The importance of language

If you have been following some of my recent Facebook posts about languages and history, you might be wondering what they have to do with The Pyramid of Corruption. Well, the connection is diversity. Those posts were essentially the unconscious assertion of my love for diversity, especially linguistic diversity. It must be protected and allowed to assert itself. India tends to suppress linguistic diversity for not only modern but also historical reasons.

I have dedicated an entire chapter (Ch. 3, Diversity and Corruption) to discussing how the mishandling of diversity can be viewed as corruption – the abuse of public power for private gain. This corruption increases with the diversity distance between the private (the government) and the public (the people), which is a measure of how different the two are.

I also argue that linguistic diversity is the most important type of diversity when it comes to modern nations, especially in multi-lingual nations such as India. Needless to say, we need to handle linguistic diversity without allowing for any language to assume power over others and abuse it for its own gain. Language is extremely important in modern nations. Let me quote from the book a bit to make my point (Ch. 10, Language and Corruption):

Language […] does play a role of central importance in the business of a nation, because it enables the gear-wheels to mesh with each other. Language is that link which enables a most basic feeling of kindred between two individuals: the one that arises when they are able to exchange their thoughts and feelings using the spoken or written word. This feeling of kindred makes a linguistic area ideally free from corruption stemming from the mismanagement of linguistic diversity, for, ideally, there is no linguistic diversity within it which can be mismanaged. Practically, of course, there is always some linguistic diversity even within the most scrupulously created linguistic area, and there will be corruption inasmuch as it is mismanaged. But scrupulously created linguistic areas are by degrees better than arbitrarily created administration zones and language policies which mishandle linguistic diversity—and in politics, one must settle for the best option available.

While language-related corruption acts as friction for the national machine and thereby renders its work difficult, good language management acts as a lubricant which makes its work easier. Language makes the gear wheels of the nation—the people—create meaningful motion in one another. Without it, the machine would either come to a grinding halt or move in wrong directions. This language, however, cannot be any language, but the language that all the people who are part of the machine can use for communication and cooperation. Those gear-wheels that do not speak the language of the machine are automatically rejected as incompatible with the work of the machine; they would not be able to turn other gear-wheels or be turned by them. It is in their self-interest to organize other gear-wheels that speak their language and get another machine going, instead of getting included in existing machines as gear-wheels with inferior meshing capabilities.

The language of a people is an extremely important tool for education and employment of that people, and it is nonsensical to believe that a foreign language can replace it. A foreign language can act as the medium of education and employment for a few, but not for all, and is a perfect recipe for building an Aryan Pyramid with the speakers of the foreign language on the top and everybody else assigned their level of inferiority below the top, right in the land of the people under question. It is only when education is misunderstood to be the transmission of information from foreigners, and employment is misunderstood to be the gift of the means of livelihood by foreigners, that a foreign language seems to be absolutely fine for education and employment.

It is for these practical reasons that language forms the basis on which nations get created in the world. Europe, in particular, provides the most striking example of nations created on the basis of language, and this is because it is in Europe that nations were first properly understood to be systems of politics and commerce run by organized self-interest. It is for the ‘mechanical purpose’ of materialism that nations are founded, and it was in Europe that this fact was first understood. In Europe, language actually works as a meshing agent within each nation and not merely as a nominal agent of demarcation between other nations. And, unlike in post-colonial nations such as India and those of Africa, the nations of Europe do not import foreign languages to mesh a select few gear-wheels and make them run the national machine: they use their own languages.

Hindi as Putonghua

It is often difficult to separate out jealousy and enmity. While Narendra Modi‘s attack on China for its ‘expansionism’ is widely understood not to increase friendship between India and China, that’s not the full story. There is jealousy in it, too.

The Government of India has always secretly craved for Chinese-style control on the diverse peoples of India – and that’s internal ‘expansionism’. Not surprisingly, it forms the foundation of the Indian elite’s Idea of India. How nice it would have been if, for the outer world, the Government of India could openly claim complete racial, linguistic, and ethnic homogeneity within India! How nice it would have been if the Many voices of the Many Indias could be made to disappear and instead, the One voice of One India could assert itself on the global stage! Wouldn’t that be the roar of the Indian Lion no force on earth can stand up to? Narendra Modi is a puppet trying its best to turn this necrophilic dream into reality.

Of course, there is no democracy in China; India scores a big positive on that front. But there is no dearth of Indians who think democracy is India’s bane. And there is no dearth of people who think of democracy as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Why, even the founding fathers of independent India considered democracy as the best means to achieve, among other things, the homogeneity that China has achieved – but nonviolently. Why raise an arm where words suffice? Why use sticks when strategically placed carrots suffice? It is in the means that China differs most from India. The end is the same: homogeneity.

The Chinese have been getting rid of diversity, which always opposes the State’s supreme wisdom, from as early as 221 BC when the Qin dynasty came to power. But India hasn’t done anything comparable before 1947 AD – or, I must say, before the freedom struggle came of age. While the Chinese have effectively destroyed the various languages of China using violent means – books have been burnt, scholars buried alive, a single script imposed on one and all at gunpoint – India hasn’t tried anything of the sort. Instead, we are all set to destroy all Indian languages but Hindi nonviolently. No books will be burnt, no scholars will be buried alive, but they will all voluntarily submit their souls to the Centre, propelled simply by monetary, career, and sexual incentives (the last is the territory of Bollywood). That’s the belief, at least.

Take, for example, the upcoming State-sponsored celebration of Hindi beginning next week. That’s like a festival to celebrate the imposition of Beijunghua (the language of Beijing) on the diverse Chinese and calling it Putonghua (common language). Only, the Chinese never had to resort to such cheap tricks: they caught hold of all other languages and sent them to the guillotine after turning the lights off centuries ago, and nobody came to know.

Chinese writers who are allowed pen and paper by the Party, such as Zhang Weiwei, now claim that China is a ‘civilizational state’ – implying an organic homogeneity in one sixth of the world’s population. But in reality, China is a ‘state civilization’ – a whole mass of humanity forcefully subjected to an arbitrary state’s mindless craving for uniformity. The Indian elite working in tandem with the Government of India, jealous that our kings didn’t achieve this in the quietude of history, are now trying their best to achieve it today. Needless to say, they will fail, and the failure will be demonstrated, to an extent, in the next couple of weeks.

First Published: IBNLIVE, 12-09-2014