Lurching from tragedy to tragedy, should we have hope in New India?

You know the inanimate bulldozer is only acting on your instructions. But what hope do you have that what you set in motion will listen when you call “halt” at your gate?

Lurching from tragedy to tragedy, should we have hope in New India?

Ranjona Banerji

People are desperately looking for hope. Under rocks, stones, knives, bulldozers… anywhere at all where there might be release from despair.

Bulldozers, in the most lopsided pathetic fallacy, have been anthropomorphized into both humble and evil objects. The humility of the earthmover which is now easily interchangeable with the bulldozer in everyday allegories, does not of course mean that it cannot also be evil. Humility when overdone becomes smarmy and despicable and underlying over-smarminess, there is often evil.

Talk about overdoing it.

False humility, evil intent and a great business opportunity. I can stretch the earthmover-bulldozer metaphor to cover the new India that we now live in.

But hope. That’s where we were. A little boy picks up the shards of his family life after the humble earthmover has crushed their livelihood. This image has become a symbol of hope. This is where we are in this new India. We lurch from tragedy to tragedy, and we are told we must hope.

Hope for what?

Bertrand Russell looks at the ancestry of fascism: “The founders of the school of thought out of which Fascism has grown all have certain common characteristics. They all seek the good in will rather than in feeling or cognition; they value power more than happiness; they prefer force to argument; war to peace, aristocracy to democracy, propaganda to scientific impartiality.

“They advocate a Spartan form of austerity, as opposed to the Christian form; that is to say, they view austerity as a means of obtaining mastery over others, not as a self-discipline which helps produce virtue, and happiness only in the next world… Pleasure and knowledge, conceived as ends, appear to them unduly passive. For pleasure they substitute glory, and, for knowledge the pragmatic assertion that that what they desire is true.”

Do not tell me that you do not see the signs of this thinking around us. As a justification for government policy and action, as a defiance against democratic explanation, as a form of enforcing obedience and silence.

Where would you look for hope, when this thought process has been so successful? When even our much-admired grandiloquent public intellectuals cannot see through their strategy and always fall back on history to justify the shackles of today.

Russell is also talking history here, and he references Hitler. The best of our most intelligent minds however still cannot see further back in time than India’s first prime minister and his daughter and thus provide the Fascists with a stick and the populace with no counter-argument and therefore, no hope.

The fascists look to either an invented past full of glory or an invented past full of humiliation and use both to justify contemporary cruelty. There are almost no voices left to question them, and those that are, provide them with more ammunition against the weakest, most downtrodden, most discriminated and most disenfranchised.

They behave as if they are at some permanent literary festival surrounded by adoring pseudo intellectuals.

Outside, the humble and ferocious earthmovers and bulldozers roll on. A former foreign master is taken to a factory and rides a machine with glee. Money must be made by someone somewhere; an earthmover is humble, evil and also a potential money-spinner. The cynic will tell you that here lie slivers of hope.

What are we, that we are so easily crushed and discarded? The historian will point to our long history of subjugation, by our own and by others, why should today be any different?

All the voices of the past, the present match the bulldozers’ roar: this is how our life has been. Here again, as much as the owners of the bulldozers speak of past glory, they want to ensure the crushing wheels don’t ever stop in the here and now.

And those bulldozers, whether humble, evil or rich? There comes a time when they will not discriminate between this victim and that. They are what they are. What will save you from the earth being removed from under you while you stand there?

It will not be obedience, acquiescence, genuflection, submission. The bulldozer does not care if you agree with its actions or not. It will not care how you voted, who you worship, what songs you sing and what you believe.

To understand the reality of the bulldozer is more important than looking for hope in the eternal despair of a grieving, confused child.

You know the inanimate bulldozer is only acting on your instructions, don’t you? But what hope do you have that what you set in motion will listen when you call “halt” at your gate?

Is what you desired really true?

(The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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