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Posted at: Sep 9, 2017, 12:24 AM; last updated: Sep 9, 2017, 1:06 AM (IST)

Dogs bark at the moon

Ratna Raman
Dogs bark at the moon

Ratna Raman

THE moon is not shamed by the barking of dogs’ is a proverb attributed to the native Americans. Popular wisdom the world over  also subscribes to similar belief.  Many Indian languages demonstrate an acceptance of the fact that dogs will always bark at the moon. This belief is not specific to the dog lover documenting the responses of canine pets.  

The axiom speaks of matters more complex wherein dog and moon  become symbols for two kinds of energies. The positions of dog and moon   also signal the vast distance that separates the two.  The dog that barks at anything new or unfamiliar is the equivalent of the heckler, or the ‘agent provocateur’ (inducing others to lawlessness)  that we often  encounter in the public sphere or the adult world.

 A  class representative, star athlete or public speaker, student leader, teacher, president of a society or a newspaper columnist, any one of these roles ensures that there will be  people voicing disapproval. Many objectors often have an ‘an axe to grind’ (something to complain about) or remain convinced that the person in the limelight is the one with ‘an axe to grind’ (serving a personal end).

Individuals occupying influential positions are often criticised, confronted, or reviled. Discussing such confrontations with a friend or an older family member invariably brought in the allusion to the dogs barking at the moon, providing comfort and reassurance. After all, the flawed and vulnerable moon, waxed and waned to remake itself anew each day. Distant and remote from the dogs that barked at it, the moon guides and inspires from a height as it continues its unruffled journey. 

 The comforting belief allowed a few amongst us to navigate our way through the conventional public sphere wherein safety in numbers and being part of the herd was the accepted mode of progress. Despite being prone to shrivelling under disapproval, this proverb taught us to hold on to our convictions and build upon our strengths while the moon represented aspirational humane values of equality, fairplay, expansive vision and inclusive generosity.

Was this not meant to be? In our world, is it only regular dogs that can bark at the real moon? The metaphorical dogs are now humans whose evil unleashes deathly weapons to splice up the moon of our dreams. These hate-filled dogs are hounds from hell that having tasted blood and are now emboldened to hunt strategically in packs. 

Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare and  Gauri  Lankesh  were well-loved  public icons orbiting like many moons  and dispensing moonrays of rational humane ideas before being ‘eviscerated’ (deprived of vital content) by  the hounds of death. These flesh and blood mortals believed in the freedom of speech and the ability of rational dialogue to influence and transform. 

Over their bloodied and broken bodies, we must hold on to the beliefs and unyielding courage that they espoused. By continuing to remember them as shining constellations, we  can hope to reclaim some sort of moonlight that will shakily but steadily replace this fearful darkness and  the incessant raucous barking that engulfs us today.


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