Sunday, June 12, 2011

A frog on slow boil: The inevitable outcome of nationalism

What is the problem with nationalism; is the question often posed to the opinions articulated in this column. Is it not a force for good? To love your county and country-persons? To be proud of your culture, and to know your history? To these innocent and hopeful questions this column presents the answer in the form of the bandh on June 6 2011. The bandh called by the BBSM is a perfect example of what nationalism brings and the costs that it extracts from you.

The demands of FORCE and the parents of students were rather simple. We have made a choice for our children; a decision to educate them in English. As taxpayers and citizens of this country, we would like the State to recognize this life-decision that we have made for our children and support schools that teach our children in English. This is a simple demand. A demand that flows from the many fundamental rights that are enshrined in our Constitution and indeed part of the globally recognized canon of Human Rights. After some dithering, the Government seems to have made a reasonable decision, it would provide aid to those schools where parents make explicit their choice for English. There are problems with this formulation, but let us leave that be for now. What was the response to this peaceful demand for the exercise of choice? The BBSM’s violent and forced shutting down of the State. What was the BBSM, and the BJP that sponsored this paralysis, saying? You do not have a choice to determine your future. You do not have this choice because it could threaten the existence of national culture. What is important to note is that this perceived threat is apparently going to emerge because of a choice a people are making for and about their own lives. This threat does not emerge from a demand to restrict the choices of others. Thus, what these groups are saying is that in Goa, you are not allowed to live your life, you are required to live for the nation. The moment the self-appointed caretakers of this nation perceive a threat to the nation, all rights must necessarily grind to a halt. They can then ask you, and this is what the BBSM and allied groups are doing, to surrender your life, and your life chances.

The BBSM rejects the right of Goans, whether Catholic, Hindu, Muslim or otherwise to determine the culture of their home. Even if that culture is suffocating the life out of you, these caretakers will not allow you to change, to rise up in life. At the end of the day, this is what Konkani and Marathi represent to some people. It is the dead anchor that ties them to an antiquated past and they too want to be ‘modern’ like the English speakers. What the BBSM is doing is keeping them fixed in the uncomfortable place they want to get out of. THE BBSM is the nationalist jailer.

At the end of the day, this is what nationalism is. It forces you to be one thing alone, and nothing else. It tells you that you can have only one language as your own, and none other. You cannot develop another language as your own. It will tell you what your culture is and what is not. IT will not allow you to claim other cultures as your own. It will cut out portions of your history and tell you that segment A is good, and segments B, D, E are bad. And you will have to meekly agree to this. All these choices are made not by you, but by some third party, invariably in this third party’s best interest.

There is NO good that comes from nationalism and the single choices it offers you. For years since before and subsequent to 1961, Goans, of all religions, castes and creeds have tried to stick to these options. They embraced the idea that Marathi was their language, when in fact they spoke Konkani, and they rejected the possibility of embracing both. They embraced Konkani, even when they knew that Konkani had a precious, but restricted space in their life, and that they saw an emancipatory future in English. Nationalist ideas forced these earlier decisions and its payback time today. What they haven’t told you yet is that it will only get worse.

Enjoy the party folks!

(A version was first published in the Gomantak Times 8 June 2011)

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