Pragmatic Actors, Traitors and the Nation

If we only put the truth of the present into the past, we are in danger of getting entangled to genocidal identitarianisms. The truth of our present does has its traces in the past so too it has its links to our aspirations, dreams, anxieties and expectations of the future. When we acutely feel that our future is aborted, cancelled and lost, we take upon ourselves to restore it through models from the past. This makes our future a future of a imagined or real past. No one has full excess to our past. We do try to frame it in reductive closures. In this context, the anxiety of a jeopardized future makes us feel unhomed in the present and we think that future can be restored only when the past fault lines are set right. Question is can we really do this? Does this mean that we have one singular past? Is this past frozen over time so that it allows us to simply replace it in our present?

We really do not have a singular past. There are several pasts. Maybe we can come to understand this by making a small distinction. It is between “things as they are” and ” What we make of them” . We have the famous legend of the six blind men in our country who went to see the elephant. Each of these six blind men came up with their perception of the elephant. We too in a similar way have different versions of the same past. Moreover, when these pasts are framed and construed as history, we position it and narrate it though a paradigm that is manifested to us through attentive study of historiography. Thus, in Goa, we have a tendency to frame our pasts and history with the help of paradigm that we know as nationalism. This tendency is especially visible among the upper caste scholars. What is paradoxical is that this nationalist framework operates retrospectively. This means although the notion or concept of nation arrives only after the treaty of Westphalia, we can notice that we see everything that occurred before it with nationalist hindsight. Here the question arises: are we framing history from the position of our today? Do our anxieties of the present colour what we call history? Does the truth of our present condition our past.

Things are even more complex. Today we enjoy simultaneity. We know and are seamlessly aware of the entire world and human, cosmic and ecological events today. We are made aware of what happens in our country and world moment by moment by mass media. We have the luxury of the experience of simultaneity.Therefore , we have to ask ourself: are we guilty of imposing our experience of today on the events and people of the past? This question is important because the controversy that hit us in Goa is positioning itself into a nationalist framework and id seeing anti-national events and persons even when those events occurred and persons lived when the nation was yet to come . We have the luxury of simultaneity as well as establishment of the nation state. Therefore, we have to adopt critical and sensitive approach to the dark sides of our collective past. This demands of us to embrace all shades of our collective pasts.

The controversy that is on the boil is Goa seems to indicate that those who have stirred it reject a past that they clearly identify as dark. This rejection of the past is based on the paradigm or ideology of nationalism. The imposition of this ideology, frames and identifies those dark elements of our collective past as anti-national and hence appears to become unbearable. But if one frames the event of the invitation of the Portuguese by Mal Pai of Verna in the paradigm of nationalism what will happen? How are we to see the collaboration of the upper caste with colonial masters within the frame of nationalism? Who will then appear as traitors of the nation that was yet to come? The fact that those that have raised the controversy have selectively and conveniently kept the deeds of the upper caste out. This shows that thier pragmatic acts that sought to further their interest and the interest of their community then do not appear caustic and treacherous. This is why we have come to see the sinister design of our brethren who have tried to disturb the communal harmony of our society.

Hence what is at best pragmatic and intrest-laden becomes treacherous when framed in the framework of a nationalism where the nation does not exists. It will come in 1947 and Goa and Goans will join it in 1961. Hence, while looking at the past from where we are today, While being aware of where we are today, we have discern when we wish to go as Goans and Indians. In fact, it appears that where we are today is coloring if not distorting our plural pasts. This sensitivity challenges us to look at our Past not just from the lens where we are now, nor only from what is behind us but also from what is in front of us. This look into the past with a forward thrust will enable us to embrace our collective dark pasts and work to heal our present and build a future for all Goans.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao