Selling our souls to Mussolini-spawn and miscellaneous low-lifes

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Samuel Johnson once said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”. Though nothing is of known of the context in which these remarks were made in April 1775, one may safely assume he refers to the patriotism that renders one incapable of absorbing criticism of any sort. The kind of patriotism that leads one to denounce anything spoken of one’s own country as being unpatriotic, or worse still, seditious. This behaviour may also be extrapolated to include attitudes espoused by religious dogmatists who refuse to tolerate criticisms of God’s own word.

This behaviour is pernicious in that it takes away from the citizen the greatest boon of democracy – the right to speak out against what the citizen feels is wrong. It also leads to the growth of far-right ideologies, like those espoused by Raj Thackeray and his ilk in Maharashtra and Islamic fundamentalists throughout the globe. But I refuse to be cowed by this, and think it is my birthright as an Indian to speak out against what I feel is wrong with our country.

It has now been sixty-one years since we gained independence, and it is about time that we stop hiding behind the depredations of colonialism to explain away our flaws and inadequacies as a nation.

Patriotism is not about daubing the tricolour on one’s cheeks and screaming “Chak de India” at a cricket match (while, optionally, shouting racist epithets). Patriotism is not about singing the national anthem in a language most of us do not know every day. Patriotism is not about blaming everything on the British – the Irish did that for years, and it didn’t get them very far. Patriotism is not about constantly harking back to a shining past when we discovered the zero – a past that was stolen from us by invaders, Islamic or European. True patriotism lies in accepting, nay embracing, our past – warts and all, admitting to ourselves our own inadequacies and foibles, and trying to move forth from there.

Let’s start with the British. The British were occupiers of our land for several hundred years, yes, but we have to remember that we let them grab a foothold by virtue of our own divisions. And let’s be honest to ourselves, if were in the place the British were at the time, we’d have done the same. In fact, if history is anything to go by, we might have been far more brutal – one need only look at the record of any other European colonial power to know that the British were, by and large, decent by the standards of the age.

When America segregated its negroes and Germany massacred a third of the population of the East of Africa, Britain elected three Indians to the House of Commons. Over the hundreds of years of British rule, the worst massacres were caused by Indians butchering other Indians in the name of religion during the creation of an artificial entity in 1947. Even Jalianwaala bagh – while the man who ordered the massacre might well have a Briton, those who fired the shots were Indians.

Rabindranath Tagore, in an article in the Guardian (a British daily) in 1936, said, “The chronic want of food and water, the lack of sanitation and medical help, the neglect of means of communication, the poverty of educational provision, the all pervading spirit of depression that I have myself seen to prevail in our villages after over a hundred years of British rule make me despair of its beneficence.”. If one were to replace “a hundred years of British rule” with “sixty years of self-rule”, it rings horribly true to this date.

To watch the ferality of politics and politicians in this country today is to bear mute witness to how far standards of public office have fallen in this country since the British left. To watch the Indian army being shamelessly politicised and dragged through the mud in order to garner a few million minority votes is far more painful than anything the British ever managed to do to us in centuries. To watch the chaos and utter lack of respect for the law that the average citizen displays on the roads of this country makes one wonder if one can call oneself civilised jut because one is honking like a maniac sitting behind the wheel of a glitzy new Ford (instead of a crusty old Ambassador). To watch the images of grinding poverty in a country on the rise is enough to make one wonder if it is not time we stepped back and gave serious thought to whether we have made progress since we deemed it fit to rule ourselves.

I hope these jottings will not be lost in an outpouring of anger and jingoistic breast-beating. I hope, in fact, that these words will help us re-evaluate what we have done so far, and contemplate if we are actually going to hell in a handcart. And if we are – as I think we are, isn’t it time we told our netas enough is enough. If we don’t, the future may belong to the likes of Raj Thackeray, Afzal Guru, and foreign waitresses who decide to make the rape of our motherland their calling.

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About nashblog
He likes sleeping in, she likes prodding me awake. He lives cricket, she has sat through one highlights package. He is a pseudo-Soviet, she is an ex-Soviet. He can't speak Russian, she can't speak Malayalam. *But* she likes cooking, he doesn't mind washing up. So, we're just made for each other!!

2 Responses to Selling our souls to Mussolini-spawn and miscellaneous low-lifes

  1. S says:

    Very happy to see you writing again….you should write more often you know. Whats this thing about foreign waitresses ? You’re not talking about Sonia Ji are you?

  2. neogarfield says:

    Siddhu, Brilliant piece here. Very interesting and differing perspectives of the entire colonial experience.

    I have to admit, you’ve started a thought process in me!

    And ofcourse, ripping apart ‘patriotism’ as is commonly felt! 😀

    Thanks man! Hope you’re doing good!

    If you rememberme,
    Mohan

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