A constitution is a set of rules and laws that define the governance of a state. This compilation of the dos and don’ts set a framework for the nation to function, giving the actors of the state a skeleton to abide by; also setting limiting their powers. A Constitution is a very ideological set of rules and regulations that may or may not apply to every citizen and is also very idealistic in nature.
I completely support the motion stating that having a Constitution limits the chances of having any form of politics or even letting the state’s actors acknowledge its possibility. The very idea of having a constitution is to set a fence, forcing its citizens to stay confined within its jurisdiction to conduct themselves and their nation. This fence has high boundary walls which are not penetrable, even by political encounters.
My opinion stands very close to that of Isaiah Berlin’s wherein he states that a state of Utopia translates into speechlessness. When we refer to a constitution, we only come across a popular opinion that it gives the citizens strength and protection; the concept of a Constitution has almost become preachy and somewhat holy. Having a constitution in place is like having a kaleidoscope. The possibilities are beautiful and appealing, vibrant and pleasing, but, also limited. The bound structure of the constitution, or, in this example, of the kaleidoscope, restrict the beads to go beyond its measures and mingle in other shapes and colors; just like the citizens.
I recently watched ‘Leila’, a TV show that portrays a complete sense of Dystopia in a very Indianised context. Taking a scoop from Fictional Realism, the show looks at a society that has stringent laws that micromanage every stratum of the society, from the most elite people to the underprivileged ones. If we try and link this situation to our motion, then it can be said that the ‘Aryavrata rule’ is a Constitution and the Dystopian society is the result of it. In this sense, the TV show can be called an extreme outcome of the restrictive nature of a Constitution. In the show, it is portrayed that the people of Aryavrata have lost all sense of individuality to the nation and its leader, refraining them to think anymore; similarly, a constitution also stops the powers of a citizen to think of anything apart from the possibilities of given out by the Constitution.
A constitution not only restricts the possibilities of having a different perspective than that of the majority but also demeans it, which somehow, is worse. When the framework of a nation is prescribed by a constitution, a certain number of rights and wrongs are pre-decided. It is assumed that the entirety of the population will abide by and agree to the constitution-makers’ opinions to govern themselves, an opinion given a long time ago before that individual was perhaps even born.
The perfect example of this is the amendments. If the process of bringing about an amendment in the Constitution of the state is initiated, then it simply implies that that the assumptions, with which the constitution was devised, were applicable in the past and not in the present. The applicability of the rule that is being amended is not relevant anymore. Also, the fact that a nation’s worth of possibilities can never be predefined or predicted by a set of norms put together by a set of people over a small period of time. The viewpoint supporting the notion that the constitution limits political encounter is not new.
A perfect example to support this view would be the Antifederalists of the United States of America. During the constitution building in the late 18th century, a movement erupted in the States by a conglomeration of small farmers and small landowners. This group had a diverse coalition of people who strongly opposed the ratification of the Constitution; but, their diversity did not hinder their objectives. The essence that drove and characterized the Antifederalist movement was that they shared a core view of American politics and preserving this political discourse.
As the motion suggests, this group believed that the greatest threat to the future of the United States lay in the Constitutionalising of the American governance lay in the government’s potential to become corrupt and seize more power. The agenda with which these antifederalists led their movement was to preserve the politics that would take place in the nation from the restrictions that the ratification of the constitution would lead to, or, rather, has led to. The most powerful objection raised by these Antifederalists was also the lack of protection of individual liberties in the very Constitution that claimed to represent the entire American population. Considering the political discourse that is given up at the cost of constitutionality, it can be concluded that the very sense of having a democratic country where every opinion needs to be heard and debated; the purpose of having a constitution is debatable.
The constitution is based on some framework that assumes the notions that govern the people and the fact that they will agree to these assumptions. The pre-established norms and the institutions they birth define the boundaries of the political encounters in a state, and there are numerous examples to back this. The only answer to this terrifying possibility of being restricted by the constitution can be an ever-evolving and dynamic constitution.
On in an idealistic and utopian world can people sustain without boundaries; but in actuality, some boundaries are required. If an ever-evolving and easily amendable constitution can be fabricated then maybe it can cater to every individual without restrictions. But that too is very idealistic. Perhaps a balance can never be struck and perhaps restrictions can not be there for a species as complex as human beings.
Written by: Manasvi Nag