Monthly Archives: March 2018

Sudan Rhino Tinder

The Art of Guilting People into your Ideology

Last week, Sudan the last Northern White Rhino died in Kenya, signaling the end of a species.

His death raked up a social media storm, and animal lovers shared his pictures countless times across platforms. While the incident itself was tragic, it ruffled a few imaginary feathers in me.

Firstly, who is an ‘animal lover’? I like dogs and cats, and will stop my commute if an animal is in danger – does that qualify me as an animal lover? And even assuming I’m counted as an animal lover, what REALLY is my contribution to the cause – except for a personal gratification of feeding a needy stray puppy?

But more than the death of the animal, it was the tone of the social media posts that irked me. They all had this condescending tone to them – ‘Hey, while you were surfing through your feed, the last Northern White Rhino just died. Thanks a lot!’.

I find this preachy tone extremely toxic. And that is the reason why I do not jump on to social media campaigns. Most such campaigns exploit people’s anger against an imagined enemy – a nameless, immoral person who is responsible for all the problems in the world. The knack of burning the imagined enemy has been in vogue in the last decade.

Take for example the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign in 2011. I was never for the movement because I found it vague and dangerous. However, the campaign worked because the imagined enemy was a corrupt politician – a vague image of Danny Denzongpa in a Sunny Deol movie of the 90s.

Or take the run up to the 2014 elections. Media organisations started throwing out terms for Narendra Modi. Dangerous terms like ‘mass murderer’ and ‘Killer of Muslims’ were used by columnists and our nation’s intellectuals. Every single follower of Modi was called a ‘Bhakt’ – a highly insulting and generalising term that chastises someone for having basic expectations from politics. And how that backfired!

Modi swept to power, and his fans went on to give their own names to mainstream media – Presstitutes. Today, nobody on either side of the political spectrum trusts the other, and even a Facebook discussion on politics takes a few minutes to descend into anarchy.

The framing of an ‘imagined enemy’ is both dangerous and lazy. It is lazy because it gives journalists and social media influencers a low-hanging target. In the same way that Arundhati Roy paints the ‘establishment’ with broad, blood-red brush-strokes to draw attention to the problems of tribals, it is such lazy journalism that gives rise to hatred and mistrust. It is dangerous because there will always be a backlash. By pinning a villain to every problem, you are turning people away  from an otherwise noble cause.

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During my University days, I used to closely follow a political organisation that claimed to run on the lines of Ambedkar’s ideology. I attended a few meetings, and wanted to get to know the organisation better. I had just read Mr. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, and my head was ringing with the ideas the great man had propagated.

And yet, I was highly uncomfortable in the meetings. The rhetoric was filled with hatred and abuse, the enemy was this imagined Brahmin who was vehemently torturing lower castes physically, mentally and emotionally. And when I came out of the University, I found that most urban, general caste people have the same hackneyed opinion about reservations and the caste problem.

Or take my favourite pet peeve – vegetarians. Vegetarians walk about with an invisible halo, like they’re blessed children of god who have unlocked the truth. And everybody else is a moron who is yet to see the ultimate truth. As a pure vegetarian who saw through the hollowness of vegetarian argument and now eats all animals and birds – I fucking can’t stand it. The funny thing is, most Indian vegetarians will peddle PETA videos shot in the US to prove their point. The even funnier bit is that most of these guys are vegetarians not because they truly understood the issue – but because their family is vegetarian. That’s like trying to create a mathematical equation to explain the superiority of your family name – to win a fucking argument on Facebook!

 

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Social messages cannot be divisive. If you wish to bring about change, you need to be inclusive. By antagonising and chastising random people, nothing really is achieved. You have the same number of people who disagree with you, with a few more who hate you for being an insufferable prick

Targeting an ‘imaginary enemy’ alienates people, and gives rise to the classic Indian question – What did YOU do for the cause? It is lazy activism and makes your come across as a weirdo with a 11 inch rigid unicorn-hair wand stuck up your ass.

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I am sorry Sudan died, but I don’t know how else to say this – YOU DIDN’T DO SHIT!!

Your contribution to the cause was a grand total of NOTHING. You live in the same time as the other people you chastise, burn the same fuels, and consume as much toxic plastic and waste that your imaginary enemy does.

It’s sad that Sudan died, but making me feel guilty for it isn’t going to bring him back to life. So shut the fuck up!

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Of Hockey bats, tyres and torches

In spite of following politics keenly, I am usually ambivalent towards the Supreme Court.

For one, I do not understand the legal world too much. The closest I have come to legal matters is by dating a lawyer, and the only cool thing that came off that was juicy gossip about some venerable legal personalities in the country.

Then there is also the question of understanding. Can I, a Commerce graduate who studied journalism, and now tells jokes on stage for a living – fully understand and imbibe the workings of the highest court of the country? Can a B.Com (Hons.) comment on the Honourable Supreme Court?

I think of it this way. Inside my head, there’s a cynical monkey waiting to go ‘Bola tha; sab chutiyaap hai’ at the drop of a hat. Whenever there’s news of a hero of mine accused of a heinous act, or if the tiffin guy gives me less chutney to go with two idlis and a vada – the monkey gets into action.

This cynical monkey is waiting to go ‘Bola tha’ when I read about Supreme Court mishaps. But deep within, the existential question of ‘Are you smart enough to even understand what’s going on’ – a feeling that last arose while watching Humraaz – crops up at the same time.

But given my limited understanding of legal matters, the Supreme Court’s recent observation warmed by cold, cynical heart. While hearing a case against a Gorkha Janmukti Sangha leader for violence in the region, a bench of Supreme Court judges announced that destroying public property and indulging in violence is not a basic right, no matter how genuine the reason might be.

Read – Violent protests not a basic right: Supreme Court (The Hindu).

This is a phenomenon that we have taken for granted in India. The habit of political parties taking to the streets and burning vehicles, destroying property, and pelting stones. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, political parties employ jobless youth in arson and loot – and we stay indoors and watch the news on television.

Nobody raises a word, nobody lodges a complaint. Sometimes, the threat of violence is used as a bargaining ploy. On other times, parties announce their presence by burning and breaking. This is a habit that unites all political parties in the wide spectrum of ideologies in this country – this is the common thread – the knowledge that havoc can be wrecked. On the contrary, when a teenager complained on Facebook about the mess due to the death of a political leader, an FIR was filed against her.

I wonder what gives us the absolute confidence to take to the roads. Perhaps it is the nature of our festivals – Holi and Diwali. Celebrated by everybody, out on the roads. And I don’t just mean Hindu festivals either. Muslim festivals are equally outdoorsy – whether it is Muharram processions or Christian carnivals. Our festivals are also celebrated along with other mobs.

A decade ago, one would hear of violence from the norther parts of India. North India, that discordant where the prettiest locations give birth to the ghastliest incidents. But of late, there are reports of vandalism and violence even in the North-east, arguably the most well-behaved part of the country. As if that wasn’t enough, this has become a common sight in south India too.

And what protests they have been! Who can forget that shady guru who had AK-47 wielding devotees protecting their guru. Or those bunch of morons who burnt cars to defend their godman – Ram Rahim Rapist. Or the demands for reservations, or for a separate state – the latter always baffles me. It’s like saying ‘Hey, give us our own state, or we’ll fuck up the one that we already have with us’. And what happens if you get the state, but you’ve broken all the infrastructure? Well, who gives a fuck?

Ironically, the most famous man from our country was famous for a non-violent protest. Like the Kamasutra, non-violent protest is another branch of knowledge that we rarely resort to in everyday life.

Another possible reason for the increase of public violence is the media spotlight that these incidents gain. Bajrang Dal wakes to life when Valentines’ Day is around the corner. Karni Sena has made a name for itself by protesting against Padmavat – inadvertently looking like a bunch of nincompoop morons due to the excessive praise and bravado dialogues in the movie. With 24-hour coverage, the violence has gotten louder, more destructive. And no political party will take real action because grassroot workers of every political party are involved in these incidents. From Congress to BJP to TMC – every political party in India has a history of public violence.

However, if we needed an example, we need to look no further than the farmer protests that happened last week in Maharashtra. These were not urban, English-educated folks; and yet, the dignity with which they handled themselves makes one question the purpose of literacy in our lives.

When the first strains of news about the protests began flowing in, the response from urban Indians was sickening. Log into any news site, and you saw youngsters putting up moronic statements like ‘These guys just want freebies. They are a waste of taxpayer money’.

I’m sick of hearing urban Indians complain about ‘taxpayer money’. What is the fuss about taxpayer money? The term is thrown around every time reservations, or subsidies are mentioned. Should urban India only enjoy the benefits of taxation? And you’re not doing anybody a favour by paying your taxes – it’s your fucking duty!

The farmers’ protest was exemplary when compared to the usual rowdy Indian standards. There was no violence, arson or looting. They came in huge numbers and arrived in the city early in the morning so as to avoid disrupting life of the average Mumbaikar. They put forth their issues, got an assurance from the Chief Minister, and silently went back to their lives.

For all the talk of ‘taxpayers’ money’, those farmers showed us that literacy and wisdom are two diverse concepts. That we might be a developing country, but we are far from being a civil state.

 

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