Three thoughts on Independence Day

On preserving liberty, preserving India

Can we keep our Republic?

All this has held for close to seven decades, so much that we take the Indian Republic’s survival for granted. Yet our confidence might be as contingent as the scepticism of many in the 1940s and ‘50s who didn’t think that the grand political project called India would last beyond a few years. The survival of the Indian Republic must not be taken for granted, and indeed, cannot be taken for granted. It is not the violence from without and within that present the greatest risks to the future of our republic. What we should be more concerned with are the side effects of the high idealism of our Constitution, for they might one day overwhelm the intended good.

The first side effect of the Constitution is a contest of values, between those enshrined in law and those hallowed by tradition.

The overriding concern of the Constitution’s makers to unify the country and its people under one state gives us the second side effect: iniquitous federalism. Demographic trends over the next few decades—with the North outstripping the fertility rates in the rest of the country—will shift more seats and power to already powerful states. At some point the relatively disempowered populations will express themselves politically.

Third, unless the Indian republic radically transforms its administrative structure—from top-down hierarchies to flat networks—it will fail in delivering even basic public services, leave alone lofty ones like social revolution.[If we can keep it]

 

Liberal values are at an intrinsic disadvantage because they cannot be imposed.

…while reasoning can be taught, it cannot—by definition—be imposed. You can’t force people into reason. You can’t punish them for not employing reason. On the other hand, people are forced into, and to stay in, unreason. They are punished for straying from unreason. The history of humanity is replete with the oppression and punishment of those who disbelieve, of those who challenge or repudiate faith. In the modern nation-state, one goal of politics is to capture the education system and use it to perpetrate the chosen dogma (ideology, religion, race, ethnicity and so on), that in turn perpetrates the particular narratives of power.[For reason to prevail]

 

Market liberals and nationalists can come together. But can they exclude chauvinists and bigots?

To be politically powerful however, an ideology needs to find lots of real people who have the courage not only to stand up for what they believe in, but also to oppose what they don’t. The happy people in the middle are happy because they don’t have to pass the Longbottom Test (“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies; a great deal more, to stand up to your friends”). Due to political considerations, even the intellectual leaders of this “new right” will find it hard to condemn actions that clearly depart from the principles of their creed. This compromises principles and upsets the tenuously balanced ideological construction.

In other words, establishing a sophisticated ideology…requires its proponents to provide principled leadership. Remember Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement across the country because of an incident violence in one village, Chauri Chaura. That’s how high the bar is. That’s why it’s hard to take the high road. [The right way to turn right]

 

Three thoughts on

On Independence Day 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004;

On Republic Day 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 

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