Sunday, June 19, 2022
I held back this post which was written at the height of farmers' agitation and to that extent it is a little dated . But the violent protests over the Agniveer policy has firmed my views and provides me the impetus to share it now .
Initially I was also skeptical about the idea of ultrashort term service in the military but better informed as now I am, I think it is quite in consonance with the trend all over the world. A respected military officer and an objective strategic analyst like general R W Panag , considers the idea worth a try. Of course , it needs to be fine-tuned to suit local conditions but per se it is not something to be dismissed out of hand.
In Bihar, specially, employment in the government sector is the overriding concern of young men. We have experimented with this idea of using the education sector as a generator of mass employment - with spectacular results. Millions of unemployable illiterates employed as teachers have mass produced many more millions of their own kind, so much so that “Educated in Bihar”, has become a statutory warning. But the military is a matter not to be fooled around with .
And yes, dear Biharis , burning trains will not hurt Mr. Modi; BJP can be defeated on the electoral battle field only , not on city squares.
MODI AS IDEOLOGY
Mr. Modi wields a charismatic authority, in the strict Weberian sense of the term, over his large number of followers. Adored by them as a man of exceptional skills , exemplary in many ways , even infallible, Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai, has been elevated to a gospel truth. As his stranglehold on power becomes firmer Mr.Modi himself has now become the ideology, an ideology without words .
Karl Mannheim thought that ideology acts as an unseen glass that systematically distorts our perception of the social world. Marx holds that it relieves the masses of the burden of thinking for themselves, induces a state of mind in which conviction precedes the validating facts .A basic, constitutive naïveté is an essential requirement ,which Modi’s followers possess in abundance. The stronger the belief in their leader or the cause he espouses the weaker become the rational, critical faculties and the ability to pose pertinent questions. So a very large section of Indians refuse to see the tree for the wood , refuse to see anything else other than what Mr. Modi wants them to see. Strongly held beliefs after a period of time become internalised to such an extent that attacks on these beliefs are treated as attacks on the person . It is not uncommon for friends of fifty years standing to come to blows because of their divergent views on Modi. The Modi ideology is deeply divisive.
His democracy is built around the idea of absolute and unquestioned obedience. New and ideologically compliant forms in name of digital democracy have been built and our civic and even private lives are under ever increasing bureaucratic gaze . His style of governance calls for a voluntary suspension of disbelief, it enforces obligations without explanations. The handling of Covid is an emblematic example. We lighted candles , we clapped , we went into suspended animation because of the most brutal lockdown , marched with suicidal resolve in face of hurtling danger of the second wave of Covid, ignoring Covid protocol to attend election rallies or Kumbh snan but never questioned even once. There is not to reason why , there is but to do and die!
There is a wide, irreconcilable divergence between the reality and the official views on several policies - demonetization, the Chinese crisis , GST and handling of Covid . But of late, notwithstanding their belief, there is considerable disquiet over his handling of Covid, especially the second wave has spread to some section of his followers as well. The truth managers are quite aware of losing many of those who voted for the party in a state of happy mindlessness . So in order to hold them tethered to their beliefs , illusion becomes the chief reinforcer , drama becomes the key, compelling and startling images— “absolute, uncompromising and simple”—that “fills and bests the mind”. As Gustave Le Bon said in his book , The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the “art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.” To keep the hope in impossible promises alive, chicanery and mendacity have become an important part of statecraft, propaganda has become the main pillar of government. They are experimenting with an applied epistemology which Theodore Adorno once described as , “a lie experienced as truth.” Hand in hand with this strategy goes the negative PR campaign of tarring those opposed to official point of view , a specific and compelling necessity.
But then Mr. Modi is much larger than that. He not only commands his followers and elicits their responses whichever way he wishes ,he holds complete sway over the minds of even those who are opposed to him , the “liberal, “ left ,” “moderate” thinking section. Opposition to Modi, irrespective of the merit of the case , is their ideology , and finding reasons for all that is wrong with this country because of Modi is the chief reinforcer of the belief of the followers of this ideology.
The farmer’s agitation is an emblematic example. As far its economic benefits are concerned , economist and experts have not been able to find much fault with the farmer policy of the government. It was part of Congress agenda which the BJP had vociferously opposed it, just as Congress was stolid in its defence. So the farm bill is not a farmers’ issue but a political issue. Had Congress been able to pass the farm bill the cue lines would have been different and BJP cadres would have been sitting in solidarity with farmers behind the barricade. Exploiting their proximity to national capital, farmers , mostly from Punjab and Haryana, Western UP are bivouacking for several months on the borders of Delhi and . To this they have added - and carried out on 26th January - the threat of marching to Delhi and holding it to ransom. A national capital under siege would make a global headline any day. As Slavoj Zizek, the maverick Slovenian philosopher said , "The actual pressure must be made more pressing by adding to it consciousness of pressure, the shame must be made more shameful by publicizing it.”
Both the parties employ the logic of today’s populism which can be characterized as “democratic fascism.” Farmers invoke the democratic right to protest, which is fair enough but to claim that democracy and legitimacy is limited to their side is not quite democratic . Their refusal to back down unless the government is brought down to its heels is how “fascism that smells like democracy” operates today.
Critical debate , one of the key components of an open society has now quietly yielded to a phenomenon called guided apophenia .
Apophenia earlier identified as an affliction of a schizophrenic patient who could perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things, has now been normalized as political behaviour. In Indian politics Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s habit of attributing every political difficulty to “foreign hands” and later on to the ISI is an old habit but people took it with a pinch of salt. But now all of us cutting across political divide believe in conspiracy theories with the conviction of a schizophrenic.
The farmers say that the government is sold out to Adani and Ambani and this bill is only to prepare for corporatisation of the farm sector and the immiseration of farmers.( This is quite plausible but where is the evidence?) Government, and the media conscripted to government , have not lagged behind in finding the real reason for the protest : it is financed and orchestrated by Khalistanis and their Pakistani and Chinese masters. Pakistan, China and proponents of Khalistan are enemies of India and anything that can discomfit the country is fair game for them, but where is the evidence?). As Alain Badieu said :“Tout ce qui bouge n’est pas rouge” – all that moves (leads to unrest) is not red. ”
The second example which is an even more convincing proof that those opposed to Modi have embraced the Modi ideology is the anti-vaccine movement which finds its culmination in Prashant Bhushan’s open opposition to vaccine . To quote just one highly irresponsible tweet. “ These mass protests against vaccine madness are now taking place across the world against vaccine mandates , lock downs and mask mandates are now taking place across the world . Despotic rulers are using these measures to keep their people under subjugation after it is clear that these don’t work . Time for mass protests in India too.” The deaths due to oxygen were equally the fault of the state governments but they are missing from the charge sheet against them and Modi finds himself as the sole accused.
At the height of cultural cold war, the non-communist left intellectuals found themselves pitted against another fanaticism of a particular variety, its mirror image. As the American literary critic and essayist Philip Rahv said "Anti-Stalinism has become almost a professional stance. It has come to mean so much that it excludes nearly all other concerns and ideas, with the result that they are trying to turn anti-Stalinism into something which it can never be: a total outlook on life, no less, or even a philosophy of history." Modiphobia becomes a total outlook on life. Mr Modi must be loving it. To become the sole point of discourse in a democracy of 1.4 bn people with infinitely divergent interests is something unprecedented in history.