Edited on January 18, 2013 for terseness.
[Following post was inspired by terrorist attack on Mumbai in November, 2008 (click)].
What is communalism? Is it being Hindu, Christian, or Muslim, and to be proud of all that? If you think this is a rhetorical question, then it is NOT! Yes, that is communalism — to be proud to be a part of certain community, at least that is the cause of most of the destruction that we see all around us. And so is being proud to be some caste, or gender, or speaking certain language; or, belonging to a certain school, graduating from certain college, living in a certain city; and even to be proud of being born in a given country.There are some six billion people on this Earth, and a few less some time back, but in any analysis, it is ultimately, the ratios and proportions that matter. So out of this billions of people, how many had actually felt that they were successful; that their lives were meaningful; that they mattered to someone; that they were indispensable; or, that they could change the course of history in a significant way? I am sure very few — absolutely, as well as, in terms of fraction and percentage. But is that not what everyone sets out to do when they are young, and planning (rather, fantasizing about) their lives ahead? Everyone wants to feel special, indispensable, and influential; as a corollary, no one wants to feel, redundant, irrelevant, and uninfluential.What happens in the process is that each and everyone among us starts identifying with a certain community, a fold. And since, any large-enough community is obviously not so small to have been redundant, or irrelevant, and most definitely unifluential, identifying with it is the best option left to “feel good” about oneself. Over (very short) time, we start identifying more strongly with the community than even ourselves, especially when it comes to the “ego issues”. That is because subconsciously we want all the good qualities, admiration, and importance that comes with being part of a community attributed to ourselves, too. But, unfortunately, what the attributes of a community are, is a most subjective matter – open to conscious as well as subconscious manipulations. That is why it is so easy to believe that the country one lives in is the best one. And, that is what almost everyone living in all the countries of the world feel, and all of them are right (and wrong); because it is subjective! What criteria can one apply to consider a country the best — affluence, military might, richness of culture (which again is subjective), performance in sporting events, longevity of people? It is not a problem if one is fixed about one’s criteria, and then concludes: “Okay, my country is the best”, with the objective honesty intact to concede that some other country could be best if it proves to be better by the chosen criteria. The problem comes when one thinks like “Okay, my country controls half the world-economy, so what if half the population is disgruntled with the government! It’s the affluence that matters, not governance.” Clearly, latter is a case of deluding oneself, only to “feel good” about belonging to a certain country.
Why does one resort to manipulating one’s own thoughts to “feel good”?
As I somewhat explained, that is to partially compensate for not feeling important enough as an individual in the first place. Let me give another example to explain. You try telling a person who knows you somewhat that:
“Once, I was walking down a street, and suddenly I was attacked by half a dozen armed goons, but I fought most gallantly and killed them all.”
The other person would be most impressed and you would feel important, unique and basically “good” about it, but that is, if the other person would believe you! But, instead, you try telling about some God/historic warrior, that that you (or your community) revere, had once slain (“slayed”) half a dozen THOUSAND of enemies, and when you see the glint in other person’s eye, or a raised eyebrow, you know the other person is impressed, and you feel happy knowing (subconsciously, of course) that you yourself too must be in possession of that gallantry. The problem comes when it so happens that of those half a dozen thousand enemies that were killed by YOUR hero, even if one happens to be the one that the other person’s community reveres, for according to him (and, his community), it is THEIR hero who had killed TWO (and not a meagerly HALF) dozen thousand enemies, of course, including the hero that YOU worship. So much for subjectivity! And then it boils down to either you feel good, or he feels good.
So, that is the problem with being proud of things that are hypothetical, mythical, and most important, open to manipulation. And, if one looks closely, most of the affiliations that we are proud of are not the ones chosen by us — it is usually, only out of luck, destiny, etc, that we become part of most of the above communities — country, religion, language, etc., are all determined by circumstances of our birth. Even other things like one’s profession, alma mater, city to live in – are not chosen with complete knowledge of what it would be like to be a part of that (community). You want your college, for instance to be considered good, not because you thought and still think it is good, but because YOU graduated from it. If your college is (considered) good, you are (a) good (student), if not, you are bad.
I would thus conclude that:
Communalism is a form of mass hypocrisy only to stoke our individual egos.
But, what is the remedy to this all? I was not here to answer all this, may be this was just one of the pet musings, and consequent constant peeve that I hold against many for making this world less beautiful a place to live in than it is possible. But then I would still like to state that the answer to this misery is:
To be satisfied with what one is, not be desperate to convince others and even oneself that we are relevant, and influential. It is important to enjoy life — we all get to live it only once, rather than waste it in trying to prove our points that simply do not exist.
Everyone needs to question themselves is there any point in being proud of a community that they never got a chance to CHOOSE consciously? Okay, if one is proud of one’s friends for what they are and obviously, for CHOOSING them, it might be justified to an extent. But, what is important in judging affiliations of any kind is to not lose one’s OBJECTIVITY. That is the most important thing. If I never concede that the governance of my country needs improvement so as to make every one happier, I would never really think of improving where there is a margin to.
Also, when one gets too obsessed with their communities their OWN life gets neglected. Is it difficult to understand that all those who resort to violence to prove a (communal) point, apart from harming others, are wasting their OWN lives? Who will be able to explain this to them?
I think, the solution, if at all there is one, cannot be implemented in one generation. It will have to start from our education-system. It is important to recognize the individual talents of every student, to make them feel worthy of what they are. Then only would they grow up to be confident adults, and not insecure individuals who would want to bask in communal glory rather than their own individual worth. Then only would they learn that it is they themselves and their present that matters, and not mythological past of their community, or hypothetical (nonexistent) deeds that their deity had come to be associated with. If you read a nice poem written in your mother-tongue, is it necessary to feel PROUD of it and its poet? Is it not more important to enjoy its beauty and feel happy and lucky to have read in this one given lifetime? This way one would be equally happy on reading a poem written in some other language or by some other author.
But the the solution though simple in concept, would be hard to actually implement. Firstly, it will have to win the conviction of the present generation, which itself has been brought up to be proud of one affiliation or the other, and by extension, be prejudiced. Secondly, and more obviously, does every single child have access to education, let alone “reformed” education?
Does this mean end of all affiliations? I am not sure. May be, affiliations have their roots in evolution. Most of the physically weak species (animals) would not have survived had it not been for their roaming in herds. Likewise, being part of a certain family/group/tribe, must have helped the human race in surviving the various adversities that they must have faced. And, this cohesion would not have been possible without a feeling of oneness. But, there was a difference — there would be only one (or very few) families and tribes. And, that one tribe would not be placed against the others. But, now of course, things are different. I think today, we need cooperation (between individuals across the globe), and not affiliations that would needlessly pitch one group against the other.
I do not know who or how many people are going to read this, but this is what I have been feeling for quite some time. I just find the whole situation so unfortunate as, as it is so difficult to satisfy the basic human needs (at least for the vast majority of the “developing nations”), and that, to all that this communalism that more often than not fuels fanaticism, nepotism, violence, and so much of totally avoidable harm, compounds the problem. I feel desperate, and helpless about the situation. For, the problem is grave, and, I feel I know the solution, but only if someone (no, in fact the entire human race) would listen…