Directing Angst: A Raj Syndrome

 

Many, many years ago, before the advent of explorers, we lived in a world where when people were angry or a king wanted to expand his territory, a war was fought. Centuries down the line, with exposure to science, technology and for some, to humanities, war cries still seem to ring through the world of civilized men, except is violence and belligerence really a tool of the smart, evolved, developed and educated?

Though the twenty first century guru, Yuval Noah Harari, professes that war lead to technological advances, was it the only thing that led to discoveries and inventions that changed the world? While the atom bomb was developed for war and forced peace among nuclear powers by the resultant horror created in the hearts of men, nuclear energy also generates electricity for mankind. Science or technology in itself is not bad. It is the intent of humans that makes it good or bad.

The reason soldiers go to war and risk their lives for an imaginary line drawn by men in power has always had me perplexed. Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate, the writer of the Indian national anthem, wrote: “…it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.”

Is it right to destroy human lives and make a profession of it? Is nationalism justified? It was born out of industrial revolution because the British needed raw materials and market for the produce of Lancaster mills. The traders infiltrated to the Eastern part of the world and then, the sun never set on the British Empire at the end of the day! Most Asians and Africans were at the receiving end of this development as many European nations emulated England and it would be an understatement to say the recipients did not enjoy the experience.

Given this context, why are we still warring over lines drawn by the Raj? Now, that the British Empire writhes under the throes of Brexit and has little to do with what goes on in the East, why do we still emulate their ways instead of finding our own solutions?

History has shown that it is mostly the power brokers who instigate a battle cry and manipulate our way of thinking. Hundreds of years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte said it all: “A soldier will fight hard and long for a bit of colored ribbon.” And this was around the time of the onset of nationalism.

Despite our lessons, we react by thinking as the power broker want us to think and risk our necks and that of others as well as our economic well-being. Mao Zedong, another empire builder even warned: “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.” And yet the masses continue to fall into the trap every time and thunder for the enemy’s blood.

The rage of the masses has always been frightening, whether they are called the proletariats or the Red Guards. The Red Guards syndrome has, however, brought to the fore the destructive nature of such angst. They destroyed people, buildings, books, libraries just as a bomb would. Mao resorted to send the Red Guards for re-education to curb their fanatic leanings. From 1962 to 1979, 16 to 18 million Red Guards were sent to the countryside in China for re-education as Mao changed his tactics.

Left or right, the masses can easily be stirred to fight, as we can see in the throbbing anger generated against the enemy. While some people cling on to their intrinsic culture, religion, traditions and their glorious past, others want to create a new world. Either ways, though the aims are different, a war cry rings out if propaganda stirs radical thought processes. The mass does not stop to think anymore as anger and the feeling of deprivation or marginalization explodes into violent hate. People become fanatical if they feel threatened by differences; if they feel their current state of existence will degenerate, if they have a past which reinforces fear in their belief systems or the fear of losing their goods and lives. They stop thinking logically when such fears are instilled.

Thus, a blinding rage is generated by fanning a sense of deprivation or differences, which is pretty much what the Raj did more than a hundred years ago. The amazing thing is people still fall for this trick, even if it is pulled by their own local politician, who while critiquing the British past, continue to emulate its characteristic policy of divide and rule. The masses re-enact this whole drama laced with anger and hatred over issues that are minor when faced with annihilation or mass death, which a nuclear-based arsenal ensures. Then I wonder who will be left to jubilate the victory?

The complacency and conviction that a war can be won by any side in the age of nuclear arms can only be the perception of the unthinking or the inexperienced innocent.

 

7 thoughts on “Directing Angst: A Raj Syndrome”

  1. The well-known phrase ‘People hate what they fear, and they fear what they don’t understand’ comes to mind here. One reason governments are not always willing to put as many resources into education as they might do is to keep the mass of the population comparatively ignorant. After all, when you understand your neighbour is just like you and also wishes to live in peace, why would you want to destroy them?

      1. The only way we would make the right choice is if all the electorate were sufficiently well-educated to understand the implications of the issues raised and the politicians were all honest in their claims.

        So, probably not.

      2. Unfortunately, I do not think education is ever imparted in the true sense of the word by any academic institutions… a humanitarian education. My favourite definition of education was given by a man more than a century ago, Swami Vivekananda,
        “Education is the manifestation of knowledge already existing in man.”

      3. I like to think of education as a way of creating a well-rounded, balanced and inquiring human being, rather than just stuffing them with what they need to get jobs.

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