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.
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!
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.
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!