Direct your anger
A few days ago, I met my friend who was going to the United States. He trained himself as a surgeon in Oxford University but decided to move to the US. I asked him why he was moving to the University of Chicago.
He said: “This is not my country any more. It has been hijacked by political hawkers who have turned it into hell.”
I didn’t agree to what my friend said.
I was born here, and my roots have spread deep into the land. My mind has been molded by the melody of ringing bells in temples, by the cry of cuckoo birds fighting for kafal berries, and the clatter of mynahs settling in for the night in the jackfruit trees.
My identity is attached to my country, in the same way a jet engine is attached to the wing of a jetliner.
“This is my country and I love it,” I told my friend.
“No,” he said. “No. You only “think” it is your country. You have not “made” it yours.”
The difference struck me like a bolt of lightning.
I began to think about the huge gap that exists between our thoughts and our actions.
A long time ago, the old Man Marx said: “Who you are is defined by what you do. And what you do is determined by the historical and material conditions.”
It was a world-shattering thought.
Before that time, people used to think that abstract spirit shaped your being. But Old Man Marx, with his white beard, changed all that.
Ask yourself this question: Do you allow fate to shape your destiny, or do you work hard to achieve what you want? If you believe in the proverb: “You reap what you sow,” then you don’t really want fate to decide your future. Fate won’t plant your seeds for you, nor harvest your crops.
You are what you do. But in order to act, you need the right kind of environment: you have to plant your seeds in the right kind of soil, you have to protect your crop from bad weather, and then you have to make sure others don’t steal your harvest.
So do you really have control over your own life? I don’t think so. We have lost control over our country. Losing control of our country means losing control over our environment. Losing control of our environment means losing control over our own life.
Can we, despite all this, remain silent? Can we rely on fate, when our fate, this time, is not being spelled by the stars or spirits, but by spoiled politicians?
We can’t let that happen. We have to reclaim this country, and get it back from the people who are sucking it dry.
“But,” you might say, “I am not interested in politics.”
“Then my friend, you are practising the worst kind of politics.”
Even if you stay quiet, you cannot be politically neutral. Politics can mean both action and inaction. Action or inaction is guided by beliefs and principles. Beliefs and principles are part of our ideology, and ideology is always political.
Again, you might say, “But I can practise good leadership in my field of expertise. If I am a banker, then I can be a good banker. If I am a journalist, then I can contribute through journalism. Isn’t that enough?”
No, my friend. It is not enough to show leadership in your own field. That may be okay in normal times. But these are not normal times.
So how do we reclaim our country?
We can do many things. But we must start from two basic premises.
One, form a community of concerned citizens.
Two, express our civic concerns.
The first point is to realise that you are not alone. Look at all of us here. Do we not share the simple belief that we can teach ourselves to become better persons, as speakers, as leaders, and as human beings? Collective effort produces results.
Alone, we may be weak, but as a collective we can create force. I am not talking about forming a political party here, I am talking about forming a community of concerned citizens.
The second point is to express our civic concerns. Discuss. Think. Communicate. We need to set a target of our collective anger. When misdirected, anger can be an irate elephant, but when properly guided, it can be God Vishnu’s Garuda.
So my friends, the time to act is today. No, not even today, it is now. It is not enough to “think” this is our country; we have to “make” it ours.