Saturday, September 02, 2023



A quick scan of trending news feels like deja - vu. Those of us not over the moon with joy with the successful landing of Chandrayaan – 3 and taken off to the weird new world of Elon Musk’s mysterious X to celebrate the heroics of chess prodigy, Praggnanandhaa as well as Neeraj Chopra’s gold at the World Athletics Championships are busy lamenting the state of a country where a teacher egged on her students to beat up one of their own while harping on unforgivably about his Muslim identity.

In fair Madhya Pradesh, a Dalit woman was stripped, and her son killed by a mob, hellbent on pressuring her daughter to withdraw a sexual assault case she had filled. Those who had tuned out the news preferring to binge watch season 2 of the hit Amazon Prime series – Made In Heaven could not help notice the very public feud provoked by a controversial episode featuring a Dalit wedding where the protagonist played by a fiery Radhika Apte asserts her rights to have a ceremony that reflects her roots. The kerfuffle was between the Dalit director of the episode – Neeraj Ghaywan, Dalit author Yashica Dutt, who argued that her life and works had been appropriated without recognition or renumeration and Dalit legal scholar, Sumit Baudh who claimed in a tweet that Dutt herself had not given him credit for an idea she had appropriated from his article.

In all these instances, one can see the familiar pattern of charged encounters along the divides of national pride, caste identity, political affiliations and religious sentiment which has led to escalating conflict in a divided society where nobody gives an inch, and everybody spews out volcanic rage. Worse, there seems to be no resolution in sight but that doesn’t seem to deter anyone because these public altercations ensures that the people involved get some much-desired visibility and an army of like – minded followers, which appears to be a somewhat self – defeating and morally dubious end goal which nevertheless has the potential to be leveraged for big bucks.

The mainstream news media has long been playing its part in generating chaos and pandering to a simplistic, tidy narrative where in the interests of coherence and brevity, complexity and compassion has been severely compromised, creating a warped reality where one side is purely good and the other is entirely evil. We seem to have deliberately forgotten that all human beings are complex, contradictory creatures with varying views and moral ambiguities. This Us versus Them mentality has sucked the oxygen out of every heated discourse leaving us gasping for air, in a perpetual state of agitation with its ugly sister, aggression for company and our brains deprived of good sense.

In this era of slavish devotion to a politically correct narrative formulated by self – serving activists more committed to looking good rather than doing good, it is not surprising that we all have leaned into an innate confirmation bias where we increasingly choose to believe news and Whatsapp forwards that confirm our personal beliefs while dismissing all evidence to the contrary. Many no longer trust formerly respected news outlets because they are tired of being afraid and have had it up to the gills with the endless cycle of rage, rebuke, and recriminations that leads nowhere and does little to empower the downtrodden while bringing about the betterment of society at large.

If we wish to excavate deeper, life affirming truths instead of grappling in the dirt at a very superficial level, where core issues are concerned, it is necessary to make room for complexity and nuance with the view to listen and understand the motivations of those whose views are not necessarily aligned to our own. It won’t change the world, but we can hope that this might lead to a future where we are all polite to each other, choose to be nice rather than nasty and make room for real conversations on dicey subjects where everybody feels listened to and understood rather than condemned and scorned. 

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