The Dawn of Second Freedom

Image Souce: Hindustan Times

The violence that erupts from the scission of self and its other is on the increase across the Globe. Identity politics has gripped humanity everywhere. It has led to the rise of what has been named as rightwing populism. Populist leaders prey on the fears of the people and mobilize the public towards their political and economic agendas. Unequal distribution of the wealth in the hands of a minuscule minority is said to have predisposed the masses to gullibly accept a demonized other from within or outside as the source of their plight. It has become an easy option for the powers that be to hide behind a constructed enemy while the real economic parasite is having his free meal. India is not free from this mainstream global condition that is afflicting humanity. What is championed as trickle down economics is impoverishing the masses and is a form of violence to our people. The spiral of violence has taken various forms. We can discern these forms sometimes as protests by the citizens and students like the one against CAA and NRC and sometimes as repression of these protests that involved police brutalities as in the case of Violence at the Jamia Millia Islamia University and mayhem in JNU with police choosing to show nelson’s eye. But the master signifier of the ruling BJP ideology of Hindutva is breaking down and the people sought to be divided are getting united. Thanks to CAA and brutalities against innocent students.

The violence that is afflicting our society today has deep roots in our thinking. Violence rooted in thought, particularly metaphysics was clearly exposed by Emmanuel Levinas in the West. We can trace such debunking of violence ladeness within metaphysics in the work of thinkers like Martin Heidegger and Jacque Derrida. These thinkers call for a profound intertwining of all thinking with ethics. Heidegger called for a return to pre-Socratics whom he credits for not separating thinking and ethics. Thinking and ethics are also not kept apart in our classical Indian philosophies. Good life and thought were always intertwined into our civilization. But the contemporary spate of violence and its apparent cover-up by the state apparatus in some instances like the one at Jamia and JNU seem to indicate that our thinking and being has descended into what can be only called dark times. The arrival of violence has become the arrival of darkness. The reason is dying in a violent frenzy of madness. Mindless madness has gripped our society and several of us seem to have begun to enjoy the violence erupting everywhere. Violence has stopped shocking us. It is mass-marketed as morphed videos victimizing innocents are made viral and we have begun to like it.

Thinking that is intertwined with ethics cannot but be compassionate. But for now, thinking is dying into what may be only called sadism as innocent students who are victims of heinous violence are slammed with FIRs as the case of JNU, president of the Student Council. Even when a sting operation clearly exposes the pro-Government group, the police remain slow to act and when they try to act the masked goons exposed by India today go underground. This means innocent victims will have to go through the terror of trial while the real perpetrators will roam free. Although this is absurd, it is real. We have entered truly dark times. We have found enemies to hate in our own society. Several binaries and dichotomies in values and ideologies are making our blood boil. Violence seems to have ceased to be abhorrent and we have lost our guilt and also have forgotten our responsibility. This is why we can easily excuse violence and even defend it and further fuel the spiral of violence in our society. Our appetite for violence is looking insatiable. Indeed our society is descending into dark times, far from the ethos of our civilization and far from the spirit of our constitution. Indeed, the cruel theatre of violence is bewitching and seducing many among us.

‘Dark times’ was a term that was popularized by Hannah Arendt to map the totalitarian conditions that afflicted the society of her times. She called us to counter violence through intellectual engagement. Here her term dark times is used not just as a description of the state of affairs in our society but as a provocation that hopes to ignite action to bring light, sanity, and peace into our society so that the politics of hate and violence comes to an end. The evoking of dark times also hopes to bring ethics in our thought and being. The struggle to overcome dark times is the need of the hour lest we may normalize violence and take the moral sting away from it. We have to recognize that violence besides being morally marked is cloaked by metaphysics (forms of thoughts). But fortunately, the blood-soaked bodies of our student victims are exposing the violent face of our thought and ideologies. Thankfully, there is no hiding place for violence. Ideologies cannot hide it anymore. The masks of pretentions are fast falling down. The student’s uprisings are bringing hope and vigour and people in the shadows of darkness have begun to look at the light. Ethics is back into our thinking. Our thought no longer begins with the way things are (wonder) but with the way things are ought to be. The thought brings an imperative that asks, ‘ what shall I do’. Violence is steadily becoming a catalyst that is steering our society to peace. Gandhi is coming back. Non-violent satyagraha is inspiring the students. Swaraj is on the horizon. Hate is no longer appealing. It cannot provide firepower to failures on the economic front. But there is the last mile all of us have to walk. We are feeling the heat of the destructive voids opened by Hindutva forces. We seem to have reached a point where all of us are saying a loud enough. We no longer want a divided India. Hand in hand, therefore, we can together rise into the freedom where we can hold our heads without fear and love every Indian with an undivided heart. To achieve this dream, a solidarity march has already begun. The dawn of second freedom is fast approaching. Let us become that freedom to each other.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao