Politics of Dishonour

We notice that our country is reeling under Manichaeism that has put a clear divide between a good ‘us’ and a bad ‘them’. This good ‘us’ and a bad ‘them’ is religiously defined. Such politics is identified as a pathology of tribal nationalism by Hannah Arendt after a laborious archival study in the 1930s . Ethnic nationalism has almost displaced civic nationalism in most places. Nationalism had been always a major source of legitimacy and identity. But what Arendt christened as tribal nationalism is growing on the wings of right-wing populism. This politics has derailed the quality of political discourse as well led to dysfunctional democracy. We are not alarmed about the absence of debate in the parliament. Civic nationalism functions democratically and legally. But enthic or tribal nationalism works with arbitrary power. Civic nationalism regarded laws as human constructs, and as such, they could be revised. In fact, such laws were enforced with care and compassion. Ethnic nationalism thinks that nature is the law. The law, therefore, is regarded as given by nature, and humans can only enforce or obey them. This is why transgression is treated violently without mercy .

Civic nationalism in our country is fast dying, and our polity appears to be firmly grounding into ethnic or tribal nationalism. Tribal nationalism is deductive. This is because as natural, it is total. It only guides our actions. It does have to grow intellectually. It is regarded natural and hence above what is artificially constructed, although it is also what was once humanely constructed puts on a mask of coming from nature. This is why it is given a sacral place, and once it is linked with religious faith, it almost takes an infallible power. Civic nationalism believes in the constitution, while ethnic nationalism believes in a strong charismatic leader who is thought to be its samrath or defender of the majoritarian dispossessed. Such a samrath is created through propaganda and media machinations that claim that the majority is in danger. In fact, the halo of that leader is often maintained by a political discourse that dishonours and denigrates all other rivals, especially the minorities. Political discourse, therefore, becomes immoral and is embedded in hate politics that generates intolerance and hate. Ironically, the language it uses to describe others’ returns to haunt its own barbarity.

The challenge is to revive enlightened or civic nationalism. This is not easy because we have the challenge to denaturalize, deauthorize, and deligitimize tribal or ethnic nationalism. Since it has become a source of legitimacy as well as identity , it is very difficult to question. When the media propagates as well as the judicial system appear to uphold its tenets, it appears that we have stepped into darkness. Often to our submissions to the naturality of tribal nationalism, we do not see contradictions in punishing people who root their discourse in civic nationalism while impute no guilt to exactly same discourse springfrom tribal nationalism. Thus, a case of defamation involving Rahul Gandhi becomes criminal and punishment worthy for what is deemed as saying all Modis are theives. But the supreme leader goes scot free for saying exactly the same thing to the opposition when he apparently said,’ opposition is a coalition of thrives’. This indicates that politics of dishour is growing by leaps and bounds in our society.

As long as we can not distinguish civic nationalism from the reigning ugly tribal nationalism, we may continue to tolerate politics of dishour. Hence, we need to critically enlighten ourselves about civic nationalism. Civic nationalism opens us the pathway to authentic patriotism. We need enlighten to understand how our assumption of naturality of tribal nationalism leads it to become totalitarian. It is thought to be a total expression of what is deemed as nationalism. Therefore, there is no more nationalism to come. We in India seem to have to deal with a totalitarian nationalism. Things also do not show any new light as the opposition are also playing the game according to the rules of tribal nationalism. Rahul Gandhi’s Barat Jodo Iatra hand opened politics according to the coordinates of civic nationalism. But the ruling benches recovered the lost narrative by imposing anti-nationalism on his views which were cherry picked from lectures and interviews abroad. Perhaps, the best response to reigning tribal nationalism is an assertion of civic nationalism. It is the civic and constitutional nationalism that seems to hold keys that can deligitimize narrow, hate ridden tribal nationalism. Otherwise, politics of dishour will dishour our fellow Indians and our democracy. It will also dishour us its adherents and show us ethical poor light .

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao