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Stop Hiding With Fear Behind A Veil Of Comfort: Go Work For A Revolution If You Want One

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By Ankita Anand:

The question ‘Are You a Consumer or a Participant? ‘ was first posed in the Paris of 1968. It was the first time in history when students and workers came together in such numbers for a common cause, to join hands against state tyranny, to urge ‘the revolution is in you’.


It has been forty-five years since. We still haven’t made the right choice. Let alone empathizing with the cause of ‘other’ communities, we shy away from standing up even for our own. What are we afraid of? What keeps us from taking the plunge and becoming active, resisting participants rather than being passive, vulnerable consumers (which is any seller’s dream), except in the form of temporary attendance at protest ‘events’?

In the nursery rhyme ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, the two characters keep on fighting with each other because that is the routine they are familiar with. Familiarity is reassuring. We are the facsimiles of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The established order is silently followed. The students-workers movement had also asked us to unzip our minds as often as our fly. We forget to unzip. Instead, our minds carry an old, rusty padlock. The signboard reads: Dissenters will be persecuted.

Alternatives are not to be looked for. If found, who would accept them? Accepting them would mean letting go of the old order which is familiar, comfortable and reassuring. The structure may be rotten. Who cares tuppence? We go on replastering. We go on clinging pathetically to the centre, till the very end, so that we know where to come back to. Suddenly, it strikes us we can be safer. We take a short rope and tie ourselves to the centre. Like we tie our dogs. So that we/the dogs do not stray afar.

Make it new, they tell us. But what is new is scary. Discovering new centres means stepping into the unknown. How many people in our generation have witnessed a revolution? How can we recreate something we have not seen? No use getting into the pointless exercise of envisaging how it would have been if our predecessors would have thought likewise.

We might have a thing or two to learn from Jane Fonda when she says, ‘Sometimes, you have to give it all up. To gather.’ We have to open our arms to gather. But they are crossed firmly against our chests. In fear. In defence. In defence of the fear. Because the old blabbermouth of our conscience would not keep quiet. It insists on whispering with its wicked mouth our own weaknesses to us.

But we can put our fears to rest. The knight in shining armour comes to our rescue. We find refuge in cynicism, aka, ‘practicality’. Everything falls in line thereafter. Marches invite our sneers. Sloganeering passers for empty rhetoric. Long and trying struggles of radical groups get a sympathetic shake of the head, underlining the futility of any attempts at change. Our fervent prayers echo, ‘God! Give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.’ The rest of the phrase, ‘and the power to change the things we can’, sinks into oblivion.

When it seems that cynicism cannot be a permanent solace, when we start noticing chinks in its armour, a movie like Rang De Basanti comes. A certain group of young people are deeply ‘stirred’ but hate to admit it. After all, when do these things happen in ‘real’ life? They are quick to explain to their friends, and to themselves, the unrealistic elements of the movie. Another section cries out loud, claps, cheers, swears and shouts ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, all the right reactions corresponding with all the right moments in the movie. The intensity of passion finds an outlet. Catharsis happens.

We need not hasten to identify ourselves with any of the two groups. We can choose to respond in a different, third kind of manner. We do not have to critique the ‘unrealism’ of the movie. We do not have to act as cheerleaders. We do not even have to watch the movie. We just need to take a good, hard look around and what we see would arouse the same passion, the same rage in us. We can choose to build up the anger, the frustration, the agony. And then use all of it. To fight. To struggle. To build and create. To ‘make it new’. It is a unique experience altogether. Slightly unfamiliar. Slightly scary. Completely exhilarating. Listen to Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night . . .
Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The revolution is in you, remember?

You must be to comment.
  1. Shubhra

    very zealous 🙂 loved ever bit of it!

    1. Ankita Anand

      Thank you, Shubhra. If you could feel the zeal, you’re the ideal reader.

  2. Raj

    What exactly is this about?

    1. Ankita Anand

      Raj, this is about believing that change is a real possibility, though to achieve it we have to start with changing the toughest thing-ourselves. It is about not trading hope for cynicism, and about making examples of our own lives rather than constantly hunting for ‘inspiration’ to get stirred. Sorry if these things did not come out clearly in the piece. Will try to do better next time.

    2. Raj

      No I meant is this against some particular issue or topic or in general? Are you talking about some particular movement like Anna Hazare’s campaign ?
      And not all revolutions are good. The Bolshevik Revolutions and the Nazi revolutions both sucked big time.

    3. Ankita Anand

      No, this is not about any of them. I agree. Revolutions aren’t always unproblematic. But one doesn’t want a revolution just for the heck of it, to say ‘Maar do, kaat do, jala do’ and then, ‘OK, done. Next is what?’ They have to be aimed for with specific goals in mind, and not for power-grabbing or venting out. That is why, to start with, revolutionizing our individual lives becomes the toughest. It takes time, you have to stand up not to the state or ‘others’ but to your ‘own’ people, and it happens quietly. There is no crowd cheering for it. But it brings honesty in our lives, gets us our own respect, break the ongoing change of societal evils that keep getting perpetuated because all individuals keeping it alive think that one individual’s opposition will do nothing.

    4. Raj

      The problem is that many of these revolutions tend to replace one form of socialism with another. Anna Hazare wants to create a vast police-state and his revolution was for that. Very few revolutions say ” We will overthrow this Govt. and replace it with a much smaller Govt. with limited powers and which will not engage in welfare activities but give private entities the power to do so in a voluntary fashion”.(I can recall just the American Revolution) Almost all promise freebies like free education, free food etc. at the tax-payers expense, So what you have is one group of thugs being kicked out, only to be replaced by another.

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