As I write this, India, or some parts of it, are learning of revelations that suggest the Government of India may have been spying on some of its own citizens including journalists, members of the opposition, judges and a few more people. Naturally, the reaction to this news has been denial, distraction and disdain from the officials in the higher up offices of the Indian Government but that is not what the topic of this article is.
Along with the denials, there is also a dismissal within many common people that even if they were being spied on, it is not a big deal since they don’t have anything to hide from the authorities. The Right to Privacy is not something that comes to mind straight away when you think of what the most fundamental privileges of a citizen should be but again, this is not an article about the Right to Privacy and why it is an essential right in the modern world. This is an article about something more basic, Individual rights, and why the people of India continue to be so wary of them.
Individual rights are a pretty simple concept. These are some privileges that a citizen enjoys simply by being a citizen of the country. These are not rights which are given as a charity by the state, these are simply things you enjoy just by the virtue of being born within a said boundary. Ask an Indian to list the fundamental rights and we will be able to tell you a few of them very easily thanks to our rote learning in school but we won’t be able to explain what these truly signify.
Put simply, we have the theoretical knowledge but no practical understanding of individual rights. Why is that? I think there are two explanations. One is psychodynamic and the other one is sociological.
Psychodynamics and Indian Citizens
Ever since childhood we are brought up with the sustained idea that our parents are there to take care of us and it is their job to ensure that all our needs are met. Psychodynamically, it is possible that this relationship that a child has with their parents, is transferred to the relationship an adult citizen has with his government.
How many times have we heard people saying things like,
“They (Government/Parents) have our best interests in our mind.”
“What they did may hurt now, but they are doing it because they care so much about us.”
And thus we never think of ourselves as free adults in a free state. We always see ourselves as children who need to be fed by the state, taken care of by the state and cleaned after for, by the state.
“If they don’t want me to read this, it must be in our best interest.”
“If they don’t want me to say this, it must be in my best interest.”
“Whatever they say, is in our best interest.”
Freedom is a far off fantasy when the adult is still a child in mind.
There is another thing that could explain our nervousness for our rights. We are not ready for the responsibilities that come along with.
Any right that is bestowed upon us by the constitution comes with its own set of responsibilities. You can read and write anything you want to but it is up to you to decide whether it is true or not.
You are free, which means, you are not going to be taken care of by any big daddy/mommy. That scares us. We don’t want to have to do that because it genuinely requires too much effort. Critical thinking can be such a task after all! So, we give it all up, just tell us what to do and we will do it. Tell us what to read and we will read it, tell us what not to read and we won’t.
Take care of me and my whole life because if the state doesn’t do that, I could fail. And if I fail, I would not be able to blame anyone else but myself. I want to avoid that as much as possible and thus I become nothing more than a slave.
Free on paper but a slave nonetheless in my mind.