The deadening, mainly a mental one, that accompanies homogenising always takes me back to my school days: trying to fit all kinds of minds into a package tour of an education, and which doesn’t finally cater to anyone except the cowardly. It also takes me back to many Dickens’ novels and especially the workhouse of Oliver Twist and Hard Times. But then, you would say, those are miserable conditions. In that case, you are welcome to read the snobbish, equally dull world in Bleak House or Little Dorrit. For homogeneity, whether of the poor or rich kind, deadens the mind (which eventually will awaken in a phosphorescent rebellion). It is also the antithesis, quite paradoxically, of equilibrium: the basis of nature (and the goal of Eastern societies, in order to reduce chaos and suffering while in the current universe). Equilibrium is when each is in its own place, comfortably, a closed-loop cycle. Introduce a higher than usual pressure somewhere, try to make everything the same rather than balanced, and then things go awry: pressure builds, and builds, and deformities start taking shape, till one day it will burst, trying to reverse the direction, and so on (and then onto what Yu Hua recounts: a swing going in one direction, then trying to compensate in the other direction, and so on). Better way to say it, it goes against nature, for it shall always seek a harmony, a balance: without an external impetus, the swing will eventually balance after going through the oscillating extremes. Unfortunately, in today’s world, people are weak in their observation (and feeling) of nature, hence intuition, hence ethics, hence science, hence politics. In the name of peace or a nation-state, we can now easily finish a local ecosystem and raze it to sameness. You can’t cultivate the cloudberry yourself, so why not just get it done with, and instead grow that chosen, ‘superior’ variety of strawberry yourself?
Kashmir: In India, we lost Urdu first, and with it the subtlety of thought, the beauty of eroticism, the tehzeeb of Confucianism. That today we have raucous news anchors or triumphantly trampling politicians does not come from some chance coincidence or bad luck; they are not even a malaise. They are the symptoms of the malaise that exists and that we brought to ourselves. Imagine asking Europe to govern itself under a nation-state model? What would happen? The European Union is struggling to become a supra-state because there is no ‘nation’ narrative to it: the people can’t relate. Now imagine if there were a ‘nation’ narrative: would it succeed then? Do you think the Poles would be able to work with the French and the Greek, and the Portuguese with the Germans and the Hungarians, and the Finnish with the Maghreb-origin French? They wouldn’t. But in the case of India, with a much richer diversity, we didn’t even read and write and learn to think deeply, we didn’t even understand the meaning of freedom and independence, we didn’t even understand the nuances of laws and their implications, we didn’t even bother to know our own selves, but we rushed headlong into running our own democratic state: and thereby we tied ourselves to an ever-milkable, readily passionate populace with grievances of caste and religion, to those greedy beings who will exploit it to the hilt till one fine day the cow will go dry. The malaise, thus, started with our inferiority complex: when we were unable to rescue deaths of villages upon villages from an epidemic of cholera or smallpox, but the white man came and did it. Gunpowder, cures, ability to control our kings: we were impressed, the subjugation was complete, and then it was only a matter of time before our own came up to imitate them, our own Bhartendu Harishchandras and Savarkars, those who fawned and sucked up to the British and their visions. (Not their values, though: unfortunately.) Or even Ambedkar and Gandhi, though the latter, rather than dull imitation, arrived at a brilliant synthesis of the values of India with the progressive values of the West, but arrived … and didn’t really implement. For the same Gandhi who revoked the civil disobedience movement because of the Chauri Chaura incident could not stop the juggernaut of freedom movement rolling: did he lack foresight, or was it a lack of courage for switching from a more popular option, or was it the fear of other rivals (especially Bose) gaining sway, or was it the popularity that got to him? Chauri Chaura never changed, in fact worsened: so then, why the call for independence instead of a call for greater autonomy? And thus we were delivered, eventually, to a gang of Chauri Chaura hoodlums, with the tehzeeb and ahinsa forgotten; WWII sounded the death knell for the British Empire, and so it did for millions living in the lands of that imperfect but quite effectively run empire. Forgetting our centuries-old quest for enlightenment, we discovered a newfound patriotism, even nationalism, and had new external gods to run after. Our enlightenment became passing through the gates of modern temples of education and money. (Interestingly, those gates continue to be abhorred theoretically, so we do not feel so, for otherwise how would we reduce our inferior complex?) Our inferior complex-steeped identity’s crisis seems slaked. So whatever happens in Kashmir, it is certain that the Kashmir where my mother went when she was young and where I have never been able to go is lost: drowned in hate or lost to ‘Indian’ integration, both mean that the local ecosystem is finished for ever. Innocence, once robbed, can never come back, or we would invent that constantly rotating cat with the butter on its back. And so will be the story of India: this unchecked homogenisation accelerated with control of the Indian state over temples, with demonetisation, with the judgements of Sabarimala and triple talaq, and now with Kashmir. One can only expect more casualties on the way: a primary target, a difficult one, will be Tamil Nadu, a bastion yet to fall.
Hong Kong: Also a casualty, irrespective of what happens. The unique ecosystem produced by the British legacy, business environment and Chinese populace is now falling and is again a case of irretrievable innocence (once lost). Hong Kong people fighting against the extradition bill should have taken the path of non-violent civil disobedience: strike work, keep being insistent, peaceful gatherings. When two sides are heavily mismatched, that is the best option, and that is why Gandhi took that as a strategy. Choosing violence will not let them win against the might (both military and propagandist) of China, only raise the eventual costs for China, unless the U.S. or Europe jump in, which is unlikely to happen, except them making the right sort of noises. Choosing violence also means a splinter in HK civil society: a firm wedge, even that of hatred, between its own people, for example, between the police and protestors, between the elderly and the young, between those who cannot imagine fighting against China and those who can differentiate between China and Chinese government. This is not like the Umbrella movement: this time, the damage to HK society will be permanent (and that, even if China blinks, which is unlikely to happen now). Eventually, one more region will fall to the Han Chinese drive of homogeneity, leaving Taiwan the odd one out and more scared. Some think that the Han drive for homogeneity comes from the stability-loving Confucianism: no! It springs, rather, from the inferiority complex induced by the West when China could not defend Shanghai, when the ‘centre of the world’ became just a ‘Third World’. The communists now imitate the West (and after all, communism is a Western ideology), flying in the face of China’s own bedrock of Daoism and Confucianism: by being more advanced economically than India for the time being, they are also a greater prey to hubris and thus even trying to colonise completely foreign lands, forgetting the zhong of Zhongguo. But hubris, eventually, inevitably, and unfailingly, bites back.
The only places in the world that now remain outside of the Western mind-set domination remain Iran, to a large extent, and Turkey, to a small extent. Both, not suprisingly, are also former world powers and occupy strategic areas, Turkey in particular. Just like the day Tamil Nadu falls, India falls, similarly the day Iran falls (by which I do not mean Iran’s Islamist regime), the world’s capitulation to the Eurocentric values will be almost complete. I do not say ‘fully’ complete, for by then the swing will have started its opposite journey, if it had not already started doing so.