2020: Mostly a year of evils

The question is: as we have turned the page on 2020, can we do a similar, moral turnaround within ourselves?

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The Oxford English Dictionary has the following entries under ‘evil’: 1. morally bad; wicked 2. Harmful, or tending to harm, especially intentionally or characteristically.

In the Hindu worldview, the creation is a constant interplay of two forces which are trying to outdo each other. The force of Dharma or righteousness which tries to uphold and sustain the integrity of the world and thus is constructive and meant for the good of one and all. It is opposed by the force of Adharma or unrighteousness which is destructive and is directed at causing harm all around.

2020 – A year of evils. Photo cdc.cnn.com

Are also recognized four eras or yugas: Satyuga, Dwaparyuga, Tretayuga, Kaliyuga. It is said that in Satyuga Dharma prevails in all countries; in Dwaparyuga Dharma and Adharma are present but are in separate countries; in Tretayuga they are present in the same country but in different regions; in Kaliyuga they are both present in the same person.

We are currently considered to be in the Kaliyuga era.

Though not quite the same, we may for the present purposes translate Dharma and Adharma as good and evil.

There is no gainsaying that the Covid-19 pandemic is the traumatizing event that has dominated in 2020. History will definitely remember it as the year of the Covid. However, coronavirus and its impacts, although they have caused us much harm, cannot be called dharmic or adharmic, good or evil, for one cannot ascribe any intentionality. Rather, they are morally neutral.

Not so the tumultuous events which have rocked the world, because they are a direct consequence of the prevalence of evil over good in the minds of men. Because what happens in the US is most widely reported  the world over, the defiance of outgoing President Trump who to this day refuses to accept the results of the US elections – namely that he lost – aptly exemplify this phenomenon.

But it has also been seen in a number of other countries where violence gripped the streets to protest against elections that were considered to be rigged, or where constitutions were tweaked to self-allow certain rulers to remain in power. Pure Adharma, evil. 

And it is not as if our country has been spared. The examples are numerous, but perhaps the ones that will remain etched in our collective memory are the as yet unresolved controversies and contradictions relating to procurements of medical supplies for the pandemic, and the drug-related deaths of which the most tragic was that of WPC Dimple Raghoo.

Saying that we are currently in Kaliyuga is an observational statement of fact. It does not mean there is an inevitability, that we cannot change the situation for the better, that is, make good rather than evil prevail. For that, the starting point is that the human being must himself/herself be good, and have no intention or tendency to harm. If such a tendency exists, using one’s faculties of reasoning and discrimination – more so when one has had the privilege of being educated – it is certainly possible to recognize it, and then to correct and eventually to overcome it. This requires following a certain disciplined way of life whereby one would imbibe the sound human values which in turn would guide us towards doing good rather than harm.

Our sages have explained that this is possible, and have shown the way. Because we have preferred to look away from them, we have fallen into bad ways and caused immense harm to other fellow human beings, death, the destruction of our society.

The question is: as we have turned the page on 2020, can we do a similar, moral turnaround within ourselves? Can we seek counsel from those who mean only the good of all, our sages? It is an individual decision for those who have spent the year scheming, perpetrating harm. And Dharma is not something that one merely talks about from the pulpit or the soap box, pretending to know what it means and implies. It is to be understood, put into practice. No one can deny that this is the greatest need of 2021 – everywhere, and very urgently so here in our country.

Despite the questions that continue to be asked about the various anti-Covid vaccines and the difficulties being faced in their rollouts, at least we can take comfort in the fact that there are thousands of good human beings, healthcare and associated personnel who have toiled and continue to devote themselves for the sake of Covid sufferers. And also the equally numerous scientists around the world who have worked jointly to study and characterize the virus and its health impacts, devise more effective treatments and continually update prevention strategies which benefit us all.

As against this – for this is Kailyuga, remember? – are those who are playing ‘vaccine politics’. Political observers in India have expressed their dismay at the use of this tactic in a bid to win votes by Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee. While campaigning, she is promising free vaccines to all. As an analyst has argued with facts and figures, West Bengal does not have the money to do so. However, more relevant is that the vaccine project is a central government one, and importantly its financing, and not a State subject. Technically, therefore, the CM has no say in the matter at that level; it is only as regards the distribution and administration of the vaccine that the State has responsibility, which of course makes sense. Elsewhere there are other kinds of vaccine politics being played, but it’s dirty vaccine politics none the less.

 To come back to America, we learn that the Congress is planning to initiate impeachment procedures against President Trump. Even though this may not happen before he leaves office on the 20th January, apparently the Constitution provides that even after he has left office proceedings may go on.

As the New York Times notes: ‘The Constitution allows Congress to remove presidents, or other officers of the executive branch, before their terms are through if lawmakers believe they have committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.’

But what is of still greater interest is the fact that ‘the Senate has the power both to remove Trump from office and to prevent him from holding any future office’. (italics added)

If there is one lesson that the Trump-inspired attack on the Capitol in Washington may yet teach us, it is to prevent him from holding any future office which appears as a significant one and that testifies to the resilience of US democracy. It is about time that we have a similar provision and powers in our own Constitution.   

Why, though, limit it to the President only? It should apply to others who hold the public office of representing the people.

Something to seriously think about as 2021 unfolds.

* Published in print edition on 12 January 2021

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