Of Tearful Peacocks, Trumpism and Celibacy of Reason
The real peril lies in the saleability of what was hitherto considered as ‘reneging’ on the word, discourse on issues which affect seven billion plus have been reduced into my way or the highway
By Shankkar Aiyar | Published: 04th June 2017 04:00 AM |
It has been an eventful week even by the normal mid-summer silly season standards.
Like it would appear that school and college zoology lessons need to be updated with the concept of conception. The idea of the rule of law, it would seem — and not just in India — is subject to the law of who rules.
Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, observed, “It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief that mental lying has produced in society.” In their desperation, politics and politicos have installed the alternate truth and rendered reason celibate in public discourse.
Like, earlier this week, a judge in the Rajasthan High Court, informed the court and Indians at large that the peacock is a lifelong celibate, it never has sex with a peahen and the peahen gives birth after getting impregnated with the peacock’s tears. In one breath, the concept of Immaculate Conception found its way into what was intended to be an order on the rule of law.
Like Indians were also informed through the lengthy 139-page order, “Cow is the only divine animal that exhales oxygen”, that it was a mobile ‘clinic on its own’ among other positives. The judge also recommended that the cow be declared a national animal and that its slaughter be punishable with life imprisonment.
Like all this knowledge was on a petition on ill treatment of cows in a local animal shelter. The treatment of the cattle was also the subject of a new clause in the regulation on cattle sale impacting trade, threatening jobs, supplies and exports. The issue has haunted governments since 1950s. The legal conflicts, the cultural compulsions, the political sensitivities and the economic issues had been argued and reviewed in a 1958 Supreme Court judgment on ban of cattle slaughter. This would have been known to the proponents of the idea. Yet, the authors of the clause caused chaos and confusion in the markets, invited stay orders and triggered protests by states.
Like in Kerala, the land of near-total literacy, and ostensibly a matriarchal society to boot, a judge inducted the ultimate expression of patriarchy and declared: “A girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable, capable of being exploited in many ways”. It didn’t matter that adulthood has been defined as attaining the age of 18 by the Majority Act, 1875, and subsequently, emphasised in the Indian Majority (Amendment) Act, 1999.
Like India is known for its prowess in frugal cost engineering and in tech processes — ISRO stunned the world by launching 104 satellites in one go; Indian software engineers write code for global systems and are driving advancement in artificial intelligence. It is true that subscription to what is divine is an article of individual faith. But can matters of science — exhalation of oxygen or cure of cholera or reproductive biology — be rendered a matter of belief?
Like there is the phenomenon of rhetoric sans logic, and then there is economic data in search of logic. This week, Indians were informed that the economy grew at 7.1 per cent in 2016–17 — a drop of nearly one per cent from the last fiscal. The data continues to show cohabitation of high growth and low job creation, high growth and poor credit off-take, high growth and falling investment rate. The question: Was the slide in growth only about demonetisation?
Like the data also raises a political and pertinent question. GDP growth year was boosted by record agricultural output — gross value addition went up from 0.7 per cent to 4.9 per cent. Prosperity though has eluded farmers — this week, farmers poured milk on the streets of Mumbai and threatened to stop cultivation, there is a national demand for loan waivers and higher prices. Why are farmers angry? The answer is: not “because the opposition” is egging them on. This is a crisis on simmer. It will not go away with silly rhetoric.
Like the real risk to the cause of reason is the success with which the US President has marketed illogical arguments as politically acceptable logic. Of course, the flip side is that every other global leader seems reasonable. Indeed, in the geopolitical sense, its advantage China. And it says something about the disruption of Trumpism that Xi Jinping is acquiring a halo and is emerging as lead statesman on globalisation.
Like the question is not whether the United States was right or righteous in exiting the climate change agreement. It is not surprising either — after all there is precedence, the negation of the Kyoto accord. The real peril lies in the saleability of what was hitherto considered as ‘reneging’ on the word. Global statesmanship about issues which affect seven billion plus human beings on the planet, and multilateralism, it would appear has been reduced by the $18 trillion superpower into my way or the highway.
Like it didn’t matter that this was one rare time 195 countries agreed on something or that the US had led the initiative. The question is not about the timing either. The question is about the presentation of fiction as fact. “India”, he said, “makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries”. Incredibly, the intellectual heft of the accord has left the Trump administration untouched.
Like the truth about climate change, the risks to the planet, the lives of millions at stake, and the obligation to future generations are scarcely an issue in this debate. The Trump administration has now crafted retrospective reasoning for the pull out. It is now reasoned that the imposed obligations lacked legislative sanction — this from an administration that has paraded executive action as a divine entitlement.
Like, in the past 10 days, Trump has called his allies in NATO names, charged them of not paying up, apparently asked them to call him directly on his mobile and coined a new word ‘covfefe’. What Trump tweets, and even when he fails to complete a sentence, has acquired the status of appointment viewing of a daily soap.
Like the real moral hazard is the allure of Trumpism. Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage”. Trump politics is a reality show. And the danger is that what is passable in the world’s oldest democracy, may become standard operating practice, the exceptionable may become ubiquitous.
Shankkar Aiyar is the author of Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change