Philosophizing the Lakshman Rekha

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We are busy drawing lines everywhere. We have drawn several lines between us and the coronavirus. We draw lines between us and others who are both victims and vectors of the infection among us. Drawing of lines both in art and life, in general. is celebrated by poet William Blake. But he was more concerned with how we draw our lines. Without lines that mark our life,we may be pushed into a reign of chaos. The issue is not about drawing lines that discipline us by demarking our space and time but doing this in the name of God or some given-ness that is invested with narcissistic privilege.

These lines cut and wound humanity and divide us. We can still find that we enjoy drawing lines that wound with uncompromising determination. This is why during this moment of human distress we have to recognize the poison in the lines that we draw both for ourselves and others. Maybe we have to cross these lines and look at them from both sides of the divide that they create. Maybe the other side of the line will interrogate our narcissistic attachment to our side of the line.

While we are reflecting on the lines that we draw or the lines that we align with, we may find that these lines are practically of two kinds. They are the lines of revolution and lines of legitimation. The lines that we are drawing to save ourselves from the infection of the lethal virus are no lines of legitimation. In fact, the virus has drawn a line of revolution and we are riding these lines to save our life. The lines of revolution are lines of transformation. They express their desire for freedom, harmony, equanimity, happiness, and health for all.

Lines of legitimation are those that try to save the status quo of inequality , poverty, and disharmony so that those that prey on these inequalities and imbalances can have their day in the sun. The virus has placed the dividing line between the lines of revolution and the lines of legitimation. It is for us to choose lines of life or the lines of death. The lines of legitimation are the new opium of the people. They are visible in the rise of politics of hate in several locales of the globe, particularly in our country.

The Laksman Rekha drawn by Laksman in the Ramayana is indeed a line of revolution and not a line of legitimation. It was a line of freedom and not of bondage. It was a line of love and not hate. It was a line of life and not death. Unfortunately, many among us are prepared to die as well as kill others for the lines of hate,and death in our country. The lethal virus by marking the line of death and life has challenged the lines of legitimation that maintain the status quo of caste alienation, deprivations of poverty, and opportunities of development and education. We truly need a dividing line, the real Laksam Reka that will destroy the lines of hate, oppression, and exploitation.

The lethal virus is redrawing these emancipative lines for us. We have to save the poor, the outcast, the hated others in order to save ourselves. We cannot overcome this virus with the lines of hate. We need the lines of Rakhee that bind brothers and sisters in our country. We need these lines of harmony to tie each of us in relationships of harmony. Maybe the virus is giving us an insight into our life. But the question still haunts us. Do we understand the changed condition? We seem to be busy drawing the lines of legitimation and the lines of division even at this time of great human distress.

We have to dispassionately reassess the socio-political, ecological, and economic consequences of the lines that we are drawing. Which line shall we choose? Do we choose the line of the oppressors which we have called the line of legitimation? Or the lines of love that emancipate us all? We call it the lines of the revolution. This will assist us to understand the kind of religion, culture, ideology, nationalism that we have aligned. One that legitimates oppression, poverty, inequality, caste alienation, hate, and division cannot be true religion, culture, or nationalism. We would not like to be partners in oppression. But if we do not reflect on the lines that draw or align with and non-align with the lines of oppression, history will not be kind to us. We have to seriously consider drawing a line between lines of legitimation and oppression and lines of revolution and emancipation.

We all like the status quo. No one likes disruption. But the disruption of our life because of coronavirus offers us an opportunity to understand the emancipative power of disruptive revolution that tries to bring emancipation for all. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to someone we consider as a superhero who has the charisma and wait passively for the good days to come. Good days can come to all. They cannot come with our choice of passive submission. We have to make it happen. We have broken this line of passivity. To set the lines of revolution, we have to redraw the lines that wound us and our society. We have to draw lines that heal the wounds of our society. we have to check the lines of violence and death.

We have to deliberately de-legitimize the lines of oppression and exploitation. But these delegitimization have to be done with great sensitivity and care. We cannot heal wounds by inflicting new wounds on our already wounded bodies. We need a revolution that wills to transvaluate the long-cherished values that desensitize and numb us about the pain of the other. We have to context the master narratives that legitimate the lines we draw and test their emancipative power. Lines that emancipate are porous and not rigid. We may need a dialogical imagination that lets us stay in dialogue with lines that keep emerging, admit us and dislodge that legitimate oppressive line that supports the status quo of exploitation.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao