It’s not always when one sees a President or a Prime Minister get emotional. That too, the President of the United States of America. I was watching and listening to his passionate, emotional speech when I realised there were tears in his eyes, and soon, they were there for everyone to see. The POTUS is an authority which could be likened to someone in the erstwhile British (colonial) empire. When such a towering personality shows his vulnerable side, it sends a message across: at the end of the day, he is a human who values human life, at the very least and at the very most. Compassion of the highest order is what differentiates us from other species on the planet.
As Indians, we have probably grown immune to information about death from a myriad of causes ranging from suicide to gangrapes to natural disasters. Our soldiers become martyrs when they die, but at the same time, the civilians which die are often relegated to a position where they are forgotten. It often seems that human life in our country is often servile to ‘titles’ and ‘positions of authority’. It seems like we can do away with these accolades in theory (as per Article 18 of the Constitution), but there are very few who care about the spirit behind Article 18. It’s linked to both equality (Article 14) and right to life (Article 21). I do not intend to make this a constitutional law-worthy piece, because knowing about fundamental rights is an unwritten fundamental duty of all the citizens. As Indians, we might be tempted to unflinchingly switch the channel on the TV when we realise that the POTUS is talking about ‘gun shootings’, and mass killings. We might end up thinking-“Oh c’mon..just 6 people got killed. No big deal”. In all, there have been thirty thousand, over a span of about …(I don’t know) years. He gets perturbed when even 6 children die. He has the courage to shed tears in front of press reporters from all over the world. I think Mr. Obama personifies the virtues that USA is known for: most important being the value of human life. He realises that there are no bigger realities than life and death in a human’s life.
We shouldn’t be proud of this strange immunity that we have inherited. Why, of course it’s an inheritance, passed on from generation to generation. If one generation witnessed massacres based on communalism, the other witnessed gangrapes and naxalite bombings and earthquakes and tsunamis (…and what not). It’s not an exhaustive list. Isn’t it strange that it doesn’t affect our psyche until the number of the dead/affected does not reach a three/four/five (the more the better impact) figure? The number of rapes happening every minute in the country and the detailed files (if they get reported) are enough to shake any person’s conscience (and make us cry). Most of them are worthy of news coverage, but that might just lead to national shaming of an already traumatised ‘victim’ (read survivor). Living the poorest Chennai-ite’s life at this moment will probably make us realise the meaning of “life is about living in the moment”. We cannot always conjure excuses for natural disasters. Every natural disaster turns into a man-made disaster if the local authorities do not work in a coordinated manner. Mr. Obama has a long-term solution, and I admire his outlook. “…not to debate the last mass shooting but to prevent the next one”, he said. That’s exactly the outlook we need to imbibe. Prevention is better than cure, after all.
In the past and present,there have been many shining examples of the local governments/bureaucrats functioning extremely impressively, where they have shown regard for human life. Evacuation ordered by the District Collector during a recent cyclone in Odisha was one of them. More than a million lives were saved. But overall, as a nation, we do not have an impressive track record when it comes to gauging the ‘value of human life’, which can never be evaluated by any Census or any survey. The only people who are really privy to the problems of the masses are those closest to them–our local governments, bureaucracy, police–but for the transient power that makes them so permanently hungry that they often end up ignoring the famished bodies (and souls). Of course, wielding authority and power in the right manner is something that comes at a heavy price in our country, which becomes a bait thrown by some unwieldy politician. Inspite of that, the truth is that our bureaucracy and police really need to shed some
paper weight, and start acting like they really are doing some service to the nation. If our soldiers can protect civilians, the bureaucracy and police can enhance the protection by making the civilians robust. The three organs (Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary) have to work in tandem, and that’s what our Constitution dictates. Actually, that’s what constitutionalism dictates. It all comes back to our moral values and human compassion. The virtuous circle of life, which transforms into a void in the absence of compassion.