Humiliation and being Humiliated

Our society seems to be grappling with the trauma of colonial times. A sense of loss and shame seems to be haunting our people at several levels. Our public debates exhibit a drive to humiliate the other. We may say that there is a corrosive functioning of humiliation in our society. These days it appears we seem to be using our institutions to humiliate people. Even the law is weaponised to humiliate each other. We can see how the Nupur Sharma controversy is panning out and manifesting how we are getting offended by the slightest provocation. We seem to have reached a point where we may have to painfully say that every existence of minorities has become a reason for humiliation. Perhaps, among other complexities that include demographic fears of the upper caste in our country, we may also agree that a sense of humiliation is feeding the fear that says .‘Hindus Khatre me hai’. Perhaps, a sense of loss is affecting both minority and majority communities in our country. The minorities are being haunted by a sense of being outsiders from the commonwealth of our nation and the majority community appears to feel a threat that it may lose its control over the same in the coming future due to the demographic growth of the minorities. This sense of loss is haunting both communities differently and they express their humanity and citizenry in conflicting ways.

The self-respect of both individuals, as well as a community, is easily injured and we even choose violence and feel that we are doing justice to heal our injury. This employing of retributive justice can be seen in the way we deal with our injured past, especially around religious structures. It is as if we have a free-roaming tiger everywhere and we are living on the edge due to an anticipation of a nameless threat. Several factors that may include our democratic institutions seem to be giving us reasons to feel humiliated. Humiliation has another side. One feels exalted by humiliating the other. Our caste-laden society has exalted the upper castes by humiliating the outcastes. Even today in several ways humiliation of the other is used to consider oneself or one community as superior to the other. The minorities are not just deprived of autonomy or several freedoms by de-legitimising their very existence in India, one can see what the Stoics would name autarchy is being denied to them. Autarchy is a capacity concept while autonomy is an opportunity concept. The denial of belonging to our country in a legitimate way on the grounds that minorities do not consider India as their holy land is a denial of autarchy. It is the weapon by which Hindutva humiliates the minorities. This means Hindutva seems to be breaching the autarchy of every person belonging to a minority person and thus acts against the constitution of our country that dignifies and honours every person by birth. When autarchy is denied all autonomy is castrated. Although, the denial of autarchy cannot be fully inflicted without the surrender of the victim to whom it is deprived.

Humiliation is thought of as the denial of a person’s autarchy. This denial of autarchy is visible in the so-called bulldozer politics which is being used to demolish the homes of the suspects of violence claiming that those houses were illegal. These houses were unfortunately grounded even without following the law that requires the legitimate authority to give prior notice of demolition to the person whose house was to be demolished. Even after these demolitions, the state cannot truly take away the life of autarchy if the people are determined to live their autarchic life. This means that the state can take away the autonomy and civil liberties of the people but cannot truly take the autarchy of the people without the people truly surrendering it. This is why society and the state cannot humiliate anyone who is not willing to be humiliated. This is why we can always live our self-respect even when external conditions do not allow us to do so. This is why between humiliation and being humiliated one has to make a difference. It is our choice to choose to be humiliated. we cannot surrender this basic freedom that we have called autarchy. The entire world may be against us but we have the inner power to stand tall like the lotus in the water. This inner strength is very central to the civilisational ethos of our society. we have it within us to live by our autarchy. The minorities may be minoritized but they can still choose to be humiliated.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao