The Food of Thought that has become Food for Thought

These days we have a lot of food for thought about the food conflict in our country.  The expression food for thought indicates something that triggers thinking. It also points to the food of our thought. Our thought also feeds on some foods. This food nurtures and nourishes our thought.  We have to critically discern and trace the kind of food that feeds the food conflict that is reigning in our country.  These days, unfortunately, we seem to have a lot to think about fights about food. Our food conflict has almost taken us on a path of a civil war. This conflict is fed by a thought and violet hate-ridden ideology. The violent conflict of food has given us a lot for thought.  The food that makes us fight and even kill also challenges us to think. Indeed, it gives us a lot of food for thought.  The cultural conflicts over food (beef) and the consequent violent killings of innocent persons have summoned several among us to call into question this madness over food. Thousands of Indians came out in protest under the #notinmyname. The parliament was experienced a stormy session on the issue.  There is an imperative in the emerging food for thought. It calls us to a new awakening. The food conflict has reached a toxic point and unless we have second thoughts over the raging madness, nothing can stop us from self-destruction. Therefore, we will have to ask a difficult question: what is the food of our thought?  Quite literally our food conflict has become the food for thought. Our thinking is triggered by it. Indeed, it nourishes the thinking that flows from it (in this article). 

What is the food (ideology) that nourishes and nurtures the conflict over food? What is the food for such a violent thought? It is frightening to ask this question. The demand to ‘hang the beef eaters’ seems to have answered the question that we have posed above. This demand seems to have cannibalism written all over it.   It exhibits a violent desire to devour humans who eat beef. The cannibalism that seems to underline the demand to hang the beef eaters is not to be taken in a literal sense. It is metaphorical but equally devastating in as much as it really spills the blood and annihilates the human flesh. Hence, the desire for a symbolic flesh of the one we hate has become the food for the thought that underpins the food conflict that we are facing. This is why it also seems that the so-called holy people and saints are not immune from it. No religion can openly call to hang anyone. Although the food conflict has religion at its very heart, it cannot be said to be directly at the centre of mob lynching that seems to have taken us all captive.    

The space for a type of food (beef) has unfortunately come to define the place of the other (beefeaters) in our society. That is why some people among us may say that the food of this violent thought is cannibalistic and raise questions about the moral competence of our society. Although the politics of beef apparently reinforce an identity politics that marks the space of civilized us and savaged (beef-eating) other, it comes back haunting at the champions of food conflict. It is clear that the representation of the beef eaters as cow meat-eaters is made by blurring or dissolving the distinction between the cow meat and other bovine meats and is deliberate and is employed to justify oppression and even extermination of those considered violators of the holy cow.  Moreover, we can see how this thought has emboldened bloodthirsty mobs that have gone on a cruel lynching spree in different parts of our country.  Hence, it may be true that we are facing cannibalistic consumption in a metaphoric mode in our country.   Cultural cannibalism that we are faced with devours precious human life to save cultural purity. Ultimately, it boils down to a visceral politics that draws the line between those that belong to the body of the nation and those who are demonized and expelled as others.

The split between the civilized and the savaged (beefeaters) doubles us into the national and the anti-national other and legitimizes what are simply hate crimes as acts of patriotism. Unfortunately, we are faced with a bloodthirsty nationalism that is ready to spill the blood of several innocent Indians. This has put the minorities, Dalits, tribals and women in the precarious condition of vulnerability. These marginal people are often viewed as disrupting the boundaries of cultural purity and are deemed worthy of extermination. Therefore, we have to agree that everything that feeds the violent food conflict is dangerous for our country.  Unfortunately, the so-called beef eaters have come to demarcate the boundary of purity and in some way have come to occupy the space allotted to the polluted down the centuries by our cast-laden society. As polluted they can be killed and annihilated without much regard to the criminal law of our country. This means the polluted cow meat-eater has become food for thought for those who have raised the tempers around cow protection.  The demonization of beef eaters is unwarranted and unconstitutional. But as a demonized other, often an innocent person becomes the object of hate crimes that are increasing in our country. This is the reason why the food of thought that feeds the food conflict is the desire to annihilate so-called beef eaters becomes metaphoric cannibalism.  No form of cannibalism is good for any society and certainly, the symbolic cannibalism that afflicts us is tremendously hazardous to our country and therefore we have to take steps to brings the levels of its cravings down as fast as possible. Indeed, we all have a lot of food for our thought. Somehow we have to find a way to respond adequately and effectively to the cannibal thirst that is seeking to quench itself by preying on innocent Indians.  

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao