Facing our Barbaric Condition

‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’ writes Theodor Adorno. In the broadest sense to be barbaric means to be uncultured. Julia Kristeva tells us that the word originated in the context of Greek perception of other languages as inarticulate mumblings in contrast to their pristine tongue. It is through the onomatopoeic play of ‘ bla bla.. bra bra’ came the word barbarism. Even the native speakers of Greek were called barbarians if they failed to speak the standard pristine tongue. Adorno uses the term to describe ethical, moral and cultural corruption of the society of his day. May be we too are not different from his times. The ethical horizons of the country are changing and we seem to find no offence doing what may be regarded as barbaric. We cannot overcome our pathetic condition through aesthetic escapism. Such escapism is barbaric according to Adorno. The aesthetic sense of feeling good that arises out of inflicting suffering and pain on the minoritized other in our country has derailed our ethical horizons and we are enjoying the Maya of the aesthetic halo of a majoritized nationalism that we know as Hindu nationalism. This totalised majoritization can only be possible by de-Indianization that sees us Hindus, Muslims and Christian etc. What Hinduism will justify hate and even call for genocide as we saw in the Dharm Sansad in Haridwar in recent days. A kind of barbarism that is living on in the name of Hindutva and its promised Hindurashtra is de-Indianising India. This is why the barbarism that we seem to have come to embrace under the glow of the reigning Hindutva, may fail Hinduism as well as India at several levels. We, therefore, have the challenge to counterpose the imperative of Hinduism and the Imperative of India against the imperative of Hindutva. It will take a lot out of us to walk our way out of the barbarism that is afflicting our society. We have the duty to build processes that will enable us to leap out of this aporetic condition.

Barbarism always deems itself as superior to what it paradoxically sets out to achieve. We may also find this to be the case of Hindutva which appears to position itself as superior to Hinduism. We know that Hindutva cannot subsume Hinduism. We cannot reduce Hinduism to Hindutva. There is always a surplus in Hinduism that resists its reduction to Hindutva. Hinduism cannot be totalized and cannot become totalitarian. Hinduism is non-dogmatic while Hindutva is. Thus, Hinduism is non-positivistic and therefore truly unbarbaric in the sense of Adorno. This is why we may have to painfully say that after Hindutva we cannot truly be Hindus. Neither can truly be Indians. Unfortunately, our complicity with Hindutva takes away the very Hinduness of Hinduism and the Indian-ness of India. This is why it is possible for us to be barbaric. It is possible to chant: ‘ Jai Shree Ram and Kill’. It is possible to chant what is regarded as the holy name of God and do evil. We have become barbaric and there appears to be no point of return. Hence, it appears to be very difficult to respond to the imperative of Hinduism and the imperative of India. We seem to readily surrender to the barbaric impulse of Hindutva and fail to respond to the ethical imperative of Hinduism and India. The barbaric impulse of Hindutva corrodes Hinduism and India. Hence, it is important that we trace an adequate response to this destruction.

There cannot be poetry after Hindutva. It only prefers silence. No one except the one who occupies the position in the centre can speak. No one else can truly speak. Everyone has to repeat what is spoken by the centre. Therefore there are no other voices. Such a society is homogenous. It lives and dies for the same. It is difficult to show the mirror to such a homogenous society. Aesthetic sensitivities and considerations of homogeneity flowing into ideality have potentialities that can crystallize into a genocidal mentality. We can see how a barbaric genocidal mentality is growing by the day in our society. Intolerance of the other is visible in the manner in which minorities are being treated in our country. The Hindutva wing is beating the Muslim community with cow protection, love jihad and conversion while the Christians are also being beaten with the stick of conversion. These real or imagined pretexts are enough to unleash barbaric mobs on a lynching spree or cruel instincts of some fringe that goes out vandalizing sacred symbols as well as attack innocent on festive days like Christmas. Hence, we have the challenge to awaken to the reign of barbarity in the name of the values of our great civilization.

Adorno’s statement also manifests another important dimension to us. It seems to point out that after Auschwitz cultural criticism of society is difficult. Maybe this indicates that questioning and asking questions to the ruling benches and their pet ideology Hindutva is considered anti-national and hence has become barbaric. One has to submit to everything in silence. But to remain silent to barbarism is also barbaric. It is no silence of the great Buddha. It is a compromise to an ethical fall. The barbaric silence turns away from ethics and turns to aesthetics that leads to narcissistic enjoyment of things that are barbaric in character. But this turn to aesthetics away from ethics remains occluded. Our obvious cruelty thus remains unknown to us. This is why it is difficult to trace the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hence, after Hindutva we seem to have set the clock back for us. What we might consider uncultured or barbaric like beating up or even killing people whiling chanting Jai Shree Ram is become accepted and seem to have become a new normal . This is why our silent enjoyment of the aesthetic pleasure of the pain of the other is therefore barbaric too. Therefore, we have to say being inspired by Adorno that it appears that it has become barbaric to become Indian. We seem to have become Hindu first and then Indian. We have accepted a barbaric condition of treating each other as Hindus, Muslims, Christian etc. No one is Indian before one is a Hindu, Muslim or Christians. We have a huge challenge to leap out of this barbarism. It is for the love of our country that this article is written to call us to be Indians first and then followers of this or that religion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao