries of interactions with the nature, with other peoples and within. Though these people have access to all kinds of information, they have not yet tried to access it. This new idea of "negativistic-secularism" (also called pseudo-secularism) foisted upon us is so much ingrained in them that they feel that it is the reality everywhere. Well, if its not, they simply extrapolate the current trend back into the past and dump every incident that doesnt concur with their thought into something very handy called "remote history".

They need to realise that their current pleasant conditions did not exist, say, a hundred or even fifty years ago, when there was hardly any urban middle class to speak of in the country. So is the case with this pseudo-secularism. It didnt exist before too long either. One can see that this kind of negativistic secularism goes well with the current trend of globalisation and reckless consumerism. It also goes with this urban middle class. So we can see that there is synergy among the three-- the urban middle class, consumerism, and pseudo-secularism.

Could it be that this pesudo-secularism is just a ruse by these people to avoid following those inexplicable, inomprehensible, and tedious religious practices? Or is it that they fell for that altogether predictable "political correctness" ? Or it may be that they are aspiring for that Utopian society that they suddenly see is possible when they look at similar people coming from different populations around them. There is no need to be sermonizing here, but these urban youth need to realise that they are, even now, only tiny islands in a sea of what is still good old Bhaarat as it has been in the last thousand years.

Each incident in the history of a people leaves its timestamp and does its bit in moulding the perspective of the people. In this sense, different peoples are always changing in their collective character over centuries and millennia. It is in this sense that studying history so important. It is not to take revenge but to understand the each population's current mindset, the origin of this mindset,the recent events that impacted this mindset, and the impact of this mindset on the rest of the country.

But those pesudo-secularists who do know some history, or the official (read concocted) version of it, find, to their immense profit, that dragging in Hitler automatically confers legitimacy on their argument of (pseudo-)secularism and the opponent is forced to first denounce Hitler and his deeds before making any argument to counter the initial argument. But then, we must pause here see if there is a similarity in what Hitler said and what Hindutva is all about, and whether we want to do same kinds of things to our alleged "enemies" that Hitler did to his. Blindly believing in those naive media campaigns has led us to find it obvious that there is a direct analogy between Hindutva and pogroms such as the Jewish one in Europe and other ethnic cleansings elsewhere in the world.

Let us consider each of the three statements in the beginning:

1. The first statement altogether ignores the role of history in the process of "perspective-building" of a section of people. It gives a whole new meaning to the adage "ignorance is bliss", just like how Tom (of 'Tom and Jerry' fame) blindfolds himself when he suddenly finds himself in front of an oncoming train that cant be stopped.
2. The second one implies that either we have taken wrong lessons from the right history, or that the history in question itself is not totally "kosher" (had to bring in the Jewish angle :)) or both. This statement is offered by folk who use incorrect analogies at unsuspecting and unlearned audiences to push forward their own arm-chair arguments. They are excellent theoreticians and great crowd-pullers, but probably have no idea on whats going on in their own backyard. And they see everything through their own (pseudo-)secular-tinted glasses to interpret plain facts as complicated conspiracies.
3. The third one actually accepts that injustice has been committed, but gives a totally negative connotation called "revenge" to any attempt at setting things right. Adherents to this one are deeply suseptible to general opinion about most things and dont bother to dig the facts for themselves. These are either too weak to bear the burden of injustice, or too shy to be pro-active in protecting the respect of our country's heritage and culture, or too busy in minting their own currency to bother about other things.

Hence, none of these three statements can be considered legitimate and such statements hold no logic for the Sanaataneeya.