Death as Dying-with

We think a community as a full presence without any outside. What is outside is not in full communion. It is an outside that can only be antagonistic to the community. Such a community is constructed through the narration of the fundamental myth or myths. These fully self-present communities have produced foundational myths which are continuously told and retold from time to time. The being-with or the being-in-common of a community cannot be monadic or monolithic as each individual is singular plural with several belongings and ways of being-in-the-world. This plural ways of being-in-the-world cannot be singularized into one transcendental form. Our ways of being are immanent and remain in a mode of immanence. They cannot leap out of this immanence and become fully present and transcendent. Thus, there is no fully self-present community or nation as such. Such an ideal and transcendent nation or community may exist in Plato’s world of Ideas if at all such a world exists. What we have in this world are also not copies of those ideal forms but are fully unique persons and hence each individual , if we can call him or her so is a singular plural mystery. Thus, we do not have for instance, transcendental Indian-ness that we all then can mimic and become. What we do is produce Indian-ness by becoming Indians each of us differently. This means by our Indianizing, we are becoming both Indians and India is becoming India.

This means by being-with each other, we become-beings-in-common. But once again we cannot think being-with in a logocentric or onto-theological manner. It does not belong to the ideal world of Plato and therefore, is not perfect and transcendent. The being-with that produces being-in-common is immanent and remains in its becoming. This is why may be it will help us, if we look at being-with at the limit situation of life. We do experience a being-with with the dying. If we fail to experience death as being-with, we can kill or commit or tolerate mass murders without feeling any moral disturbance. This means if we fail to experience death as being-with , we cannot really be-with in life. Such a failure has culminated in genocidal and murderous hatred. This is why we have racial, ethnic, religious and other conflicts across the globe. In Goa, we both Catholics and the Hindus experience death as dying-with and this is why Goans do live in communal harmony , even when there is an active effort to divide Goans. Unfortunately, in several parts of India, we as Indians cannot experience death as dying-with, hence it is easy to kill each other under such situations. We have several riots that has killed thousands of Indians and we may kill thousands more unless in the future. Hence, we have to learn to sense and experience death as a dying-with.

Experiencing death as dying-with makes us die in some way with the dying. In the death of the other, we too die a little. we certainly experience such a dying with the death of beloved. But with the death of the other/ enemy, we may not experience what we call dying-with. Hence, we also cannot live-with that other. This inability to experience death as dying-with, leads us to the submit to a totalitarian society. We are then ready to accept unfreedoms as long as the other with whom we cannot share death as dying -with is given the worst unfreedoms. Thus, a myth of racism, casteism or religious or ethic nationalism under such condition comes under a self-fulfilling logic. By creating it purity by doing away with otherness it thinks that it reaches its fulfillment.

We just have to give our all mindlessly to some strong leader or a group and the final destination that we long for will simply arrive to us. Thus, failure to sense of dying-with the other may lead to the tolerance of elimination as well as active extermination of the other that we cannot die-with. This is why it is important to view death as a social event. Death is a dying-with. When we do not just leave behind material belongings, family, community etc., we also leave behind death itself. Death is part of our social sphere. In dying we die-with. If we think death as only an individual event , we may come closer to the non-sensing of death as a dying-with. Death is in some way a ceasing to be-with the world and other humans. Death, therefore, is dying-with. This is why we who are alive feel that they too are dying-with the dead. This is why when we kill without experiencing the dying-with with the one we kill, we do not even offer a dignified death to the dying human. Offering such a death, we heartlessly seem to declare that the dying individual as one who belongs to no one. Thus, the belonging or being-with that is the own-most character of the dying victim is robbed away from him or her.

The ability to experience death as dying-with is at the foundation of ethics and morality in a society. We have the challenge to sense death as dying-with in the midst of an unchosen community. We do feel death as dying-with in a chosen community. In such a community, the dying person becomes part of the chosen community and his or her death becomes a dying-with. Our inability to experience death as dying-with seems to have led to the slow death of the nation state . Perhaps, in India, we have to challenge, contest and deconstruct every ideology that becomes a block for us to experience death as a dying-with. A society that cannot feel death as dying-with, will die a garbage death or meaning less death and offer its enemies harsh death soaked with blood and heartless-ness. Hence, to generate an ethical society, we need to promote a culture that experiences death as dying-with.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao