This week, Indispire prompt asks the question if there exists an inverse relationship between power and culture – when power declines, culture flourishes…
If I understood it correctly, power in question is political power that controls life and liberty of citizens. And, culture includes any or all activity like writing, painting, music, theatre etc, all activities that help a person express his / her inner feeling.
In earlier times, prior to 1947, India and the world used to be ruled by a King, who who would inherit the leadership throne. Kings could be benevolent as well as malevolent. Under benevolent kings culture flourished. Almost all royal courts used to have a royal singer, poet, writer, historian etc. Many royal chronicler, artists, musicians would accompany the king, everywhere from battle fields to holiday homes. But their job was to sing praise of the king and to please the kind. Anyone doing otherwise, had to pay through their lives.
At the present time world is ruled either by democratically or by an autocracy. There are many examples where an autocrat, with absolute power, never tolerates criticism of his self, of his government and his belief system.
- Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned and later exiled for criticizing communist Soviet Union. There are many less famous people who had to face punishment in Soviet Union.
- In China, writers, historians, lawyers, musicians, human right activists that have a view point contrary to that of state, have been jailed.
- Supreme religious leader of Iran had declared death sentence of Salman Rushdie for insulting Prophet Mohammad in his book “Satanic Verses.”L;K
In India, it was believed that democracy with its independent judiciary and free press will be less susceptible to whims and fancies of power drunk ruling political class. We have seen that time and again life and liberties of people who had a contrary view point to ruling dispensation, were trampled upon :
- Emergency was imposed in 1976 by a strong leader;
- A party with three fourth majority in parliament, overturned Supreme Court ruling on payng alimony to Shah Bano a muslim widow, in 1985;
- The same party with three fourth majority in parliament banned “Satanic Verses” in 1988 – this was done not to hurt sentiments of a section of society;
- A cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was imprisoned under sedition law in 2012 by congress lead UPA government;
- From 2014 onwards, there has been a government with brute majority in lower house of parliament. Party workers on ground had tried to force their ideas of nationalism, eating habits, interfaith marriages on common people. Any voice to the contrary has been ridiculed, bullied, and at time shut down with threats of violence.
So far, we have only talked about power of politicians. But independent media has also realised its reach and power. In contemperoray India political parties and politicians own, finance Television channels. With news anchors favorable to political dispensation, media houses can be powerful enough to mould public opinion and topple a government.
In summary, I agree with the thesis that with a with strenght comes arrogance and the belief that strong can get away with murder. Under such a situation, rulers use their sword arm to stifle culture. A balance must be maintained between different pillars in a democracy. If one pillar becomes more powerful imbalance arises.
This post is written in response to Indispire Prompt. More posts in response to the prompt may be found here.