Saturday, May 18, 2019

UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: Why blame the divider in chief?

Grrrrr.... ******* beep *** beeeep!
Pic courtesy: Chandramouli Vidyasaghar


India is voting and until this interminable exercise in democracy is concluded on May 23rd, we have no choice but to hunker down and shield ourselves as best as possible from the hate filled rhetoric and vitriol swapping that are but only two symptoms of extreme election fever. Civil debate and discussion in political or social discourse was pummelled to death many moons ago thanks to television hosts who have long encouraged hyper contentious, rancour – filled exchanges to boost TRPs and ensured that outrage inducing talking points would trend across social media. But even so, few anticipated the resultant plunge into the vile cesspool of partisan politics, where only the bullies, provocateurs, trolls and extremists thrive having browbeaten and shouted down all suggestions to play nice.

Having chosen conflict and controversy as the only viable strategy, practically everybody seems to insist that you pick a side – Namo or Raga, and are dangerously close to issuing an ultimatum like the Sheriff of Nottingham, ‘Join us… or die!’. If like me, you tend to sit on the fence and spout gyan about being forced to choose between a rock and a really hard place, you are taught what it is like to come between a Nazgul and its prey. This kind of extremism seems to convince people that they are heroes fighting for a worthy cause, against those who have gone over to the dark side, even though it is the exact same logic embraced by terrorists and leads to irrational, unnecessary statements like ‘All Modi supporters are bhakts!’ and ‘All Rahul Gandhi supporters are anti – nationals!’. Lines have been drawn and if one is perceived to have crossed it, then one can expect to be mercilessly abused and shamed for not being on ‘the right side.’ Arguments on the subject even among family and friends let alone social media followers become so heated that most are ready to exchange blows and bad words over it. It is very par for the course to see former Facebook friends (whatever that may be worth) unfriend each other over a difference of opinion but not before a spectacular online shouting match over who they did or did not vote for. Why has it become so impossible for us to see that a differing opinion is just that and need not necessarily be immoral or steeped in evil?

Those still possessed with a rational mind would note that neither Namo or Raga is likely to prove a blessed saviour who will rid this land of the many evils plaguing it and usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity, though both talk a big game.  Once the results are announced, whichever way it goes, India and its citizens will need to acknowledge that it is we ourselves and not the divider in chief who are responsible for the division among us given our own stubborn commitment towards upholding the caste, class, and religious differences that have torn us apart and been successfully exploited by those we periodically vote to power.  It is time to accept that the onus is on us to bury our differences and work together towards a more promising if not perfect future. We can start by at least trying to keep things friendly and respectful even if we can't see eye to eye for nuts. Or to paraphrase John Boehner  we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable or utterly despicable.


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