Socrates was born in Athens but he considered himself “a citizen of the cosmos.” H.G.Wells believed borders eventually disappear, and geopolitical gurus have proclaimed the “end of geography.” The protagonists of globalization celebrate the advent of borderless world. “The future has a new home,” the website declares of a megacity being built in Saudi Arabia wirtes Ash Narain Roy
The coronavirus pandemic has shattered all such dreams and utopias by exposing our collective vulnerabilities. After all, the future has a way of arriving unannounced, and we’re too shocked to welcome it. Whenever the dream city does come up, this new home, brainchild of Prince Salman as-Saud, it will not be the future of humanity. We are nursing now a fear of the future, but we have a different future in mind: the future of the past.
The never ending caravans of migrants marching along well-laid tracks and highways carrying children and their belongings become the next defining moment in India’s development path. The humiliation of the poor and of innocents, the disdain for the marginalized, the utter callousness towards their plight manifest how little India has moved up the ladder of social inclusion, and how the othering of people —making them something other than ourselves— has only expanded the India/Bharat divide.
His own body was a site of resistance for Gandhi. Migrants’ bodies too are sites of resistance. They carry not just their belongings but their world on their bodies. They know there isn’t plenty to eat back home either but they know there will be no humiliation there and they will not be viewed with scorn.
The pandemic reminds us how, in Frank Furedi’s words, “Belonging to a community is the most precious asset that human beings possess.” With migrants trying desperately to leave, where are the leaders they elected to represent them?