Reflections and rumination, Society & Culture

The holy cow of dissent

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There is serious misconception about what dissent is, what is the idea of a nation, and what is democracy. Democracy enables one to participate in the idea of the nation. You are the nation in many ways. It takes time to build this idea of the nation, and each election, each generation adds a little into it. If at any point, any individual feels that the current state of affairs are a sharp departure from this collective idea of the nation, they are entitled to notify their dissent. However, their dissent cannot be against the shared idea of nation itself, it can only be against those who execute the will of the nation.In short, dissent needs to identify where the government ends, and a nation begins. The moment they dissent from the idea of the nation, they move from the dissent to treason.
Why is dissent against the idea of nation treasonĀ 

Nationhood is a contract that we agree to. When we identify as citizens of any particular country, we agree to recognize it’s collective idea. In return we enrich it with our participation through the elective process, and abide by it’s laws. This contract is the basis for our stay, and protection by the state. The moment we dissent against the shared idea of a nation, we no longer have the moral right to enjoy pleasures of the nationhood.

Then what should a disgruntled dissenter do?

To start with, they can continue to participate in the elective process by choosing the right representatives. If they can’t find anyone to represent themselves, they can contest elections themselves. If they feel they are completely at odds with the shared idea, and would not get much support in elections, they can choose to find another nation that is more in tune with their idea of the nation. Or, they could make themselves indispensable, enrich the nation with their contribution, thus gaining more influence, and then attempt to seed their ideas again. Sadly, none of the prominent ‘dissenters’ of India are enriching her with contributions beyond their dissent. The hollow, impotent dissent has no takers. However, they are not the only one who do not understand dissent. The government of the day, doesn’t either.

How the state should approach dissentĀ 

The idea of the state has moved from being a ‘parent’ to a ‘facilitator’. The responsibility thus on those that run the nation, is not to crush any voice of dissent, but to simply facilitate means of intellectual purification. A dissenter must be asked to validate their dissent with actions, as the state provides the means. For example, in the context of J&K, it could be asking the dissenters to build model of governance, and provide a model village for implementation of the model. If the dissenter rises to the occasion, then confidence on state is built up, if they don’t then they lose face.

Unfortunately, we are at a strange Mexican standoff as far as the idea of dissent is concerned. Those who employ it, are not judicious in it’s use, and those who are to tackle it, are caught up with indecision. In Yuval Noah Harari’s thought – provoking book – ‘Homo Sapiens’. He remarks how all the nations are but figment of our imaginations, and depend on our willingness to accept the idea as a reality. Coming days will tell us exactly how willing we as a nation are to accept a uniform idea.

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