Series – Ethics / Zeitgeist


Consider Irom Sharmila, the Iron Lady of India. She sat on a hunger strike for sixteen years; this is pretty much unprecedented in the history of political struggle. It will not be an overstatement to say that she is Gandhi reincarnated. The absolute resolve of the means of non-violence and self-purification through penance manifesting civil disobedience. Indeed from the spiritualism of Gandhi to the staunch atheism of Bhagat Singh – Indian blood has the might of will to serve as the moral conscience to a world that has lapsed into decadence.

There is a flavour of tragedy though in the wake of Irom Sharmila’s breaking her fast, she was refused shelter not only by strangers but by her own people. The pertinent question to ask is this – What is the response of the national consciousness in these postmodern times to this act of absolute valour and defiance of the highest form? To answer this question let us employ our powers of reasoning. Irom Sharmila ended her fast of August 9, and in the same week something significant happened in a different landscape – Reliance launched Jio on August 15. To find our answers let us look at the response to both these incidents in the public sphere.

Our methodology – Let us take the number of views on Irom Sharmila’s post August 9 interviews and the fanfare generated by Reliance Jio among  the voting class Indians. Here are some facts:

1)      Akash & Isha Ambani inaugurating Reliance Jio event1,429,188 views [1] — in this event there area talks about Apps, Games, Virtual Reality and Digital Media being accessible to all at lowest prices,

2)      Irom Sharmila gets emotional while ending 16-year fast against AFSPA[2] – 8,536 views — in this press conference Irom Sharmila talks about herself as the embodiment of real revolution that India needs today and on Gandhian principles of non-violence.

If the number of views on YouTube counts as any evidence in substantiating a theory we propose to make the case for what the national consciousness today is about. This is what in Hegelian terms a historian philosopher would call ‘Zeitgest’ (Zeit: age; Geist: people): the spirit of the Age. This is the spirit of our Age; our nation has somewhere lost its sense of morality. I remember when I read about the struggle for Independence and Gandhian Satyagrah, I used to wonder how great these people would be and we don’t produce that kind of people anymore. But looking at Irom Sharmila I stand corrected, we do produce people like that still, but they get nothing of what they should deserve from us in terms of respect and sincerity. These are clearly different times and for all those well thought well-meaning individuals who see the purpose of life beyond mobile apps and digital media there is a serious pondering necessary. Is it still not enough that an individual make an effigy of her soul in a sacrificial sense in a hope to provide this lost people a sense of moral direction? And if that doesn’t work, what does?

Our purpose here is to present before the reader a picture of reality and a profound insight into the spirit of the age that we live in and the value system that determines its necessities. For anyone keen on understanding the meaning of life (for Ethics is the meaning of life) it must be remembered that one has to work within the society keeping in mind the nature and predisposition of its people.  The lack of interest shown in Irom Sharmila is a ‘symptom’ of our age, and perhaps can also serve as an example of where to draw lines in one’s compassion and empathy towards the people it feels sorry for, and maybe these are really times for (wo)men of valor and sincerity to swallow that bitter draught – ends justify the means, a realization you sense in Sharmila’s eyes. And she will rise higher, better for how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?

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