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Mr. Apologist, excuses are not enough

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We can differ, but only as long as you do not elaborate into a justification of murder or genocide from your preliminary position

It has been a fortnight of shocking tragedies in India and abroad — and of excuses by you, Mr. Apologist.

You have told me that I should not overreact: journalists get killed all over the world, and sometimes on their own doorsteps; the Rohingya are just suffering from an internal law-and-order problem; the hurricanes ravaging the Caribbean these days and the floods ravaging India are just natural phenomena, and not due to climate change; and as for the Dreamers, poised earlier to be kicked out of U.S., oh well, that’s all politics, you know, and such things happen in politics (you know). Calm down, you tell me.

Let me reassure you, I am calm. So calm that I am willing to accept all your above positions, though I disagree with them either entirely or in part. I am calm enough to concede that in holding these positions you are establishing a certain political perspective. I differ from you, but as long as you do not elaborate into a justification of murder or genocide from your preliminary positions, you have the grounds to think as you do.

Cracks in society, in humanity

But are you calm enough to realise that my main objections arise from other (related) aspects of all these cases, as elaborated by you?

Are you calm enough to concede that a brutal murder shakes the foundations of society, and its perpetrators can be allowed to go scot-free only if you want hairline cracks to develop further in your society? When the murder is that of a besieged public figure and one with whom you (Mr. Apologist) disagree, the cracks run deeper — and you owe it to your own society to hold the culprits accountable. Cracks in a society and a state often seem to remain superficial until it is too late and the entire edifice starts crumbling — as we have seen and are seeing in many countries. Are you calm enough to concede that the least you can do, out of common decency if not patriotism, is to ‘unfollow’ those of your social media ‘friends’ who justify a murder and vilify its victim?

Like you, I know — for I am not what you will call an ‘idealist’ (alas) — that states need to exercise authority, and more so when faced with insurgency and extremism. I am calm enough to say — though many leftists and Muslims will berate me for it — that the Burmese state might have needed to act against some form of Islamist insurgency. But when such actions lead to the killing of children and force more than 300,000 villagers to flee for their lives, then surely we are talking of an extreme abuse of authority, surely we are talking of genocide and ethnic cleansing? Are you calm enough to concede that we cannot justify such horrors without hairline cracks developing in our very humanity, so that one day, it too, like society or state, crumbles into dust?

Hurricane Irma or the devastating floods in Bihar, you tell me, these are natural disasters. You dismiss climate change: calm down, you tell me, Earth was even hotter thousands of years ago, when there were no polluting industries.

Dumping our refuse

But — unlike most people who are fighting to stop climate change — I am willing to concede that I can never convince you of climate change. If I point to an extreme winter this year, you will point to a moderate winter another year. Climate change cannot be proved in a laboratory: there is evidence that it is taking place, but all of it exists at a very high scientific level (for instance, projections of CO2

emissions and their effects) or at a degree of theoretical abstraction. You can always refuse to accept those conclusions. I am calm enough to accept that.

But are you calm enough to acknowledge that you do not dump your refuse — most of it biodegradable — in your own house, but we, as a species, are dumping our refuse (much of it not even biodegradable) in the only house we know, planet Earth? Are you calm enough to concede that if the former is bad for you, the latter must be bad for all of us?

As for the prospective expulsion of the Dreamers — young men and women, almost entirely educated and employed today, who grew up in the U.S. and have often known only that country, these are people whose parents entered the U.S. illegally when the Dreamers were two or ten years old and in no condition to have a say in the matter. These are people who pay extra to society for living there and who came out and disclosed their status in response to a promise by a previous government. Are you calm enough to concede that we cannot punish children for the crimes of their parents, and that people who have grown up, contributed and committed themselves to a nation have earned the right to stay there? Are you calm enough to realise that politicians cannot be allowed to arbitrarily tinker with established governmental policies affecting ordinary thousands for unclear, personal, vindictive or racist reasons?

Are you calm enough to face the fact that we owe our children much more than mere excuses, Mr. Apologist?

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 9:26:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/mr-apologist-excuses-are-not-enough/article19700191.ece

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