"The State decides an individual's fate." -Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002
In an interview to NDTV's Rajdeep Sardesai, this year's Nobel laureate in Economics Abhijit Banerjee said that, "The very idea of nationalism is a red-herring, politically created to divert people's attention from much more pressing needs like basic education, sluggish economy and abysmal poverty." This consolidates the truism that all isms are socio-political constructs with a view to diverting collective attention from fundamental requirements of a decent living.
Now the question is: What's an ism? An ism is the concretisation of a belief, used by the state to subvert the vox populi or the voice of the people. Until a few years ago, the nation was an idea. Today, it has assumed the form of a doctrine. When an idea morphs into an ism or doctrine, it becomes rigid and the rigidity of beliefs is what the State wants from its subjects. British PM Lord Clement Attlee aptly said: 'The State wants its subjects to live in a perpetual state of stupor.' Look at the Ismic Cultification (John Stuart Mill's phrase) of religion/s in the western hemisphere and Arab World in last two millenniums. Jewish traditions snowballed into Judaism, Christian beliefs got solidified into Christianity and Muhammad's teachings turned into Islam. Religions' solidification engendered Religious Indoctrination and the followers got so involved in it that they forgot their own immediate issues. This helped the State have a never-ending sway over people. Roman statesman Cicero tellingly exhorted the people, "Let no new beliefs creep in and avoid getting indoctrinated, for, an indoctrinated mind behaves like an indentured slave and forever remains subservient to the State " (From Cicero's speeches at Roman Senate collected, anointed and edited by Ian Duckworth, and Colin Fraser, University of Hull Publication, 1972).
Humans are ideologically driven creatures. Our mind is genetically enslaved and it loves to stay yoked forever. Sigmund Freud called it Pathological Ideological Craving (PIC): Man's overwhelming desire to own an idea and turn it into ideology. An ideology serves the purpose of the State. The State uses it like a tool, a ploy or a device to further its vested interests. This has happened in all theocratic States. Our neighbouring Pakistan's so-called democracy is a sham. It's only on paper. Pakistan is virtually a theocratic State, dictated by Mullas and Mawlawis from behind the stage. The indoctrinated masses of Pakistan are inebriated by the toxic influence of religion (read, Islam). And when the mind is influenced by the nefarious doses of an organized religion, the biggest of all isms, it forgets all other things and gets engrossed in esoteric beliefs. The same is happening in India, the sudden spurt in religious fundamentalism and nationalism is obscuring our vision and making it opaque to seeing the reality as it is. Now an average mind in India is impervious to the very basic needs that require immediate attention. Instead of that, we're swayed and swept off by perverted religious fervour and twisted notion of patriotism.
In his seminal essay, "How nations are destroyed by State-sponsored beliefs and doctrines," English political thinker Sir Harold Laski opined that, "The idea of a nation is politically much more important to the State than to its citizens. The citizens have a healthy and benign concept of a country, later politicized by the State as a nation and the concomitant idea of nationalism." So very true. The Goebbelstic relentless hammering of nation as a sacrificial juggernaut degenerates into today's form of morbid nationalism or jingoism. We're being made to believe that even a semblance of difference and dissent is a sign of anti-nation. That nation is not just a revered piece of land, but an entity with all its sacred pillars like press, judiciary, among others being independent and un-encroached is now lost on us. Remember, an idea can stimulate the grey cells but it cannot fill the tummy or satiate the hunger and thirst. Today, what we see is the formation of ideas and their immediate sanctification. The implementation of ideas and ideologies into instant fructification of tangible outcomes is missing. Look at India's caste system, the bane of our overall growth and a blot on India's escutcheon. When the government of India still validates the caste quota even at UPSC level and mentions the caste of the toppers proudly, you can jolly well understand that it's the State's (unwritten) official policy to perpetuate this social malice to keep the caste card alive for electoral objective/s.
Today, casteism is India's ugliest social reality, tacitly approved by all governments, past and present. I'm having to say with an impotent sense of regret that even M K Gandhi never categorically condemned India's ignoble caste system. B R Ambedkar rightly called casteism: State's Electoral Policy. Yet, we've not yet been able to slough it off. The reason is: State turning a Nelson's eye to its abolition. When the State legitimises something however bad or evil that may be, we assume that to be above reproach and our will to oppose gets jolted and foiled. Because, to legitimise is to institutionalise. That's why, despite economic slowdown, growing unemployment, increasing religious intolerance and back-breaking poverty, we're led to believe that nothing is rotten in the State of Denmark, to paraphrase a Shakespearean quote from the play Hamlet, spoken by Marcellus and Caesar's wife should be above suspicion. I'm sure, the learned readers have got the insinuation as to who I'm alluding to.
Can all isms be eradicated?
This is a million-dollar question and seems to be rather Utopian in the present scenario when the entire world is ravaged by ideologies like fascism, emergence of white-supremacist, ethnocentrism, sectarianism, religious and spiritual snobbery, racial superiority, too many to count. But an enlightened world-view free of any ideological prejudices and presuppositions can make it possible. We need global citizens who've no axe to grind and have a world-vision. If Socrates could declare himself to be a world citizen millenniums ago, why can's we all emulate him? Alas, the Orwellian 'Big Brother' is watching those unfettered and untrammeled souls and is raring to clip their wings.
The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilizations and cultures.