Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Patriot just because it's cool

Today's post is influenced by an article I read in yesterday's Mumbai Mirror. It actually got me thinking about this whole young generation 'desigiri'. Yeah, only we'll call it desigiri and not patriotism or social consciousness. Almost all the points that the lady had written there seemed to make complete sense. After seeing the movie Rang De Basanti, my response was similar. That it takes a tragedy to affect one personally to actually take cognizance of a greater evil. And here, we were perpetuating that exact same truth! An RAF personnel reportedly remarked, that such hostage situations were commonplace in Assam and J&K. So such mass massacres by terrorists and extremists with 'twisted ideologies' (quoting Obama's words) happen elsewhere in India. But it has taken all of us so long to actually raise our voice against this nonsense.

I ask, " In what way is a Jaipur or an Ahmedabad or a Delhi lesser than Mumbai?"
I ask, " Why do 200 dead people scream louder than 20, 40 or 60 dead people?"
I ask, " Why do the dead at Taj and Oberoi hurt the conscience more than those dead at CST?"
I ask, " Why does a politician's conscience begin to hurt after 200 people die and not when there is a gross 'dereliction of duty'?"
I ask, " Why does 'patriotism' show up on Orkut, Facebook and Twitter when India faces a crisis and not otherwise?"
I ask, " Why does this 'patriotism' suddenly surface amongst Indians sitting in foreign lands while all the time they were in India, they associated India with filth and flies?"

Just rip this whole new wave of socio-political consciousness and look within. What do you see? NOTHING!

An acquaintance of Indian origin who has been living in a 'dehaati' (bucolic) part, if I may say so, of the US since the past 4 years, asked me 3 days after Obama was elected whether the news of his election had reached India yet. And now this very same acquaintance's heart bleeds and blood boils with anger at the gross neglect his city faces. How duplicitous can we be?????

Beauty is not skin deep. Likewise patriotism is not the solidarity you show on a social networking site. 'I was in the middle of the action, since I too commiserated with the city by tweeting' is by and far a terrible farcical show of fake 'solidarity'. It remains at best, yet another show of ostentatious desigiri - because it is uber cool to be desi in Firangiland.

Yes, I am angry at the slipshod security. Yes, I am distressed at the number of lacerations my city has been given by terrorists. But I am even more distressed at the bleakness of the situation and the gross lack of sensitivity displayed by the citizens of our country and the politicians alike. Yes, I am guilty of writing so much (for whatever it's worth) when Mumbai is hurt and only spending a quiet moment for the numbers killed by terrorists at various other locations in India.

Here is the article that got me thinking....

Pseudo-patriotism: Certainly not the action we need

Are we really patriotic? Do we care equally for victims of the CST attack as we care about those dining at the Taj’s Wasabi?


Newspapers, magazines, TV channels and even on-line forums are all alive with a newfound furore. Indians of all ages, economic groups and religions are suddenly talking about concepts such as solidarity and patriotism. All of a sudden, talking about starting a movement, all of a sudden so bothered with our government and our politicians. People who didn’t know Shivraj Patil existed are starting Facebook groups called ‘Sack Shivraj Patil’. Very ‘Rang de Basanti’ don’t you think? Being proactive, taking a stand, taking initiative and acting together are all positive decisions but only if implemented in the long term.
If only our country and our people actually believed and lived by the principles and concepts that they are currently obsessing over. It is delightful for anyone to see this sudden enthusiasm until you see through it and realise it is a farce of sorts. Why is it that it takes an event of this magnitude to get people to care? And if it is purely because of this event, as always the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ will make sure that the terrorist attacks will be forgotten soon, life will return to normal and with that, all the enthusiasm will also fade. The same people posting hundreds of notes and creating online groups will once again become blissfully unaware of the looming issues that our country faces and instead return their thoughts and focus onto more pressing concerns such as why the new Gucci collection is late to reach Mumbai.
It is amazing how many times I’ve heard “This country is crap. There’s nothing we can do to change that fact. So we want to leave as soon as we can and never come back.” And yet these are the same people who, to sound ‘politically correct’ talk about patriotism. When ministers and politicians try to gain mileage from this tragedy and sound ‘concerned’ and ‘politically correct’, we’re quick to dismiss it as ‘disgusting’. But when we do the same, it is somehow acceptable.
The people yelling their lungs out about patriotism don’t know a thing about it. Patriotism is not about standing up and showing support for the people of your country only after a terrorist attack. It is about loving your country to a point where you are aware and critical about its flaws; it is about being equally concerned about every citizen; it is about directing your pointed finger of blame towards yourself for a change rather than at politicians and policy-makers. Because in all honesty, are we really patriotic? Do we care about the pollution, bad health care, corruption and myriad issues that plague our nation? Are we even aware about these? Do we care equally for the victims of train blasts who were travelling in the second class bogey as we care about those dining at Wasabi? In our day-to-day lives, are we truly good citizens that behave in a way in which we not only cause no damage to the nation but also try and prevent it?
The dismal truth is that we litter the streets of Mumbai even as we speak about patriotism, we do not respect the hard-working BMC workers who keep our city clean and we ignore the crippling poverty that stares us in the face everyday. And it is also a sad truth that we did not come together this way during the train blasts or any other terrorist attack! It extends beyond our action. According to media reports, the families of victims of the CST attack were made to wait for hours and shuffle from hospital to hospital just to collect the corpses of their loved ones. And on the other hand, the families of the victims of the Taj and Oberoi attacks were not troubled at all and in fact assisted by senior police officers in finding the bodies of their loved ones. So why can’t we have uniformity?
It is an abuse to the whole idea of equality. Because in our heart of hearts, if we believed the lives of those dead in the train blasts and those killed at CST to be equal to those massacred at the Taj and Oberoi, our actions would have been different. It is an uncomfortable truth; one that defies our very constitution, which states that, our great nation is built on the idea of “equality of status and opportunity”.
The Preamble of our Constitution states that we are the “sovereign, socialist, secular democracy of India”. What sovereign nation allows outfits like the MNS to control our financial capital and get away without any judicial action? What socialist nation values lives based on bank account balances? What secular nation is besieged with communal issues so great that it is etched into our minds that this was an attack by ‘Muslim’ terrorists rather than an attack against our nation in its entirety? And lastly, isn’t it a perversion of democracy that we give propaganda enough power to brainwash a billion people and thus stifle our true freedom of thought and expression? If we want to take action, we must start by introspection. We can only act once we realise our own flaws. And when we do, we will be a force to reckon with. One that is united and patriotic.


Ramesh Srivats said...

Very very nice. I agree with a lot of things you say. Especially the lounge patriotism in facebook. I have a few suggestions to make. You may want to check out the second and third posts (from the top) on my site. Do tell me what you think.

And if you want a laugh at Shivraj's expense...

Shivraj Patil debates with Sardar Vallabhai Patel on who was the better home minister. Check http://www.rameshsrivats.net/2008/12/shivraj-patil-versus-sardar-patel.html

Trailblazer said...

It makes sense, of course. And patriotism is a lost concept. We have even become opportunistic about patriotism.

People shout and scream during the time of a tragedy and are back normal once time eases things.

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