In a manner of saying, I do not have political views. I lay great emphasis on the words ‘in a manner of saying’, for the word ‘political’ may itself be variously interpreted. I should like to elaborate on the meaning I derive.
Of late, my interest has been seized by such topics as may fashionably be termed ‘civilizational’, which are to be distinguished from those ‘political’. Those interested in the former conceive of India as a civilization that has long endured, and must ever endure. They perceive history as a continuum of events that has had heavy bearing on the present. They hold Hinduism, or more accurately Sanātana Dharma, as the system that made possible the organic evolution of Bhāratavarsha over the ages, which has only of late taken on the artificial and expedient form of a Republic.
Those interested in the latter limit themselves to the contemporary zeitgeist. To them, history is of intellectual interest alone; they perceive it as a string of isolated events, speak perfunctorily of continuity, and to the cruder elements among them, history is an exercise in the crossfire of vituperation — a side derides the historical hero(es) of the other aside, and extols its own, often at the expense of objectivity. To them, mostly those born in Hindu households, the Republic supersedes every religion, but their eloquence, bravery, and vehemence are at their greatest when they tell other Hindus that their allegiance ought first to be to India and then to Hinduism. Eloquence is doubled, and bravery and vehemence is faded, when circumstances require of them to speak to Muslims of the same conviction. In their opinion, the Indian tricolour must fly higher than any religious flag, and their attitude may reflect laughable alarm when they are presented with opinions as to an alternate conception of the national flag.
It may suit admirably the way of convenience to respectively call these groups ‘civilizationalists’ and ‘nationalists’. Such distinction may seem to admit of a great possibility of error, but the twin forces of subjective opinion and limited personal experience lead me to perceive little, if any, overlap between the two; although, some elements among the nationalists certainly believe themselves to be civilizationalists. It may therefore be a harsh opinion that the interest of nationalists in India as a civilization is of an exotic kind — useful for the eloquent rhetoric of electoral campaigns alone, much as Hinduism was of exotic interest to the coarse hipsters from the United States during the counterculture movement of the 1960s. To other elements among the nationalists, even the rhetoric of an old civilization is insufferable; to their minds, India began as a glorious new country on 15 August 1947, and ‘civic nationalism’ is their creed.
The nationalists are intensely political, and finely segregated into the camps of the ‘BJP’ and the ‘Congress’ anent national politics. Their existence seems oriented around the existence of these secular yet paradoxically hallowed institutions, and the evangelists of both these parties think of themselves as the true patriots. The civilizationalists harbour a commensurate disdain for politics and politicians, and chide the Hindu masses for ever looking to the state for solutions to such problems as ail their society. To the boundless chagrin of nationalists, no politician, no political party, no judge, no court of law, no legislature, no secular institution — most certainly not the Constitution — would ever command the magnitude of respect amongst the civilizationalists, that Dharma commands. Nor are the latter awed or cowed by the tricolour either; they may respect it, but it does not elicit from them the tearful pride that swells in many nationalists at mere sight of it. The bolder elements may even deride the aesthetics of the tricolour.
At the moment, civilizationalists seem to be far the fewer in numbers than nationalists. Their fashion of bold opinions are blasphemous to nationalists, who suffer from a marked aversion to ‘controversial’ intellectual inquiries. To civilizationalists, no topic is verboten: eugenics, caste, fascism, street power, racism: they are prepared to discuss if not brook the actual existence of everything of these, in addition to more blissful matters, each ‘controversial’ discussion variously but steadily frightening or angering the more reticent and diffident nationalists. Indeed, my cursory survey of civilizationalist temper has led me to a realm of deeply tendentious opinions.
‘Political opinions’ cannot exist independently of prevailing politics, which in India is, for the most part, severely limited to the nation and does not compass the civilization. The latter may adversely be affected by the improvidence of the nationalists, but they are too complacent to understand it. The nationalists have a great predilection for the crossfire of political opinions, the most voluminous being the allegations of ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ and pretensions of ‘secularism’ by one side, and the allegations of ‘pseudo-secularism’ and pretensions of ‘true secularism’ by the other. In the uncivilized grammar of popular parlance, the former are called ‘liberals’ and the latter are called ‘bhakts’.
To civilizationalists, liberals and bhakts alike are dolts of the highest order, who use such impressive words with little rhyme or reason, context or cognition; who have preferred their swirls of idealistic feelings to the orderly march of pragmatism; whose lack of vision keeps the Republic boiling with the malice of assorted separatists, terrorists, and subversives. In their judgment, there is precious little that distinguishes ‘liberals’ from ‘bhakts’ anent their lofty opinions on the Hindu religion.
It is with candour that I admit of bias in favour of civilizationalists. I may not be as bold of opinion and as polemical of speech as a lot of them, but I have begun to see intuitive sense in many of their perceptions; and with steady gravitation to this mode of thought, I have grown alike weary and wary of politicians and political parties. I find them all abhorrent and trite. I invoke again the reason of limited personal experience in stating that I find, in the nationalists, the fond penchant of intellectualizing every instance of mediocrity, and any instance of confrontation on this count invites their crude intolerance, in grotesque and ironic violation of our national motto ‘Satyameva Jayate’. Their airs of omniscience, and poverty alike of knowledge and of vision, enjoy a relationship of pristinely inverse proportion. I exclude from my sardonic comments such people as are at heart civilizationalists, but by reason of their precarious employment and their concomitant fame, sound nationalist, and are diplomatic of speech.
Now, I cannot gainsay that topics of civilizational consequence are, in the final assessment, also ‘political’, and so are views on that front, for it is true in the strictest sense of the word. In that sense, my views would indeed be political. This post makes use of the word ‘political’ to imply affairs that are contemporary, and are spoken of with such present-specific zeal that the past is not treated as an experience that bears upon the present, but as a sundered era that is of intellectual and of archaeological interest alone.
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.