There are sins of commission and sins of omission, my catechism teacher taught me when I was young. Theft and murder are sins you commit. There are infinite sins of commission from feeling jealous of your neighbour’s possessions to worshipping a god other than the one your religion gave you. I was more fascinated by the sins of omission. When you omit doing the good that you should do, that’s a sin too: the sin of omission. A grave sin.
Our world would have been a much better place if we all did what we could do. We can do so many good things and yet we don’t do them just because we are afraid. Afraid of our boss at the workplace. Afraid of our religion and its god[s]. Afraid of the dominant political ideology.
Cowardice is the gravest vice. Fear withholds us from achieving what we want to achieve. Bullies rule today’s world merely because most of us are cowards who don’t dare to stand up to bullying. Contrast today’s political leaders with those of a generation or two back and you will immediately understand the difference between bullies and statesmen. Why have we given all the power to bullies? We are cowards, that’s why.
That’s not only why, however. We are selfish too. We think that our gods are the only legal entities in the supernatural realms. We think that our caste is the only one that deserves the privileges. Our language is sacred because its ancestry goes back to some divine revelations.
Our selfishness is even more practical, in fact. Otherwise we wouldn’t lynch people for herding their cows home. We wouldn’t garland rapists and at the same time cry for the blood of social activists. We wouldn’t shout slogans for a system that oppresses certain sections of the country’s population.
Our selfishness makes us communal. The word communal has highly positive meaning anywhere in the world except India. In India, we have made communities mere tools for personal aggrandisements. We have mastered the art of using people for our own personal benefits. Consequently we have a few individuals who are becoming gods on the earth. Idiotic as we are, we are ready to kill for the sake of those few individuals who live in palaces that would make our ancient Maharajas blush with envy. The palace can be more metaphorical than Antilia. It can be even imported mushrooms.
Ignorance is a grave sin of omission. Even the law would tell you that. You won’t be able to escape by pleading ignorance if you have broken a traffic rule, for instance. It’s your duty to know certain rules. Most Indians are ignorant even about their own rights. Hence they are exploited by silly politicians who wear religious robes but are actually born criminals. Ignorance is a grave sin that is succoured by people who wear religious robes.
A much more cardinal sin is the sin of the intellectuals and knowledgeable people in India. They choose silence because that is expedient. In a system that arrests honest people and throws them into jails, it is understandable that the intellectuals choose to be silent. Is it cowardice? Is it selfishness? Or is it expediency?
If only the honest and intelligent people of India come out of their safe nests, this country would be what the Father of the nation dreamt of: a nation of free citizens. Citizens who are free from cowardice, primarily. And then, free from the other vices. A nation of happy citizens, honest citizens, cooperative citizens.
“Silence is not always a virtue. When there are serious wrongs happening, it is our duty to speak up. Otherwise we become part of the wrongdoing.” This is the theme of In[di]spire’s latest edition. This post is dedicated to that edition. India is passing through a dangerous phase when honest and intelligent people have chosen silence out of cowardice or selfishness. Hence we have the reign of bullies. Lynching has become a national pastime. Other crimes are even more vocal. Your silence may be adding to the spreading venality. Come on, come out, and speak up. Refuse to support evil by speaking the good word. Speak up. Speak up.