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Closing Of The Liberal Mind


By being shrill, dogmatic and smug liberals are losing their defining characteristic

Liberals have lost the plot. From day one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking office they have been crying wolf, accusing him of all manner of offence. By overstating Modi’s malevolence and using exaggerated language, whatever validity their criticism has ­ and there is quite a lot ­ has been lost in dark prophecies of primordial slime spreading across the land.

Every event has been laid at his door. From the Mohammad Akhlaq murder, Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Kashmir turbulence, murder of rationalists, flogging of Dalits in Una, disappearance of JNU student Najeeb to the hacking of Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter account ­ liberals have held him personally responsible for these discrete, distinct events by invoking a common `thread’ that supposedly runs through all of them, namely , the Hindu nationalist agenda of the BJP.

How can the Kashmir unrest, which pre-dates Modi and which, in the latest instance, was triggered by the death of Burhan Wani be connected with, and treated in the same way , as the Akhlaq lynching which can be traced to BJP’s beef politics? To do so is to fatally weaken your argument.

For two years liberals have flailed around indefatigably , hoping that at least some of the mud thrown at Modi will stick. In the process, their cries of wolf sound hollow and their credibility has taken a blow.

Perhaps the most intemperate charge is that of fascism. A democratically elected government has been called `fascist’, even though there are no parallels between India in 2016 and Italy in the 1920s, neither in the economy , in society , in the Italian desire for revanchism, in the Italian obsession with the superiority of the white race, or the objective of a totalitarian state.

When CPM leader Prakash Karat took issue with Sitaram Yechury , disagreeing with the latter’s view that Modi’s government was `fascist’ and arguing, more reasonably, that the right term was `authoritarian’, he outraged liberals. Kanhaiya Kumar dared Karat in a speech in Kolkata: “There is a certain veteranCPM leader who … said that the Modi government was authoritarian and not fascist. To him i want to say that comrade, if you don’t want to fight anymore, please retire and go to New York.“

Kumar’s self-righteousness reveals the most dismaying aspect of the liberal mind. It is a mind that has been closed, double bolted, shuttered, and double glazed against the infiltration of any different opinion.

Rahul Gandhi’s account is hacked and Congress spokesman Surjit Surjewala holds the government responsible, tweeting that it reflects the “prevalent fascist culture“.

Journalist Sushil Aaron compares the chaos of demonetisation with a monstrously blood-soaked period in China’s history: “The cash chaos is also perhaps the most economically and socially disruptive act of State the world has seen since the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-76).“

Millions were killed and imprisoned, property confiscated, cultural artefacts destroyed, society turned upside down, all dissent suppressed, torture institutionalised and children encouraged to inform on their parents in an orgy of unending cruelty . That is the comparison being made with the chaos of demonetisation.

By exaggerating the `evil’ in every act of the government, by hyping the rhetoric even if it means betraying an ignorance of history , by invoking ludicrous historical parallels, by reflexively denouncing every act, measure and policy with immoderate language, and by reacting disproportionately to every event without discriminating between the less serious and the truly outrageous, liberals are doing the public ­ not to mention their own ideology ­ a great disservice. If Modi is a fascist now, what will they call him if he commits a truly heinous act?

If they continue in this self-defeating fashion their cries will become ambient noise, ignored. The government will find it easier to get away with offensive measures; in fact it may even become emboldened to go further.

This condition of being holier-thanthou and believing only they have the right answers is not confined to Indian liberals. American liberals were so ignorant of the anxieties of millions of Americans that they have Donald Trump to contend with. For decades in Britain, liberals told people to love multi-culturalism. They refused to countenance any counterview. They rubbished the concern, timidly expressed, by some about British identity being whittled away , dismissing it blithely as racism. The result was Brexit.

UK newspaper Guardian is a classic example of closed liberalism. Has it ever published an article with a positive opinion of Modi? It recently published an article on Kashmir called “India’s Crackdown in Kashmir: Is This The World’s First Mass Blinding“ but will it publish an article denouncing those Kashmiri youths who wave the Islamic State flag? The point is that the `mass blinding’ article should be published but so should different views of the upheaval.

This, after all, is meant to be the defining characteristic of liberalism: open mindedness. The ability to re-examine beliefs if empirical evidence suggests you should. The willingness to alter one’s stand if it no longer appears justified. It’s the right that’s meant to be stupid, cleaving to hoary ideas, unable to move on, unwilling to shine the light of reason on their unexamined prejudices, and reluctant to alter their personal beliefs when objective reality suggests that these beliefs are unfounded.

Liberals in India today look like the woman in Munch’s painting The Scream.A Modi government ­ oh, the horror, the horror! If they wish to honour the classical tenets of liberalism and if they are serious about opposing Modi effectively , they need to move beyond screaming.

– Amrit Dhillon,

The writer is a journalist.

Courtesy – The Times of India


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