Shutting eyes to the ‘unpleasant’

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Ever wondered why most of people here prefer to keep quiet when they should actually be speaking out against the kind of politics that is played with them and on their heads, and which actually concerns them more than those who play this politics? Of course there are reasons for it – after all nobody wants to be framed. Why attract undue and unnecessary labels which then come with a whole lot of trouble for the recipient? Easy thing, which at times seems quite prudent too, is to keep quiet, as much as one can, and as long as one could. However, the only worry in this kind of approach is explained in that old Protestant saying: “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Caught up in this Catch-22 situation, most of people end up living drab and dull lives so much so that the life itself becomes mere physical existence and people cogs of a giant machine, milling up in the rut of monotony. Not to talk of those without means of purposeful economic engagement, even those who have ‘much sought after and overly valued’ 10:00-4:00 government jobs have nothing dramatic, nothing exciting, nothing to hope for, no satisfaction of any desire except in their daydreams.

Now those in the political echelons may remain unconcerned about it – for, such a dreariest, drabbest and grayest life of common people does in no way threaten any status quo – but condemned to live isolated lives from the life of the community, people are steadily losing interest in much of what politics is all about – good of the community, society and the nation. This individual divorce from the general social life has already eroded much of Kashmir’s political foundations, and decay continues without any respite.

It was actually this decay that Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian, had warned against over a century-and-half ago. In his best known work ‘Democracy in America’ (two volumes: 1835 and 1840), Tocqueville talks about something which is more relevant to this part of the world today than it may have ever been to anywhere else. Here’s what he has said:

“It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice (elections), however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

“…It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.

“…The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.”

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