Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dunciad

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall
And Universal Darkness buries All | Alexander Pope


Mamata Banerjee is merely one more petty dictator in our dunciad full of them.

You see them in buses and airplanes, on bylanes and highways, in pawn shops and palaces. Elbowing for space, clamoring for attention, snarling for effect.

Everyone is an emperor in their own mind. Everyone else is a serf to be trampled on. Our culture's apotheosis of political strongmen is to be seen in this context. They are national role models.

To be credible in this dystopia, Mamata di really has no choice. We should be kind to her.


Of course, it's not at all natural for a civilization to be this way. This is a warped way to compensate for something that's broken in the civilization's psyche.

Easiest way to see this is in Pakistan. We find the venom of Zaid Hamid amusing, the baseless boastfulness of her army mirthful, and the stylized propaganda from her analysts absurd.

Still, deep down, we sympathize because we know this lashing out compensates for dreams gone sour.

Much harder is to stare in the mirror. Our petty dictators are compensation too.


Going from serfdom to suffrage has not come easy to our profoundly class-obsessed society. Equality of vote has only served to expose every other inequity that scalds the Indian psyche like molten lava.

These inequities are perceived as grievous wrongs which must forcibly be reversed.

For some, the wrongs go back to Manu. For others, to Mohammad bin Qasim. For still others, to Robert Clive. From Bluestar to Babri, Godhra to Gulbarg, Kalahandi to Kargil, Naxalbari to Nelli - wherever one turns, there the wrongs are.

When we stare into history, to coin a phrase, it stares back into us. We all feel wronged in this eternal abyss.

Thence flow envy, bitterness, resentment, and rage - all jostling in a cauldron of deep-seated complexes - inferiority, mostly, which masks itself as superiority in some.


All humans have some degree of inferiority in us. A healthy response makes us better ourselves. An unhealthy response makes us lord over others.

This "will to power" is perfectly understandable in a traumatized people. This is how we compensate.

Sensitivity to harmless cartoons and disproportionate aggression are just one example of this. Violence against women is yet another. Also road rage. A more trivial illustration are internet trolls who delude themselves into thinking they are equals of more accomplished persons they abuse without provocation.

Once you understand the psychopathy, a lot of behaviors become crystal clear.

Institutional checks and balances can certainly keep a lid on such outbursts. But they can't cure them.


There are no easy answers here.

Part of the cure, however, is an honest acceptance of the malady. Dialogs of truth and reconciliation are a crucial place to start.

It then requires a mature people to look ahead, not with a view to reverse or avenge past wrongs but to make a world where all of these grudges have been set aside and buried.

But none of this is remotely possible as long as we keep looking up to leaders who can't overcome their own personal demons.


rU said...

Are you up to reading a book? I will be happy to send one to you...if you are. Am writing to you here because I did not have an email address i could write to. I see that you are a person of words and my attempt is to have people of erudition read this book...( I follow you in twitter and sometimes read your blog)


Primary_Red said...

Thank you, Ruchira. Appreciate your gesture. Please let me know what book you are referring to and I'll purchase and read it. Best regards

Anonymous said...

Excuse my saying so, but your analyses of India appear to be extremely ummm....theoretical and hollow.
Somehow I feel you have not actually ever been to India, or have been away for a very, very long time.
The nuances of India that are immediately obvious in the writings of anyone actually familiar with the country is missing in yours.
Perhaps you should actually visit India sometime before continuing to comment on its society?