The Games That the Government Plays

Maybe we have to ask: what goes by the name Christianity and what goes by the name Hinduism is the same across time? Maybe it will raise some uncomfortable power questions. Maybe this question is relevant for us in Goa and by extension, we may ask what goes by the name Muslim and Hinduism is the same across time in India? In recent days, the Government in Goa and some right-wing outfits have begun to take us in the past to what we may say to discipline our present and shape a future that they wish to give us. The political discourse is threatening societal peace. The change in the political discourse can be clearly discerned. The so-called need for an anti-conversion law, the issue of temples demolished by the Portuguese, and Inquisition and St. Francis Xavier have been racked and several right-thinking Goans across communities are disturbed. All these sporadic utterances have produced their effect and qualify to what we may call ‘discourse’ following French thinker Michel Foucault. These discursive practices have set up power relations that seem to mark the place of the majority and the minority community in our society. Therefore, maybe we have to interrogate how this discourse is serving to marginalize, silence and distract people from real issues that plague our society. Therefore, maybe we have to scrutinize how language and power work.

Language is not apolitical. Maybe we are conditioned by the picture theory of Ludwig Wittgenstein and think that a word is simply a photography of reality. Such thinking about language was abandoned by Wittgenstein himself who later in his book, logical Investigations showed that language is locally and contextually conditioned. Wittgenstein even cautioned us about the effects of language, thus indicating that power penetrates and operates also through language. Hence, our question can boil down to, ‘does the word/ name Hinduism and Christianity produce the same effect in our society seamlessly across time?’ Maybe we have been playing several language games across time in Goa and by extension in India. Like games that need rules to play, Wittgenstein taught that language games required rules to be played. Perhaps, the same words have allowed us to play different language games across time in Goa depending on which side we intended the discourse to be privileged. This also means the present discourse set in by the Government and its allies from the right-wing is playing a new language game.

The word game itself is imprecise. It is open and captures all kinds of games. We have card games, ball games, bat games etc. All are games. But we cannot play all games with the same rules. Each game has its own set of rules. Different language games follow different rules. The discursive practices that used the terms Christianity/ Catholicism or Gentile / now Hindu in hindsight use different rules and are different language games as well as power games. This means we have to attend to the non-discursive dimension of language. Although langue appears fully discursive, the fact that it cannot fully capture/ picture the reality opens it for power, emotions, and aesthetic sensibilities to penetrate it. This is why innocent-looking Konkani our mother tongue is caste laden. When someone says, ‘ Ho sarko bamon mure’ to his non-Brahmin brother, we can see how caste resides in our words. The language game played on us by the Government and its cronies also have non-discursive features that speak differently to different people in our society depending on which side of the caste or religious divide one finds himself or herself. It is the non-discursive features of language that enable the language game to become a power game. The Government is certainly playing a new power game at the Goans through its newfound language game.

The power game decides who can speak and who is silenced. The construction of colonial villains in the post-colonial India as well as Goa indicates that the new language that is being played at the people of India, as well as Goa, is also a power game. The power game decides how we as members of our society are going to participate in life. There is no real separation between language games and power games. This distinction is made by me to make us understand the powerful effects of language. It is the same language game that decides how we participate in the life of our society. The colonial masters in their days played the language game and enabled or disabled the colonized people to belong to the order life in those days. The same is true about the new language game unleashed on us in Goa. It appears that a new divisive order of life is set up for us all. We have to belong to this even against our constitution and the freedoms that it has granted us all. The question is do we have to submit mindlessly to these games of the Government? We can certainly conform or resist as players subjected to the new game at play. To do this we may have to initiate a new language game.

To resist we have to give up our common-sense view of language. Language is not innocent of caste or power. Besides language is not de-contextual. It is conditioned by the complexity of reality. It imperfectly and incompletely constructs reality. Hence, we have the challenge and opportunity to decipher and read how power structures our language and resides in the language games that are being played continuously in our society and initiate ways of contesting them. . It is the love for our people, Goa as well as our country that would motivate us to discern how vested interest is using the non-discursive dimensions of language to promote a kind of order of life that is disturbing the peace and tranquillity of our people. It is such a discernment that is critical to the construction of a new language game that will resist the reigning power games at play.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao