When the taxi driver greeted me with a ‘hapi independens day, mam!’ I had a brief moment of ‘it’s what today?’
When i recovered my wits, I was mortified.
This, i think, is the reason why the independence day holiday should never be moved to the nearest monday or whatever. With all the things you need to do just to survive, the higher things – like remembering to commemorate Independence – tend to get snowed under. If today were a holiday, Independence day would have been the first thing on my mind. Instead, all I could think about was making my ten o’clock meeting.
To a large extent, forgetting was a personal failure. But still, I was pissed to find out that I wasn’t alone in my lapse. After being reminded by that taxi driver, I made it a point to put on a bright smile and greet everyone a happy independence day. Most of the people I greeted returned the same blank stare that I’m sure I gave the taxi-guy. And like me, those blank stares were quickly replaced with memory and a mumbled, ‘I forgot.’
But that’s not the worst of it.
There were some people who just looked at me with a kind of sneer and said, ‘so what?’ They knew it was independence day, but they didn’t care.
This is the kind of trivialization of important observances – independence day included – that ‘holiday economics’ promotes. It kills our sense of history, numbing us to the sacrifices of our forebears and thereby robbing us of the ability to see ourselves as being part of the tapestry of history – if nothing else, then as inheritors of people who fought and died for the freedoms we now take for granted. It’s shameful, I tell you.
By reducing independence day to the status of just-another-excuse-to-skip-work we are slowly but surely inducing a national amnesia of our forefathers’ sacrifices, and we make ourselves more and more incapable of asking what we can do for our country and our people. Instead, we find it ever easier to ask only what our country and our people should do for us.
Without reminders of our place in history, we tend to focus only on what we need to do to ensure individual survival, reducing the national psyche to subsistence levels, and inculcating in us a pathologically mendicant mentality. Ultimately, this will result in psychic stagnation – the state of being so fixated with the here and now, with what our entitlements are, and with the utter sense of despair that we never get everything we have convinced ourselves we unconditionally deserve that we can no longer imagine – much less work for – a grand future.
I’m sorry I forgot it was independence day. I will not forget again.