Democracy and Politics of Honour

The social imaginary of our people has changed. Some Scholars think that social imaginary of rational actors work to maximize utility.  Although, democracy has a noble goal: inclusion. It has become pragmatic in a caste laden society like India.   Our democracy is rigged by economic lobbyists who instumatlize  Hindu faith, culture, castes and nationalism.  Often policies of our Government appear to bend backwards to benefit their financers. The famer’s discontent and agitation is a case  that is pointing in this direction. Same is true about the people of Goa who are vehemently rejecting the three linear projects.   Goans can no longer hold their nose and wait for the promises of inclusive democracy.  The political democracy can no longer hide economic authoritarianism and cronyisms. Take the case of the sky rocketing prices of petrol. No one can take it with a 55 inch chest.  In our innocent search for goodness, we are slowly realizing that we have fallen from the frying pan into the fire.  Today we cannot be residents alien to our democracy.  We are all starting to belong to the story of our democracy.  The ethics of democracy seems to have seized us and people in Goa are rightly resisting development that is forced on them. 

 We have been ruled by power elites who promise greater inclusivity but failed to deliver on its utopian promises of inclusivity. In recent days, inclusivity has remained a distant dream.  Exclusion has fast become an order of the day.  There can be no true democracy without real inclusivity. With exclusion ruling roost in our country, we are fast losing our democratic as well as civilizational ethos.  With the exorcism of some faith communities, tribals, dalits and women from the definition of people of India, we seem to be facing a reality where the ruling elite and its cronies are using democracy in destructive ways. We all aspire for what we deem as good. But unfortunately, the instrumental reason that only values means and does not question the nobility of our ends leads us to use democracy for selfish ends.  Honorious of Autun, one of the scholar monks of high Middle Ages seems to aptly describe us when he says. ‘As long as humans aspire, they will be capable of corrupting the object of their aspiration’. There are always ways of corrupting what we deem as the best. Unfortunately, Hindu nationalism seems to be suffering this fate. Clearly all dissent is demonised ruining the liberal and argumentative Hindu tradition. But most of us think that this negative exclusionary politics is good and find meaning and fulfilment in our participation in it as consumers of such a politics. 

The drama of inclusion in the democratic destiny is an illusion. But our majority community is yet to discern it. Their political inclusion does not offer economic inclusion.  The three linear projects in Goa are only using the resources of the people of Goa as raw materials for the economic lobbyists to generate wealth.  Our democracy has become a fantasy. It is high on promises, hate and exclusion and less on real inclusive integral development and respect for dignity of every citizen.  The Television debates at night have increased the decimal of noise and we seem to enjoy it without knowing that everything is going crazy and that we are fast losing control over our economic destiny.  We are fed on the diet of narrow nationalism on social media networks.   We are rattled when some foreign celebrities tweet and exhibit that they support the farmer agitation.  Our insecurities manifest when we respond with apparently stage managed reaction that ends us in drawing the attention to some isolated tweets that might otherwise remain forgotten. These over reactions have defamed our great country and portrayed the quality of democracy that is existing in our country.  The long reigning politics of censorship has now crossed international borders and India is not looking great in its light of the dramatic arrest of young student climate activist, Disha Ravi. News laundry, journalists have shown to the dismay of Delhi police that they have closed their eyes to another ‘tool kit’/ hate machine, the Hindu ecosystem that is being used to manufacture hate and whip up communal division and bigotry.  It is sad to see our great democracy seems to steadily becoming a police state.  The fact that there are claims of a reputed US forensic firm that the evidence was planted in Rona Wilson’s, computer, the accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence by an attacker over two years should send shivers down the spine of most right-thinking Indians. 

The politics that seems to be ruling its day can be viewed as politics of recognition.  Recognition is not a courtesy that we owe to people.  It is a vital human need.  If we step back and mark a distance and scrutinize the dominant political discourse in our country, we can discern a thriving discourse of recognition and Identity. A simple analysis in this context will manifest us that what we deem as honour is ruling the day.  Right from the ancient times, honour is linked to inequalities. We have seen several honour killings in our country.  Against this notion of honour, we have the notion of dignity of a human being that has a noble egalitarian sense.  We seem to have forgotten dignity of a human being as we got lost and entangled in the discourse of honour. Politics of recognition that is  about dignity of the human person  is emancipative while the one that is about honour of person , culture ,  tradition, faith can be oppressive or at least provide cover fire power to exploitation.   This means a politics of recognition that is bestowing dignity is compatible with the welcoming and secular ethos of our civilization as well as our constitutional democracy.  This is why we may have to critically discern what is politics of honour and politics of human dignity and resist our democracy from being hijacked by politics of honour. 

Ethics of democracy is one of equal recognition. This means democracy is a politics of inclusive recognition.  It is a politics that dignifies every human being. Therefore, a politics that de-dignify migrants, tribals, lower castes, some faith communities etc., cannot be democratic. Unfortunately, our democracy is weakened by politics of honour. It operates to cover the loot of the economic resources of our country by the power elites who have lobbying force with the powers that be.  Politics of honour is a shallow moral response, one that protects pride of the individual, community, nation without putting its costs under a profound moral calculus.  This is why to be proud Indians, we have to hate other Indians who are demonized. Such a politics of honour singularizes the measure of being Indians. All others who fall short of this monoformic measure can be annihilated or set aside as deserving no honour and dignity of being Indians. It is easy to deduce who is not Indian enough and can be effortlessly demonized without any moral qualms.   This is the reason we have to critically embrace politics that bestows dignity on all Indians and thus, work to restore the dialogical character  of  inclusive ethics of democracy.  

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao