A prayer for the New Year

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It is another year today. While all of us are justified in rejoicing the change, let us also remember, a new year also means an old year gone. True everybody likes to leave memory behind, the bad ones to be forgotten and the good ones to be recalled, ruminated and relished, on days of aloneness, and look forward to the future in the hope and prayer that it has good things in store. But let us also remember, all of us are a year older by having left behind a year. Let this then be also an occasion for many of us stuck to the past to grow up a little, at least as much as a year gone by warrants. Things change and as the saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. Not changing with this tide of time has two very obvious consequences. If the person who is thus stubborn is in a position of power, that person will most likely than not, come to resemble a fascist more and more. Others away from levers of power, who are averse to change, will be destined to ultimately become pathetically redundant. It cannot be a coincidence that those who lead prolonged revolutions, and refuse to learn or change from time, are inclined to look like the former with the passage of time. Like all fascists history has seen, and it witnessing now, they too drift away from the public on whose behalf they claim they are fighting. This thought should be of importance to violence torn Manipur, the land of a thousand mutinies. If for instance a revolution is waged against an oppressive condition, it would be justified as long as the oppressive condition lasts. Chances are, with the passage of time, that the oppressive condition can become a thing of the past. If the situation does take such a turn, the struggle against the oppressive condition that once was, but no longer is, can become absolutely redundant and anachronistic.

This explanation is often given of the Hippie cult of the 1960s. When the nature of the adversary they were fighting altered and its character did not any longer have the object of their protest, their protest either had to end or change its nature too. This is quite in keeping with the profound statement of Ernst Renan, that a nation is a daily plebiscite. Those who listen to the voice and verdict of this daily plebiscite will never become irrelevant. In the Indian context, this would apply to the larger nation as well as those putting up a struggle against the nation. If the nation has its ears close to the ground and listens closely to the pulse of its people, including the dissenting voices, and accommodates necessary changes, that would be the beginning of many solutions to all its problems of insurrections. The struggles can then be absorbed into the larger whole to be sublimated into an internal democratic mechanism for addressing differences. If on the other hand it does not, and sticks to its old oppressive national credos, the struggles against it will have a reason to be. The same hopes and dangers hold for those behind the many mutinies too. They too must have their ears close to the ground, and be willing to change with time, and the changing moods and aspirations of the people. Otherwise, they too will soon morph into tyrants, with an ever shirking ground to even stand on.

The times are changing indeed. Even in a lifetime, those of us who have long left behind the adrenaline mad youthful days have seen these changes. To be what we were in our youth, or even read the situation as we did then, would be total fallacy now, not at all because we were immature then, but because the conditions have changed, changed utterly with time, that it cannot ever be what it was. We were probably right then in our assessments, and we are probably right still in our assessments now, even though what we saw then and what we see now are completely different. Bertrand Russell has a word on this in one of the numerous essays he wrote. The ability to change is not always fickleness of mind. It is a sign of an individual’s capacity to grow intellectually. To remained unchanged in mindset, without assessing and preparing for the new challenges time brings, is not a sign of courage at all, as is often preached to be, but of stubbornness, and often foolhardiness. Recall the poem from school, “The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck” by Felicia Dorothea Hemans, in which a brave boy, stood steadfast to his command and stood on the burning deck of his ship until he was consumed. Many read this as a mark of supreme courage. Yes it was, but it was also foolhardiness. Many of us, we are sure, would have wished the boy saw sense and jumped to save himself from such a senseless death.

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