Saturday, 9 April 2016

Ze Salon #4: Nationalism

Nationalism is the flavor of the season, food for thought for some and indeed, bread & butter for others. We, of course, wanted to poke & provoke in order to understand better.

The first element of controversy turned out to be the poll. Now, Nationalism is such a finely nuanced feeling that it is almost impossible to capture what everyone feels in three tight sentences. We tried, however, and received some flak for making the flag-worshiping kind of Nationalism sound like remnants of a bygone era and for making folk on the other end sound pretentious and irrelevant to the argument. I don't know what it says though when half of the votes come to the above mentioned option ze pretendre. I hope good things.

So, we curated our guest list as always. We created an equal mix of die-hard patriots and what you could crudely call the remaining, containing myriad shades of the non-nationalist, ranging from the left-of-center rational & balanced individualists to the spacey-sounding world-without-borders John Lennon reincarnates (yours truly being one of these). Even the patriots had some interesting variety, we later found out, from the intuitive patriot who'd probably never considered not being one, to the rationalist patriot who'd probably arrived at some of his conclusions through introspection. It was all quite fascinating. We intentionally included someone who had an intimate knowledge of the life of an Indian Muslim, and unintentionally ended up with a psychologist in our delighted midst. Our endeavor had been to also get an erstwhile government employee with a keen eye for insight as well as what we deemed to be a dyed-in-the-wool flag-carrying (pun intended) rationalist liberal, a Bong, no less. These two were to join on Skype, as our last session on Skype had gone so well, however this one ended up being a non-starter as the duo in question could not make it at the last minute.

Nevertheless (and really we were quite a handful) discussion ensued.

From the question of the national anthem being mandatory, to separatism, different facets kept tumbling out in quick succession. While we studiously tried to avoid the JNU issue for sometime, it did come up and become central in that it provided a smorgasbord of angles to lead off on - from freedom of speech to challenging supreme court judgements.

And it was a fantastic discussion! With passion coursing through the room, we lost track of all things temporal. One of the things we want to do with Ze Salon, is to ensure it challenges people wrt the issues they feel strongly about, where it is not just a hypothetical intellectual debate but one that compels you to rethink your value-system, indeed your identity.

Even for this debate, one of the key answers for me lie in how we define our identity - through a set of facts you have no control over but which are the only unshake-able, unchangeable parts of you - your birth identity, OR through what you've evolved to be in this lifetime - your earned identity.

Of course, there are other things to ponder about - the question of control, of security, of politics. And we touched upon many of these as the evening progressed.

So while we figure out how to get to you a good gist of these perspectives through podcasts (don't hesitate ye readers in giving us suggestions), we wanted to give our well-wishers a glimpse of what we have been up to at Ze Salon; hence this post.

And we have to say, we've been fortunate enough to garner quite a few well-wishers along the way. Sometimes we can't believe the level of interest in this eccentric little initiative of ours, who would have thought :) Highly encouraging, we promise to make it bigger & better.

P.S: A couple of days after our session, we got this brilliant message from one of our Saloners - Amit Pai, and this is what he had to say: Hi People. Day before yesterday we had a good discussion on Nationalism and today i read about Asaduddin Owaisi daring Mr Mohan Bhagwat that he won't say Bharat Mata ki Jai even with a Knife on his throat. If this happened before 12th March perhaps i would have reacted differently to this news but after hearing totally different perspective i am now able to think and understand clearly about Owaisi remarks and why certain section of people are reacting in an absurd way over it. I think that is goal of Ze Salon to find answers to random thoughts in our mind which are latent and we normally ignore. Again Thanks For inviting.

This is the stuff that makes us go on :)

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