The history of humanity is a rollercoaster ride; ranging from periods of calm to certain periods where the worst of humanity comes to light. Entire civilisations were built weighing on the backs of weaker sections of society and generations were pushed into a void of a less than dignified life. The sections of society that did not conform or were different were subjected to genocide more often than not.
I wrote this article in the month of September 2019 when the world began to speculate (from vague broken facts) the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Muslim minority of India. This made me wonder when does policing end and suppression begin? I chose to approach this from an angle that viewed policing as a result of popular dissent of the general public against the administration which, at one point turned violent and gained national coverage.
Once the dissent of the people has been expressed, the administration can take either of the two rational paths: the first one includes beginning a dialogue with public leaders and conforming with the demands in a way where the government has to take a step back, the second one is the failure of diplomacy and public policy which results in the suppression of dissent using force under the façade of national interest.
The philosopher George Santayana quoted, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and history tells us that policing (by an external administration; for a separatist movement, its own country is ‘external’) has not led to any favourable outcomes for the policed ethnic groups. The Nazi systematic boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933 was one of the many incidents of systematic policing that eventually led to the infamous Holocaust. It is tragic how the term ‘pogrom’ was coined due to the ethnic cleansing of Jews starting from Russia and spreading to Europe and the Middle East.
For those who are oblivious, pogrom refers to the organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular, that of Jews in Russia or Eastern Europe. Recent occupancies that have been undertaken without much hue and cry include the killing of hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan during the 2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots resulting in the flight of thousands of Uzbek refugees to Uzbekistan, strategic demographic and cultural cleansing by the Sinhala Buddhist majority of the Muslim and Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka.
90,000 people have been displaced in the sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Burma’s western Rakhine State and the anti-Muslim riots that followed. The Turkish military and allied Syrian Arab and Turkmen militias carried out the ethnic cleansing of the Afrin region, displacing 150,000-300,000 Kurdish people, and began resettling the region with Arab refugees of the Syrian Civil War.
These recent examples serve as a reminder that the human nature has always been violent (even to protect cultural superiority) and the periods of peace are usually accompanied with an empathetic population with leaders of equal stature that genuinely believe in harmony. Machiavelli had rightly summarised this human nature in 9 characteristics that have remained universal even though his theories have somewhat lost their relevance.
It is worth pondering over that almost all the ‘thinkers’ of that time belong to the rich and powerful class but they almost always spoke for the less privileged and the oppressed. This is, in its essence, a sign of correlation between modernity and empathy. The lack of empathy in all scopes of lives serves as a recipe for an eventual pogrom.
It is vital to view modernity in ideas as the transcendence of traditional orthodox values devoid of the ability to conform into a school of thought with an emotional intellect that strives for individual liberties through collective growth.
The recent growth of the concept of mental health awareness, at its prime, has the ability to rid human beings of its violent nature into an empathetic emotionally intellectual person that should rightfully be termed as Modernity 2.0 or Renaissance 2.0, where the individual would again become a part of a bigger collective.