Political Emotions to Build India

All societies are full of emotions. Emotions are glue as well as engine on which societies run. Often these emotions have little or nothing to do with political principles and public culture. The emotions rise from time to time based on the political culture that channel peoples energy to key commitments. Perhaps, it may be important to ask what are the key emotions that are central to our country today? What do we as Indian intensely fell today? Does fear, anger, hate, compassion or love rule us? Emotions give vigor and depth to a society but they can or derail collective pursuits of shared value and reinforce hierarchies, division and forms of neglect. Today, we seem to manifest aggressive emotions in our society. Liberal values are ebbing and aggressive almost fascist values are increasingly growing by the day in our society.

What we lack seems to be sympathy and love. All Humans tend to sympathy. But it is usually narrow. When sympathy wanes away negative emotions run high and our society becomes aggressive. It seems that we are becoming more and more aggressive by each passing day. We are losing lots of constructive energy to divisive politics. This is why we have the challenge to expand the narrow circle of sympathy in our society. Sympathy and compassion are not new to our society. We can see it strongly among the Jains and the Buddhists. We can also feel palpable karuna among the Hindus. It is just that we have forgotten our inclusive compassionate ethos of our civilization for some time. Some sense of loss and injustice has raised the decimals of anger among us. We seem to be on the path of self-destruction. This is why it is urgent to understand the role of emotions in building our nation.

Current sociopolitical atmosphere is far from Karuna and ahimsa in our country. Karuna and Ahimsa follow from the belief in one-ness of humanity. Divisive politics dismantle Karuna and Ahimsa and we are taken up by madness of senseless violence. Lack of Karuna and Ahimsa fires ‘ us and them’ conflict. This ‘us and them’ begins with our attitude to nature and translates itself with divisive hate politics among humans. Forgetting of Karuna leads to the forgetting of Ahimsa. Thus, an emotion of Karuna is central to the value and practice of Ahimsa. Unfortunately, it seems to appear that there is forgetting of Karuna in our society. This has happened because of cut throat competition introduced by neo-liberal economy. Perhaps, it has diluted Karuna and compassion and as a result we have increasing insensitive and cruel violence introduced by hate ridden divisive politics. Hence, it is urgent that we return to Karuna of our ancients traditions and work to bring about good of all.

The lack of karuna seems to be fast transforming the heart of our political culture into a the heart of the heartless. Hence, it is important to scrutinize our emotions that are directed to the nation. We may see how emotions that are churned in our society are making us think narrow thoughts and almost become deaf to the sigh of the poor as well as victims of violence. We seem to have become narcissistic and are looking for mirror image of ourself in every other. When the other cannot reflect our mirror image, the other becomes disposable. Market seems to have eroded our basic emotion of sympathy, the bedrock of our society and we have become lost in othering the other and choosing to live with the sameness of the self, the mirror of our self. This is why we need to return to our civilizational ethos and attune ourselves to its foundational values of inclusivity and thus resist the animal spirits of the market that has turned us into enemies of one another. No Indian is a waste. No experience of an Indian is a wasted experience. Even one received from conversion of faith through the colonial masters. We need to embrace every other Indian and build a prosperous and harmonious India. Why waste the contribution of other Indians by othering them and pushing them on the margins of the nation.

No society can grow on the engine of hate. Right from the time of Plato, we have the admission of the role of emotions in Politics, although it is only recently that scholars have begun to review how political emotions build or break our society. In Plato, we already find reason, spiritedness and desire as playing its role in politics. But Plato upholds reasons above the other two. Aristotle also taught that emotions played a key role in motivating action and creating social bonds. Modern thinkers choose impassionate deliberations as the chief tools to handle political conflicts, although we can still find Thomas Hobbes who thought that reason is the handmaid of passion. We can also find in the work of David Hume and Adam Smith which says the emotions are a glue of society. Indian society always promoted positive emotions like Detachment, Daya and Karuna. They were the basis of living higher ethical life. Hence, when these basic emotions are running down, we have society ridden with conflict and violence. We indeed have the challenge to work to restore our society to peace, harmony and prosperity for all.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao