With the results of the Bihar elections looming before them, a totally unreliable source told me our leaders got together recently and this is allegedly the transcript of the purported conversation:
Nitish: Isn’t it ironic the word ‘politics’ comes from the Greek word polis, or city-state, while here we are doing politics in rural Bihar?
Lalu Prasad: The exclusion of women from public life in Athens led to fantasies of female-dominated politics, for example in Aristophanes’ comedy ‘Lysistrata’.
Pappu Yadav: I love Aristophanes’ iambic dialogues.
Modi: The sex-strike by the women in Lysistrata was one of the earliest examples of biopolitics, in post-modern philosopher Michel Foucault’s terms.
Jitan Manjhi: These samosas are awesome. Wasn’t it Feuerbach who said, ‘Man is what he eats’?
Rahul Gandhi: Yes, Marx wrote his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ on him. It contains the line ‘philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it’. That’s what we all do, right?
Nitish: Do you think we politicians have a Nietzschean will to power?
Pappu: Nietzsche also said, ‘In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule’.
Paswan: Good one. Rousseau too warned us. Everybody quotes his ‘man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains’. But look at his next line—‘Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they’.
Manjhi: Kautilya’s view of politics was rather instrumental, like Machiavelli’s.
Modi: Post-modern politics is different. Guy Debord, in his Society of the Spectacle, pointed to our media-soaked times and the reduction of everything to spectacle. Consider our choreographed rallies.
Nitish: Walter Benjamin said of the fascist political rallies that the camera gobbled up the passive masses as raw material for an awe-inspiring spectacle.
Rahul: Tyranny can also be of the majority, as Lord Acton believed.
Manjhi: Every government tries to impose its ideology. Didn’t someone say Gramsci’s philosophy of cultural hegemony was a ‘Long March through the Institutions’? What do you think of Habermas’ notion of a post-secular society?
Modi: I quote Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus — ‘what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence’.
Nitish: Spinoza said the world would be happier if men had the same capacity to be silent that they have to speak.
Rahul: Did you know Schopenhauer said Spinoza was a pantheist, like our Advaita school and his system was akin to Vedanta?
Paswan: Wonderful. Any insights about criminalisation of politics?
Pappu: I can only quote Brecht: ‘What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?’
Modi: Haha. In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo. I wonder who’ll win the elections.
Manjhi: Don’t worry. As Joseph de Maistre said, ‘Every nation gets the government it deserves.’
Lalu: The horror. The horror.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed are personal