13th August 2010 - I see a herd of children, innocent minds, as blank as the sheet of paper waiting to be written on, as blank as the white shirts on their shoulders, with blue shorts, with ties tied unkempt. Their steps mimicking each others, falling on the drumbeats; left, right, left, right, round, round around the ground. Some took the liberty to look at the moving traffic or the crow perched atop the fence. Some sought the pleasure of scratching their itchy scalp. The middle-aged teachers, adorned in sari and cane, were quick enough to obedient the wandering souls to fall in line, to look straight, to mimic the robotic movements choreographed to the beat of the drum.
This was in preparation of India's Independence Day celebrations. The children were to parade in front of a chief guest who was supposedly "honorable." The children were to parade to showcase their obedience, their allegiance to the "nation." The concept of "state" may be ambiguous in those tender minds, but the concept of "blind obedience" has been drilled deep from the outset. Deep enough to sideline even the thought of questioning the meaning of "state." You are to fall in line, match the steps, mimic the rest, and not ask question.
This seemingly harmless rituals to regiment the young bodies, in reality, prepare the ground to regiment their conscience as they grow adult. This is how we get to a population ready to kill at the rulers' will, ready to die at the ruler's wish. This is how the innocent minds are enslaved to the blind faith of nationalism, defined by popular leaders with statements like "integrity of a nation," "die for the nation," "kill for the nation." No questions, no answers, not even thoughts. Shall we not call it an irony that we take pride in showcasing this "slavery" to celebrate independence? Doesn't it reminds of slaves lined up to their master in exhibition of their obedience and loyality?
Nationalism is no different from religion of any kind. We ask no questions, just submit ourselves to blind faith. And worse, we make a threat to those who refuse submission of their conscience, refuse slavery of the authorities. To Indians, "independence" has meant nothing but the change in color of ruler's skin.
15th August 2010 - The lazy morning at Panavalli, a hamlet tucked in a far corner of Allapuzha District, the foreplay of rain drops and sunshines, the wet road, occasional rings of cycle bell and engine roar passing by. I see a small gathering of men, aged 5 to 50 or more or less, under a huge neem tree, few women peeping from their balconies. On the sand and mud adjacent to the road stands a poll with tricolor hanging, halfway down the top, like a deserted old man, hopeless, waiting to pour his sorrows out.
The flag and the people around it are waiting for an "important" person. Apparently, it is only those specially bred who posses the purity to touch the flag and uplift it from despair. Will the flag ever know whose hands pulled the string? Does the flag wishes to know what those hands have achieved, how much wealth they amassed?
The importance of such "super-citizens" has surpassed the importance of one's own self, the conscience of an individual, and even a human life. It has become a common affair for some lives to be lost in dispair either by suicide or mob rampage whenever such people pass away. To express the pain of loss caused by a leader's death is far more important than the life of an commoner. Let lives be lost under the leader's hearse, after all, the masses are meant to die for their leaders.
In ignorance, we trade our freedom, our individuality, our souls for the mindnumbing faith in concepts of yesteryears conceptualized by souls who are long dead. We trade the wisdom of our heart for the mechanical gabber of the leaders. Is this hero worship coded in our DNA or does the society coax us into this pseudo-religion of blind faith? Buddha had the "answer" when he said let reason be the light.
Acknowledgement: This post would have never seen the light of your monitor without the editing and thought input of Megha and Tathagata.