Will we ever learn to listen and respond?

May 7, 2021

Rohit Dhankar

The fundamental rights related to expression, association and attempting to shape the society according to one’s ideals are not earned, they are granted just by virtue of being born human. They cannot be alienated. Therefore, democracy has to function on listening to all concerns and all thoughts and responding to them with rational arguments keeping fraternal feelings in heart. No matter how obnoxious in your personal opinion the others’ views are.  

Yes, there is selfishness, bigotry, stupidity and even evil in human heart. But if we want to include all humanity in our dreams of peace, justice, freedom and prosperity; we have to deal with all these things with humility and open mindedness. We have to remain open for dialogue; to listen with benevolence in heart and openness of reason in mind. Even to that which we consider evil. Genuine rational dialogue is the only way if, repeat, we want to include all humanity. If we shut our hearts and minds to those we consider bad, fools, bigoted or even evil, we have become too conceited to think of ourselves as custodians of the only truth and guardians of human morality.

Inclusion means taking everyone’s concerns, aspirations and dreams on board and creating something like the Rig Veda aspires for.

समानी व आकूतिः समाना हृदयानि वः । समानमस्तु वो मनो यथा वः सुसहासति ॥ (Rig Veda, 10:191:4)

“Common is your purpose; common your hearts; let your thought be common, so that it will go well for you together.” (Translated by Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton in The Rigveda: The Earliest Religious Poetry of India. OUP, 2014)

No, our dreams and aspirations are not common. They differ. One sees others dreams and aspirations as unjust and may be bad for humanity. And no, they are not all equally good for the flourishing of humanity. But we have to learn to listen to all of them, consider all of them this concern of well-being of all. And then strive with our reason and love to create common purpose, common heart and common thought, so that it goes well for us all together.

Presently our analysis is marred by categories of ‘my religion’ and ‘other religion’, upper caste and lover caste, leftist and rightist, government supporter and government opponents, and so on. In our arrogance we take these categories as rigid and iron clad; defining property of humans; ourselves and well as of others. This stops us from listening, paying attentions to others concerns and fears, their aspirations and dreams. We simply shun them, call them names and reject them in their totality. Simultaneously, we declare ourselves (on both sides) champions of humanity; and don’t even notice that by demonizing the other, considering the other unredeemable evil, we are rejecting the humanity of the other. And by rejecting humanity in the other we fall from our humanity, unnoticed by ourselves.

People don’t change by shunning, by rejecting, by coercion, fear and force. The only way is to listen and pay head. And remember that we may be as evil on the others’ eyes as s/he is in ours. We have to allow the other to stand on the same ground and use the yardstick of benevolence for all, reason, equality and freedom. In a serious and genuine dialogue, we may discover that the other has a heart that beats the same as ours and s/he was as mistaken about our intentions as we are of his/her.

Complete rejection of the other dehumanizes him/her, once the dehumanization of the opponent is normalized, the only option remains is complete subjugation of the other. Whichever side be successful in this evil project, democracy is lost, and humanity is insulted. We have no way but to learn to listen and respond with reason and love.


7th May 2021