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Killing And Defence In Individualistic Society

Killing a person out of ideological motivation calls for membership of a different kind of community, which Hindus have lost over a period of centuries

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Hitting someone and killing someone are functions of habit and passion. Getting proficient in hitting (and getting hit) can come from a good training in martial arts and perhaps a rough childhood. But killing requires habit along with a heavy dose of passion.

Passion comes from various sources. It might be loyalty to a group, adherence to a code of honour, sudden and grave provocation (though this often results in flight or freeze rather than fight and kill due to lack of habit), religious edicts or ritualistic fervour.

In an era where excessive freedom and individualism are emphasised, loyalty and honour go out of the window. So a thoroughly individualistic person can kill either as a mercenary or as a serial killer for individualistic motivation. But again, it all begins with habit.

Further, regarding habit, parents with a child or two often protect them as if they were some sort of a unique occurrence in the universe. The parents pamper them excessively and encourage them to be ‘good’ boys/girls. They go out of the way to keep their children out of harm’s way. As a result, children hardly learn to cope with the struggles of life. Even in schools, when confronted with bullies or difficult kids, parents encourage children to either keep quiet or complain to the teacher. As a result, the majority never escapes the cycle of pleading while silently looking for a saviour.

In real life, when they are faced with real malice and threat in the form of Muslim or Christian peers, and of late a very rabidly fundamentalist section of Sikhs, the mind gets confused, coming up with all sorts of imaginary explanations to discount their visible aggression. When the threat becomes undeniable, they look for a saviour and can’t think of anything other than pleading to one. After having come so far in the pursuit of individuality, they look around for unity only to find themselves alone.

But unity is not a defining character of a society formed around individual freedom and the pursuit of ‘happiness’. Such a society may arrive at a consensus on socially attainable goals and the means to pursue them, but other than an institutionalised government-sanctioned mechanism like the police or army, there is no unity in terms of a collective pursuit of a or a collective defence against threats.

Unity and collectivism are formed easily in societies structured around honour real or imaginary. For example, among Muslims, a five-time namazi will always have stronger credentials than a philanthropic kafir. Similarly, in a Sikh society, the people with 5 K diksha will always be considered better than non-K dharis. Exercise of benevolence and malice comes easily to such communities because it is often a collective effort. This also explains why they will still listen to their men in robes rather than an elected prime or chief minister.

Hindus, on other hand, have become increasingly individualistic and self-centred. When the self becomes the centre of mundane concerns, the first thing we want is a feeling of safety because the social net of an honour-based society no longer exists. Just look around a common middle-class household from the shaving kit to kitchen equipment, everything is sanitised for safety. Those eating non-vegetarian food get their meat shredded and chopped usually at a meat shop.

In an honour-based society, the criteria for social approval is a bare minimum. For example, Trikal Sandhya Vandan in a former community, five times a day in Islam or following caste-based injunctions in Khap societies. Within these minimum injunctions, the contours of individual freedom are quite wide. Even in a society where individualism is the sole morality, except for ‘reasonable restrictions’, the need for social approval does not disappear. With unmitigated freedom at disposal and without a clear definition of what these reasonable restrictions are, the first thing an individual is beset with is confusion.

The response to this confusion is giving up the remaining vestiges of the previous honour-based setting to set oneself aside as different. This we see in the anathema to rituals or other collective expressions of society, often with the excuse of them being problematic to individual peace and comfort. The second expression of this confusion is the opinion that anything religious or collective should have a social purpose to suit modern libertarian values, else it is scoffed at. For example, Diwali cracker ban, Dahi-handi restrictions, the Jalikattu issue and Sabarimala. In such a scenario when another collective driven by group pursuit attacks us, we have no defence because we have washed away the glue that held us as a collective. And a collective has no use for an individual not connected to it, howsoever resourceful and precious he or she may be.

To overcome this anxiety, the first step would be to put oneself at risk or discomfort every day, to prepare for an eventual face-off with malice. Throw away the safety razors and use ustaras. The first thing this will teach you is how much pressure separates a clean shave and a cut. This difference in pressure is all that matters. Second, use knives even if it is to cut onions. Once you get cut, you will have a taste of being at risk and an idea of the efficacy of the knife. Dress your chicken at home instead of the butcher’s shop. It’s easy to destroy something once you realise something is not meant to be with you. That was the original purpose of bali. Participate in collective expressions even if you find them uncouth and contrary to your sensibilities; you will find people who will back you when shit hits the fan. Buy a pair of maces and strike them on tree trunks. Your hands should get used to delivering and receiving a quantum of force.

Finally, this is not to say honour-based societies are in any way better than those based on individual freedom. The intention is to explain the ease and difficulty with which malice and violence can be expressed in various societies. A balance between the two ways of life will be an optimal solution, but how that will be achieved is still an open question. Until that happens, we cannot be sitting ducks waiting in the queue to be slaughtered.

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