We are such stuff as dreams are made on.
– William Shakespeare, Tempest
As intimations of mortality ring in my ears, I dedicate this, my 200th column on The Wire to the prospects of a Republic in which:
— there will be more rationalists than nationalists, more secular citizens than sectarian bigots;
— religion be a precious, private, and truly felt experience than a public-political nuisance;
— in which the constitutional accoutrement of democracy will reign supreme;
— and majoritarian separatists who demand the reconstitution of the republic into a “Hindu Rashtra” merely be held as ultra vires and culpable as minority separatists who demand a Khalistan here or an Islamic state there;
— money bags, vassal media houses, compromised executives will not throttle and distort democratic processes and outcomes, or use “national security” as a veil to hide away questionable modus operandi and propagation of fake information to “we the people”;
— in which walls are not built to remove from sight the wretched of the republic in order to present false images of grandeur to visiting dignitaries;
— my beloved home-state of Jammu and Kashmir which once acceded to the republic with rosy dreams of secular equality in their eyes will not be accorded a new “special status” in perpetuity for denial of human and democratic rights available to other states of the republic;
— in which law makers, law officers, judicial adjudicators will wear dark impenetrable bands around their eyes, and never be able to fashion investigative and legal sleights-of-hand to tailor procedures to suit the faces they confront;
— in which the mass of people will be driven by the clear stream of impartial reason to arraign wrong-doing, especially of the official kind, and defend the victims of overbearing economic, social-cultural, or political authority;
— where the uppity metropolitan gentry will learn to regard modernity not as a cute mix of gadgetry, paisa, and puja, vulgarised by brazenly uncritical claims of perfection and clout, but as the triumph of equality, fraternity, and liberty over crass displays of mod tinsel; where modernity be acknowledged as the triumph of questioning over idiotically-held shibboleths, backed by advertising wealth and anti-social iteration;
— in which women will not be, alternately, either exploited, denied, discarded, defamed, or cannily worshipped and respected (to be kept aloof and powerless), but where the great mass of women are acknowledged to be morally and intellectually ahead of most men, and best qualified to wield social and political power to further the making of a decent, humanist republic;
— in which education is primarily about exploration, with no holds barred. and not about skills calculated to earn a meagre or mighty keep, depending upon the nature of the skill and its rating on the stock exchange;
— in which poetry be rated far above pushpin and the sundry mechanics of utilitarian proficiencies designed to keep individuals and sections of the populace strangers to common concerns and emancipatory urgencies, all to the perpetuation of dominance by a brute minority of crude but empowered kleptocrats;
— where children will not be programmed to “become” this or that, but given the wherewithal to fashion their futures from the felt fabric of their organic growth impulses;
— sports will not be used as a crude tactic to turn questioning youth away from critical propensities (as in Kashmir, drawing upon the practice of erstwhile totalitarian states) but a collective means of exploring the furthest reaches of body, mind, and soul, and of not just garnering medals in cut-throat competitions, but internalising the highest ideals of sportsmanship as a humanist exercise; where sporting avenues are made available first to those who live in the outskirts of metropolitan sheen, and no politician be allowed to head any sporting body or activity;
— clean air, clean and abundant water, wooded shafts of land in which birds rather than account-holders’ Twitter be made mandatory, and the elimination of market-kitsch be made a primary goal of community life and good governance;
— war-mongering ape-calls are replaced by syllables of human amity, rooted in a recognition that nation-states are a recent phenomenon in the history of the globe, and that universal human values and needs must always have precedence over ignorant claims of nationalist exceptionalism;
— a republic in which a thousand cultures bloom in diverse dialects, and no single one is allowed political dominance or the status of the only authorised logo of nationalist discourse;
— and, in which governance is construed as a mandate to heal, redress, and raise freedom and creativity of articulation to the most evolved status possible, not to squish nay-sayers, and not to enrich ruling party coffers or friendly money-bags;
— in which those who seek to speak truth to power are not regarded as enemies of the republic but her most dedicated and indispensable well-wishers.
— in which the use of mobile phones is suspended for some hours everyday so that people gather and meet in flesh and blood, share anxieties and concerns face to face, alleviating the need for online quack psychiatrists, and the latest godman come to redeem;
— in which economic activity is cooperative rather than competitive, giving rather than taking, and always subordinate to the cry of human pain and desertion.
Watch this space for more if I should live on.
Badri Raina taught at Delhi University.