The Calculus of Communal Conceit
There is throughout the world but a single race — the human race, kept alive by one common blood, the human blood. All other talk is at best provisional and only relatively true.
— Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Perhaps it would not be hyperbolic to state that I have written voluminously on the rudiments of Hindu culture, the reasons behind the resurgence of Hindutva and the contemporary ossification of values such as secularism that owe their provenance to political theory. However, it would verily be hyperbolic to view me as an expert on any of the foregoing issues. I rely in a substantial measure on my sparse abilities to discern reality, though lent I suppose a magnitude of credence with observations of those who are considered experts.
It may be evident to the most impervious readers that I endorse Hindutva inasmuch as it concerns a recrudescence of egalitarian values. I view it not as a parochial paradigm restricted to theology but a panoramic philosophy of which theology is yet another ingredient. In this essay, however, my purpose is not the defence of Hindutva, but the conceit concomitant with the dissimilitude of communities. In lay parlance, religious and national pride would be constituents of such community-oriented conceit.
Not once have I claimed to be a “proud Hindu” notwithstanding my espousal of Hindutva. That I have not done so is perchance too subtle to notice.
Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and even Quora have no dearth of people proclaiming themselves as proud Hindus. The trend holds true for other religious communities as well, but more visible with Hindus on account of their preponderance. I attribute the “proud Hindu” trend to sensationalism. Not unlike the Domino effect, an individual’s impassioned post or octothorpe suffices to saturate others with the same passion. This sensationalism, needless to say, is sans knowledge and objectivity. There has hardly been a satisfactory answer to, “Why are you a proud Hindu?”
Pride may be defined as confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalized, on the basis of their shared identity, culture, and experience. It is true that the Hindus have been marginalized in the not-so-distant past owing to invasion and colonial rule, yet it is apparent that the very meaning of pride has been contorted today. We have posited the pride of one community as that being antagonistic to another. Pride ipso facto appears isolationist, for one is then seen not as an individual, a human composed of the same particles that characterize the cosmos — thus in essence a microcosm of that vast abyss, but as a member of an isolated fraternity.
The fraternity could be religion. It could also be a nation. Rancorous though the truth is, we must not shy away therefrom; religions and nations are anthropogenic constructs. Nations may produce great men and appropriate them, but it is, elementally, man who conceptualizes a nation.
Two camps appear to enjoy a preponderance of humanity in terms of membership, leaving the truly objective ones to themselves. One of these camps considers religion superior to nation. The other camp abides by an antithetical view. It considers nation superior to religion. Which of these two camps is apropos? Why?
The appositeness depends on the age the world is in. Religion was the supereminent factor prior to the Enlightenment. Today, it is the era of nation-states. We have geopolitics and international relations theories that enable us to efficiently function in this system.
The cosmos has but one permanent trait. Paradoxical though it may sound at the outset, that permanent trait is change. For we have a wheel of time. Is it not aptly said:
सुखस्यानन्तरं दुःखं दुःखस्यानन्तरं सुखम् ।
चक्रवत्परिवर्तन्ते सुखानि च दुःखानि च ॥
Therefore, much as it may ail nationalist sentiment, a nation, too, is ephemeral in the mists of time. Renounced as we have the predominance of religion, renounce so shall we the predominance of nation in the distant future. It is purely out of the prevalence of the “nation” in the contemporary era that we recognize one another on account of nationalities. It is not strictly in consonance with the ultimate reality of the cosmos: that we are but microcosms of it and truly have no reason segregating ourselves as such.
The ersatz identity inevitably overrides one’s true identity as a human. As Professor Anand Ranganathan aptly says, we are but a bunch of cells. We must understand that life really has no purpose. This bunch of cells is on its way to an eventual demise.
It is thus purely in the interests of overall stability that we continue with the status quo of multiple identities. My support to Hindutva is based purely on that principle. The Hindu tradition has historically accepted this fact by means of the scientifically correct maxim: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. I view Hindutva as the most practical way of ushering in an enlightenment. A sweeping generalization is all that my following comment may be, but the overall wisdom of the Indian society is, when plotted on a crest-trough graph, currently at the trough. To me, Hindutva is the most practical way because it can appeal to both: the nationalists and the religious people. The former because Hindu traditions form an integral component of India’s heritage, and the latter because many of these traditions are sacrosanct to them.
Indian nationalism and Hindutva are therefore synonymous. It is expedient in the interests of stability that we cling to one or more of the innumerable identities we have today, for the annihilation of such structures may inflict inordinate tempest on society. One may choose to renounce religion, for it is not the supereminent factor. One cannot renounce a nation today. But we are ultimately humans. Individuals. Pride, as it exists today, forbids us from seeing that, for it stems from sensationalism. Therefore, I do not say I am a proud Hindu or a proud Indian.
Having been born in this land and this culture, however, I own these identities. And I can never deny that inasmuch as Ernest Renan’s apt definition of a nation is considered, India has been a nation since the days of the Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization. Assiduously built and refined, it is a nation that did not see globalism and patriotism as contradictory. It is expedient in the interests of the teeming sixth of humanity in this nation-state to witness this country becoming tremendously powerful and developed on the parameters of health, education and overall sustenance. The philosophy is strictly utilitarian.
People can be provided with the impetus to propel the nation in its voyage with the consecration of such an idea. Thus, we have nationalism. It is, to give an instance, nationalism that enthuses the spirited youngster with the spirit to relegate his life to the background as he makes the defence of his country, whether at sea, in the air or at the borders, a sacrosanct mission. Thus, nationalism must be propagated. It must, however, be done keeping the larger picture of stability into consideration and not on the tremulous foundations of “pride.” To this sacrosanct mission must be inherent an awareness that a demolition of nation-states could lead the world at large to anarchy. It is “stable” to continue with the nation-state today. To desire stability is very much a human instinct, albeit not restricted to humans. We must, purely for our survival, protect our state structures and seek to improve them from within in the event that they prove inefficient or are marred with corruption, which is almost always. The nation-state of today is a means of ensuring our survival. It is not an end.
Thus, nothing is truly sacrosanct. Thus, when I describe the consecration of nationalism, it is in essence mere expediency. For in the end, nothing matters. Earth as we know, too, shall eventually efface, and so shall nations.
Bear yourself, then, as an entirely delinked, detached and dispassionate observer, long after the Earth has effaced. Long after the universe has come to an end. And then let your memory traverse the innumerable millennia, recounting the multitude of cultures, religions, ethnicities, languages, nation-states, differences of opinion and wars. Finally, ask yourself, “What purpose did it all serve?”
Nothing but the realization that everything shall eventually come to an end, can truly compel the humans to live as humans. I do not mean it merely in the sense of “knowing” that everything shall eventually come to an end. I mean it in the sense of a realization; a true understanding of the sheer enormity of that end. It is indeed idealistic to wish for such a realization to hit the pullulating mass of humanity as would an ocean wave hit the shore. But, in the off chance that it materializes, Savarkar’s vision of a Human State would be fulfilled.