Monday, April 30, 2007

Post Bourgeois Dreams

Axiomatically, illusions are elusive. Then why should it come as a surprise that peace between India and Pakistan is elusive. Underlying this elusive quest for peace are other illusions. For example, that we are a democracy.

Peace is a human desire. Its wish cannot, ipso facto, be attributed to a State. Therefore, a State's desire (or lack of it) for peace is a function of the desires of its people, or, at least, the people who run it. It is axiomatic that a country where the people desire peace while the State wages war, is not a democracy. In such a State peace is bound to elude since, while the desire for peace is rooted in the people, the processes of peace are in the hands of the State, which is not in the hands of the people. In a State where democracy is an illusion, peace is frequently an instrument of State policy. To paraphrase Clauswitz, in such States— peace is the continuation of war by other means.

Thus, assuming that Indians desire peace, its elusiveness can be said to be a function of the illusion of democracy that belabours us. But what if the assumption is not true. And, if it is not true, why is it not true, given that the only reasonable desire is (or can be) for peace. War is insanity except in the rarest of rare circumstances where its sole alternative is not peace but a pervasive injustice, more corroding and destructive than war. Yet, we have all heard many Indians rooting for an all out war with Pakistan. We are also witness to significant expressions of “public” support for a hard line on contentious issues between the two countries. It is easy to dismiss these as being manipulated. True as this fact may be, that is not all there is to the support for the State’s militant designs.

It is a fact that there is very little support in India for most ‘progressive, liberal, humanist, etc’ issues. While you can get millions out on the streets on the Ram Mandir you will not get even a thousand out against the devastation of the environment or against an endemic culture of custodial torture and killing. Thousands of brides (daughters) are killed every year by their husbands and in laws. Yet the issue does not grip the nation’s fathers, many of whom have daughters of their own. A ‘why’ to these and other phenomena has almost as many answers as ‘answerers’. Here is one.

Peace is a post-bourgeois dream. Trapped within our bourgeois angsts, we dream of peace even as our hands are busy grabbing as much as possible of the pie, nervous in our crumbling edifices of security, like the tin sheds that slum dwellers call home. Every “other” is a rival to our quest, our five century old history proof of its destructive power.

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