Dignity for the exploited, the hounded, the paperless, the Other

Month: July, 2016

A brutalized land is India

A brutalized land is India. Perhaps it happened millennia ago, with all the invasions. The myriad foreigners who followed rumor of immense wealth to make their way to the land wedged between the great river Sindhu and the snowy peaks of the Himalayas — perhaps we can blame it on them. 

There was once an age of righteousness, where wisdom was prized above all else, where rishis meditated in pristine forests, where generous kings served their peoples well, where the Gods intervened when the moral code of dharma was threatened, but who themselves were subject to the laws of karma. We knew yet how to make soma, the divine elixir, and we sang praises of all existence, constructing ideas that were novel. The creation of a second heaven, the breeding of races, the notion of honor before self-interest, music, dance, poetry, mathematics, love-making, theater, statecraft, the use of spices, yoga, a dancing God, battles between supreme powers, the riddles posed by semi-divine beings, intricate epics, demons, boons given to such, the indestructibility of the soul — all this was India, glorious homeland of the noble ones. Perhaps it was so.

It is no more, if it ever was thus. It has been replaced by a regimen of coarse and extended horror.

The video recording of this week only has one single example. It shows a filthy corner of some Indian town, where four dark-skinned, young men, have been divested of their shirts, and their hands tied with ropes attached to the back of a white vehicle. They are then assaulted by the citizenry. Turns are taken. There is no hurry. Sticks are used. No heed is taken of witnesses.

Which God is for this atrocity responsible? Or is it men who are wholly guilty? Men like us — who keep their peace because afraid, who sculpt arguments to explain and trivialize the phenomenon, who are not to action moved by outrage. As well as — those who allow remarks contemptuous of human dignity to pass unchecked, who speak with scorn to servants, who chirp with delight when the weak and voiceless are mocked, who nod along when despicable accusations are made against the Other.

The tschandal is whipped. The Gods do not intervene. It is done in public view. The agents of the modern republic, the largest democracy in the world, do not intervene. Worst of all, perhaps, even more than the inaction or approbation of Gods and policemen, is that the perpetrators and the bystanders with the repulsive visages are quite blasé about the act.

It is not a special occasion. A two-headed monkey has not been seen on the village green — just human beings being stripped of their dignity, chained to a chariot, and beaten with rude sticks. And so, the crowd stays still — neither applause not protest is heard.

This is what has become of an ancient civilization. But before we extend our sympathy to the demise of a great culture, let us offer it to the four bare-chested men. Let us offer it also to the silent witnesses, who have evidently lost the ability to empathize with a fellow human. And then to the millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of the subjugated whom the Indian experiment has failed.

A monument built at the spot would serve to remind us what must be changed. There is no money to build a monument on a dilapidated lane? Let us scratch it onto our skins, then, that human dignity is worth more than the glory of some God. Or shall the unfortunate ones find solace only in the promise that Shiva, the mightiest of Gods, will one day soon perform the tandav, the dance which heralds the destruction of the entire universe? At least then, their pain and humiliation, and our shame, will find an end. 

The appalling video footage of the incident

The old trap: fighting extremism with extremism

All this violence in the name of religion, in Germany, France, Turkey, the Middle East, et cetera, reminds me of an idea that came about when antiquities were reported to be looted in the aftermath of one of the wars in the Middle East. Not just were lives lost and productivity stifled by conflict, but chunks of historical record taken away by burglars. Could the reverse be done? 

Imagine that a bus gets lost in a storm and they chance upon a peculiarly shaped mound. It turns out to be the remnants of a tower, buried in the sand. Excavations by archaeologists reveal a set of bronze plates with the totality of the sacred works of a given religion. As the plates are of great vintage, they represent the original version of the instructions of the central figure of the given religion. This original version is similar to the current text, except that it explicitly confirms human dignity and individual liberty, and has commandments like “tend to your teeth thrice daily, and be nice to people, including homosexuals and infidels”, “anyone who tells you to attack unarmed people is not to be regarded”, and “this too is good — hugging, kissing, smelling flowers, dancing, tolerance and equality”, all in appropriately classic language, and anything else held desirable for a free society. As a bonus, throw in advice as to the most ecologically sound practice in disposing of the death, and similarly modify all prescribed rituals. Finally, get rid of stuff that encourages slavery, the subjugation of women, or the demonization of foreigners.

There, problem solved.

Obviously, it would be an elaborate deception. Multiple carbon-dating laboratories, journalists, politicians, popular TV hosts, and linguistic experts would have to collaborate, and some prominent religious leaders cajoled, bribed or distracted — all perfectly feasible. Obviously, it would have to be kept secret. Repeat for other religions and bloodthirsty political philosophies, as needed. It would be a lot cheaper and more effective than the current wholesale militarization of our societies. And more fun than dealing with exploitative supply chains, climate degradation, support to tyrannical regimes, police brutality, corruption, barbaric systems of punishment, discrimination, war, famine, disease, systematic racism, and absence of social support.

Alas, this sort of thinking is perhaps how the things we are trying to fight originally commenced. A bunch of people believing they know the right way to live, who feel empowered to take decisions for others, who are willing to lie, deceive, manipulate and threaten, as long as the final end is desirable, in their opinion. Snowden, that benefactor of mankind, showed us that the perpetrators of such horrors do not all have beards, or are bereft of expensive college education.

Perhaps the only acceptable commandment is: “question everything”. Only skepticism can save mankind.