I should be drafting the fifth chapter of my dissertation on Animations & Socialization, and I had just opened up a fresh WORD document to register my opinions about the battle of gender(s), when I was traversed through the locations and contexts of sub-human brutalities. It’s a shame that I cannot ignore their physio-anatomical relationship to their species, and had to resort to the prefix ‘sub’, suggesting their fall from a moral category, the only obligation Man should feel for his birth as Man:
above the cosmos, the dance
leveled against the limitations
of nature and birth, this Man
is a stupid creature, mistaking
the urine of uprooted happiness
for waters from the Pierian Spring.
The clause of stupidity was favourably established by Walter B. Pitkin in his 1932 treatise on the former subject, called A Short Introduction to the History of Stupidity, when he affixes stupidity at the top of the evil ladder, calling it “the supreme Social Evil.” This is not it; there have been a gamut of writers of a singular genius who have tried to throw significant light on the subject in witty and angry terms, sympathetic and denouncing terms, covertly and overtly, against resistance and without friction: Euripides, Oscar Wilde, Einstein, Søren Kierkegaard, Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, just to name a few.
However, my argument is not really about Man’s ultimate nature but how this nature is manifested in vitriolic actions that deem them inhuman is but an insult to the Devil. I was never as troubled before as I was when I first heard about George Floyd’s murder at Powderhorn, Minneapolis, by Derek Chauvin. Perhaps, you may be already familiar with the story of the murder and all the details a News channel needs to create a fresh TRP-content, so let’s move ahead of it and understand the sociology of power.
As much as the murder of Floyd has besmirched the face of humanity, and calls for a serious scrutiny against the criminals associated, it won’t be a surprise that the source of the protests (currently plaguing the streets of the United States of America) is entrenched in history: the trans-Atlantic slave trade, that opened doors to a conflict between colors, which, in return, puts Floyd in the position of a martyr, whose physical death could be taken as the inception of a fresh consciousness.
The hastags of #BlackLivesMatter are a symptom of the changing consciousness, that – mixed with the peoples’ resistance against and cognizance of hegemonic aavarts1 – figures as a daisy, once wilted, now blooming up under the fresh Sun, which, reverses, to symbolically represent good times, in the spirit of Charles Dickens:
reading Dickens in the library,
no less a crime, my hands
now sought Twain or Tagore,
bitten by fear and cigarettes
approached peers, shoving
my head against the desk
that told me I was a loser.
Apparently, it’s clear, and perhaps that’s the reason why I could identify with Floyd. Nevertheless, if we were to compare acts of sub-human brutality, Floyd’s murder might begin to tremble, yet the gravity of a sub-human brutality is the same. Muhsin Khan’s beautiful translation of the Holy Quran‘s acknowledges:
“… if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind…”
– Verse (5:32)
Human history, a sadder history, is replete with instances of manslaughter, implemented mostly in the name of religion, domination (couched as welfare for the dominated) and maintenance of the status quo. The latter-most is of special interest, because it concerns my home country, and more because it concerns my religion: the Indian practice of untouchability:
sleep on cow dung, if not
then outside the country,
fix a broom to your behind,
but don’t ask us why, we
despise your blood, your
very presence, and it is
just to kill you or rape your
daughters because your
temples are for us to hide.
Something that has plagued the Hindu religion is the caste-system, a vehement system of hegemony that has now become a part of an ideology, brilliantly following what Antonio Gramsci calls the dynamics of power, history, and nature. It divides Hinduism into four primary castes: the Brahmins (the intellectuals), the Kshatriyas (the warriors), the Vaishyas (the keepers of shops), and the Shudras (the untouchables). The untouchables were targeted, mostly because the Brahmins took them as “pollutants of community,” and they justified their discrimination by addressing the sculptures like the Vedas or the Manusmruti. Ironically, only the Brahmins knew how to read, and so they doctored the principles according to their own whims and prejudices … an act of oppressive rhetoric, as the terrorists do.
Ultimately, their motive was to maintain the status quo, fearing the loss of their own personal superiority in society. The preservation of the status quo, if viewed from the vantages of political colonization, doesn’t cease to justify British Raj in India and all the ways India was fractured to pieces in the name of civilizing the barbarian:
are you not? afraid of ghosts
of women who fought you
battles for jewelry that you
wanted to flaunt in weddings?
their blood burns on your skin,
too delicate to endure Bīrbāla
or the touch of Waddedar, go
home and take rest. Laxmibai
is still alive… a woman’s
voice might silence you.
Not to pass to oblivion, the atrocities that were inflicted in the name of religion to figures as famous as St. Agnes (the Roman saint – martyred during the reign of Diocletian – for having vocalised her faith in Christianity, which was then in the process of “becoming”) and as unsung as the French noble, François-Jean de la Barre (tortured and decapitated for having not saluted a Catholic procession), cannot be excused. My personal acquaintance with the two, respectively, are born out of my closer readings of John Keats’ “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1820) and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Wonderful Texts!
Towards the end, however, all of them – the untouchables, the Indian, French and Roman heroes – achieved the status of martyrs, which was the least humanity could have done to honour these lost causes. To become a martyr is a blessing, and, perhaps, it explains why Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gladly accepted his death at the hands of the four knights of Henry II on the fateful night of December 29, 1170 (episode represented in the 1935 verse-drama, Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot).
To be a martyr is to set an example for generations to come, for humanity to re-walk histories; to be a martyr is to be human, the very intrinsic property that distinguishes you from the rest; to be a martyr is to be true, both to yourself and peoples; to be a martyr is to efface the thin line between divinity and strength.
If America is burning tonight and its fires are engulfing the outstretches of human destiny, fear not the rebellion, fear not the destruction. The death of George Floyd has uncorked some suppressed feelings, ignited the fire that was embraced round the arms of lassitude, and has made him a cultural icon… a martyr who shall be remembered (like others) and cited (and re-cited) as the peoples’ melting pot:
mixed in my blood are the
ethnicities of my globe, it’s
no backyard, I keep my
heart to kiss these soils
I call all my own. you have
stood up to honor me…
promise you, this world
is going to be beautiful!
1 Aavarts is a Marathi word that means “cyclone”