“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Thus begins one of the most widely read historical novels of all time, set in the French Revolution – an epoch in the modern-day nationalist narrative. Charles Dickens’ masterpiece unravels the dark secrets of the mighty who wield the power on a given day. However, not much surprise, the secrets are no more sacred today, yet they still hold sway over the millions whose only wish during a day’s work is a loaf of brown bread with a brownie for an evening snack and a warm scarf for the winter.
Like the camouflaged chameleon disguising itself from being identified by even the most fervent eyes, the mighty power-holders manage to coax the people into fighting for causes that only lead to one single goal – Enabling the powers-that-be to keep hold of their power or at worst, enable a new one to replace a slithery old one. The entire history of mankind has witnessed only two kinds of rulers during the majority of its existence – A king who is kind enough to sit on the throne or the king who is kind enough to let someone else sit in there. The rest are just exceptions i.e. the ones who don’t conform to the rules. Hence, they do not last for long.
Adopting a strategy for a sustained hold over the power tools isn’t that tough. Just keep the common folks occupied in meaningless and low yielding daily activities, keep a noose over their ambitions and if someone manages to break free, get him into your own groove. In worst scenarios, a revolution might take place, but within a few years and decades, the dust shall settle and a certain group, albeit in different masks, shall once again rule the land.
Modern-day patriotism is an extension of the same old philosophy. The sponsored history books and painted walls very effectively hide the bloodstains of the hundreds and thousands who gave their blood to gain independence from the early rulers. The pride in their bravery and sacrifice has now been replaced by false territorial supremacy. Vested interests have even molded this devotion-to-the-land to a devotion-to-a-certain-ideology. This ideology with roots that are cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, etc., have continually forced people to look through a particular brand’s binoculars. If you look through others’ glasses, you do not conform to the choice of the majority of the mighty and thus, you are of contrasting opinions and practices. You may even bring harm to our ideological students or may make them question the legitimacy of our ideological supremacy. Mate, you are a bane to the society in general and our territory in particular.
If the territory happens to be outlined by international borders, then the non-conformists are the ‘anti-nationals’.
Territorial disputes based on nationalism are limited by the borderlines. Yet an even broader and larger belief system manages to easily transcend through borders i.e. religion. A believer in a certain religion in America can easily identify and sympathize with the believer of the same religion in Africa or Asia. Despite having the same moral values as other religions around, each religion drapes itself in a unique set of practices and rituals. These rituals have with time, become so rigid and cast in such set of stones that a simple questioning may lead to riots and deaths of hundreds of people. This distorted view and manipulated the use of people’s trust and fate has been a handy instrument in the quiver of the power-hunger people. The modus operandi has been very simple. If people question, provide them with confusing answers; if they continue asking questions, brand them as anti-social and atheist and even then, if they do not fall in line, extradite or eliminate them.
The story of the world’s largest democracy has been no different. Just a handful of well-chosen people have been responsible for running the country since the day the British left. A unique brand of nationalism, built upon hatred for the neighbors took route. An Indian feels himself comfortable sitting beside a European or American, rather than lying next to a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi. For very long, the Sri Lankans have borne the brunt of our hatred. For a majority of Indians, India and its various types of machinery viz. the Government and the Army can do wrong as they seemingly dedicate their whole lives for the service of the nation. There lies a catch though; the Government is only endearing if it’s the one you support or voted for.
The followers of You-Know-Who are not limited to a single religion or any particular geographical area. Rather they are spread through each possible portion of the earth’s crust. Religious fundamentals and their trigger happy comrades have ravaged earth for centuries through covert as well as not-so-covert wars. People look towards religion for peace and comfort, rather they are force-fed a violent and loud flood full of cacophony and blood. The ever-worsening economic and social condition, no wonder as there is hardly any government machinery that yearns to do a meaningful job, thrusts people forward in this race to look for a false sense of pride and supremacy. The seemingly manly endeavor of crushing the weak and the oppressed is the sole source of enhancing self-worthiness. Economic and cultural anarchy being bred into a dystopian and intellectually bankrupt society leads to monocracy and a vulgar display of goondaism. The pen might have been a mightier ally of the sword in the days gone by, but in this era of keyboards and tablets, the sword is making a comeback and is much stronger than ever before. The victory may not be swift and may only be ephemeral, but the wounds shall be cancerous and catastrophic.
A disaster is much worse than what Little Boy and Fat Man achieved.
© Sheela Joby