Pradeep Kumar Panda*
*Corresponding author:Pradeep Kumar Panda, Economist, New Delhi, India
Submission: May 16, 2019;Published: May 21, 2019
ISSN: 2579-1949 Volume3 Issue2
The attitudes of arrogance and hate seem to have suffused the electoral campaign of the 2019 Lok Sabha General election. Although such expressions were evident in varied degrees among campaigners belonging to different parties contesting the elections, this attitude was consistently seen in the members of the ruling party and was arguably more prominent among the leaders and supporters of the incumbent ruling combination.
This is despite the fact that the Election Commission of India (ECI) has been intervening to pull up the offenders. Yet, such interventions of the ECI in order to control these morally offensive tendencies were limited and discriminatory in nature.
It showed both helplessness and unwillingness to exercise its power and this has left no decisive impact in curtailing the growing use of offensive language in Indian politics. The ECI is supposed to police the limits of free speech, which it does by banning some leaders while giving regular clean chits to powerful others. The question that we need to raise is, why is it that some leaders do not feel the moral burden of carrying within them an intense hate and arrogance that creates a corrosive impact on not just their opponents, but also on those who expect the expansion of decent society? What is the value of humility and what function does it perform in controlling the “social evil” of arrogance and hate?
Humility has been understood as the ethical capacity for continuous self-appraisal. Self-appraisal in turn serves to control the flames of pride stoked by the ambition to retain political power. Humility as a virtue has the power to filter out hateful, bad speech. It does not allow the accumulation of such expressions. The necessary condition for being humble in the Indian context is to respect differences and dissent and tolerate plurality of opinion. Humility promotes the political culture of engaging in robust debate on issues that matter more to the people than to the leaders. Democracy can create the condition for humility to acquire articulation through tolerating plurality of opinion.
Humility as a virtue, however, has to exist not as an afterthought or in a post facto situation where leaders begin to see an imminent danger (in the present case) in the elections, but through the confidence sustained by the amount of good work done by a leader or their ruling party for the public. Genuine humility is not premised on an opportune time such as during elections, but all the time, that is, also apart from the elections. The attempt to adopt the image of a humble person can result in producing an instrumental if not completely elusive form of humility. This instrumental practice of humility can result in humiliating opponents through ridicule and insults. What we have witnessed during the past two months is the instrumental, time-tested view of humility, as practiced by some leaders through the media.
Humility, however, finds it difficult to succeed against electoral politics that seem to have been over determined by the presence of the language of “entitlements” and the skewed notion of “pride.” Pride as an expression of appreciation of a nation’s progress should emerge from an affirmative indexing of human well-being. Creating hatred for certain religion and casting aspersions can be considered one of the parameters. However, reducing pride to one index would give rise to arrogance. The category of pride as the overtaxing content of communal hatred necessarily eliminates the grounds on which the possibility of humble democracy could be imagined and perhaps practiced.
Why does humility not succeed against arrogance? Because these leaders’ priorities the language of entitlements over the common good that underlies the need for a decent society. In fact, the language of rights seeks to eliminate the grounds for humility. Here, we are referring to rights that are unilaterally asserted by a certain section of society and which underlie and renew unqualified arrogance and unfounded pride. Such a partisan conception of rights necessarily suggests that a particular party or a social group possesses exclusive claim over a nation.
This is evident among the supporters of the all parties. In their attempt to establish exclusive rights over India, they often discount similar rights that others too have over the nation. “Hindu Terrorist”, “Hindu Taliban”, “Hindu Pakistan”, “Go To Pakistan”, “Bharat Tere Tukde Honge” are some common expressions that the members of the Fringe Elements use for those who question some of their vocal supporters trying to infringe on the democratic culture of this country. When they do not accept the right of the other to rule the country, they do not have to be humble. The capacity to repent gets destroyed due to the tendency to defend one’s mistake by referring to the mistake of one’s opponents and holding them guilty for their past mistakes.
It actually promotes a recalcitrant attitude that denies the person from taking a moral lead in creating new norms that could direct politics towards the creation of a decent society and its concrete realization. However, one of the fundamental challenges facing pluralistic political culture in India today is a decline in the practice of being humble. We need to realize that controlling bad speech is less the function of a public institution and more the result of democratizing the value of humility.
© 2019 Pradeep Kumar Panda. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.