The right to wrong

Salman Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses. I mean, he wrote stuff that was satanic. Result, he became a celebrity. You write filth, bilge, crap, shit, rubbish…you become a celebrity. You are hailed as a messiah of freedom of expression. Never mind what you express.

It’s an academic, intellectual, educational, awareness, pyramid. At the bottom, all who hail filth, bilge, crap, shit, rubbish as incredible achievements. At the top, the few who profess that old bekaar stuff, usually sneered at as principles, ethics, values, morals, scruples, blah blah.

So what will be hailed by the multitude, will be what the multitude is able to understand, identify with, i.e., the filth, bilge, crap, shit, rubbish that seeps  through to their consciousness, anything else being filtered out as useless principles, ethics, values, morals, scruples, blah blah.

Turn towards politics. Go the democracy way. You need elections. Candidates need votes. The greater the votes the greater the chances of winning. Winnability is what drives candidatures. Or should that be caricatures?

Well, he who gets the votes at that bottom of the pyramid, will win? So, if you present your caricature, sorry, candidature, you need those votes. To get those votes, they, those voters, that bottom of the pyramid, must identify with you. People identify with those who look like them, talk like them, think like them.

So, you want to win, you talk the filth, bilge, crap, shit, rubbish that seeps through to their “Ah-haa ! This man is like me. This man speaks my language. This man’s speech reflects my thinking. This man’s vocabulary contains the same hate that my mind brims over with. This man’s talk shows his mind and my mind are on the same page. When he talks, my thinking stands validated. So, then, this is the caricature I shall vote for.”

The vote is cast, the caricature wins, and you stand represented by a caricature voted into position by the pyramid’s base, pun not intended. If enough caricatures get caricatured, meaning elected, the composition of thedarbar is an intrapolation (yes, just coined it) of the pyramid base. That being so, the democratic traditions can just metamorphose into a subtle form of ‘demoncracy’.

So, quo vadis, democracy? Despots could be thrown out, deposed, monarchs could be exiled, tossed out, substituted, but that is because they were hierarchical impositions on a populace. How do you get rid of inconvenient caricatures when they are not impositions via hierarchies or because unnkaa baap raja thhaa, but because an electoral process has legitimised their continuance? You can’t toss them out. At least not for several years.

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Magar, usske baad ? I mean, phir woh hi badtameezi ke bhaashan, jo app ke pasandeeda logaon ki vocabulary mein hothe nahin hain, so how in blazes will your preferred caricatures make it through the labyrinth that is the electoral maze, sorry haze, no let’s leave it as maze?

So the same type will get re re re re re re re re re re re re re re re-elected. Sanjeedgi : no chance. Samajhdaari: no chance. Logical presentation of factually accurate data: no chance. Presentation of reasoned possibilities as projections for the future: no chance.  Tall hatheli-mein-chaand  type bluster laced with nonsensical promises : jeethegaa bhai, jeethegaa !

Election petition file karo. Karthe raho. Jab urgent matters suney nahin jaa rahe hain, toh aap kaun se baap ki aulaad hain janaab, jo aap ki arzi ko doosraon ki arzi ke oopar fazeelath di jaayegi?  Aur phir, faesle-faesle mein bhi farq hothaa hae !  Kisay pathaa faeslaa mil jaaye munsifaana na ho?

Toh kyaa kiyaa jaae? “Elementary my dear WhatsApp, democracy se kaho when there is either low education or high animosity, low integration or great polarisation, negligible understanding and shameless demonisation, usska time aa gayaa hai”.

The base of the pyramid can think at the level of that base alone.  That thinking has created the present, which is a problem. Problems cannot be solved at the level of thinking at which they were created in the first place. So, top-down percolation of ideas, policy suggestions, et al become imperative of national survival as a pluralistic society.

Magar zaraa dekh toh lo… we see infiltration. Every organ of governance has key positions covered. Ab kyaa kar logay ?!

Sawaal yeh nahin hae ke hum kyaa kar lenge : sawaal yeh hae ke mulk ka kyaa hogaa? Jin hasthiyaon ke haath mein qanoon ki lagaam hothi thhi, voh kuchh masroof se rehthe hain.

You still can’t toss out democracy, because anything else might be equally naughty, so what is the alternative?

Enter the Empress. No, I am not on Indira Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi. I refer to the Goddess of Justice. When you have power to stem the rot but do not… when you have the position to control but abdicate that responsibility and right… you are part of the problem, and a solution cannot emerge from within the core of your being. The solution, then, lies outside your clueless self.

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Like the directive principles of state policy, everyone knows what the need of the hour is and where it is that the power and authority to do that can be found, duly expressed in the Constitution, but everything that is worth anything seems to fall into the non-justiciable category.  Anyone who is worth having position seems to fall into the non-electable category.

If so, then our country might face “one of the principle dangers of nationalism, as a derivative discourse where national consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people … [becomes] a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been … [when] the nation is passed over for the race, and the tribe is preferred to the state. …Tagore’s arguments (were) that nationalism breeds xenophobia and violence, a discourse of binarism, which perpetuates the process of victimising and othering of nations by one another. …In some instances, the fanaticism and irrationality that nationalism generates is no less than the religious fanaticism that preoccupies some people in the underdeveloped parts of the world, countries that are not yet considered part of the elite league of nations, and where, in some instances, so-called civilisation and modernity have not yet travelled.”

Satanic verses repeated as political campaign speeches lead to hell.  Not a preferred destination by a long shot. Time to turn around and walk a different road. The road that leads to Tagore’s

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action –  Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

None can claim the right to wrong others.

Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a Hyderabad-based nationally known lawyer

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