This zany little world of ours is a tweet happy one today. The constant surge of social media has meant, to put it bluntly, throwing the gauntlet to the social and political mavericks to voice their opinions at the rate of knots. Opinionating in the world of today is slightly tricky. One moment of seething anger, a lapse of the ever elusive common sense and you could have to do some serious back tracking.
Words can hurt. A clumsy word, a lethargic remark, an artless sentence or an insensitive phrase can destroy reputations, sometimes careers. Sometimes a bit of shrewd, yet subtle usage of the right words on the right occasion might just save the day. Charismatic senator Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the US Senate learnt it the hard way .He was singed last year by hot republican winds when a just-published book quoted him as saying things he shouldn’t have. He was probably articulating what the greater section of the American society had been discussing in muted tones for fear of blasphemy. While assessing candidate Barack Obama’s prospects of acceptance among voters as a contender for the White House, Reid said approvingly that Obama was a “light skinned” African-American who used “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”.
Admittedly, Reid’s remark pales in candor when compared to the abominable frankness of a former prime minister of India calling his Karnataka political rival words which are unfit for publication. In India cynical slander ‘enriched’ with baseless cribbing has become almost a norm. Unfortunately the acrimonious malaise is just not confined to the ministers; a good part of the common society also indulges in washing dirty linen in public. As it does everywhere in the world, we could accept. In Indian society, we tend to believe in the paragon of tolerant virtue. The mutual hatred of millions of Hindus and Muslims towards one another is only one such phenomenon. And we in India were all too happy to witness two tweet happy protagonists Tharoor and Modi embark on one of those rather frequent and disillusioning media cock fights, just accentuating the rather dark colors of social networking sites. And not to forget the sycophancy and hypocrisy of the consumerist middle class. While face creams to make you paler than you are sell faster than hot muffins, parents advertise for ‘fair’ brides for their not necessarily fair sons (pun intended).
Some of us believe in practicing eloquence in our conversations, like Harry Reid uses, words and phrases in private, and sometimes in the open, which are not, for want of a better term, politically correct. Indeed, that term ‘politically correct’ is often used incorrectly in India. Many take it to mean an attitude of phoniness. It’s particularly surprising when liberals and progressives use it in that sense. Being politically incorrect doesn’t mean being bold, unless you are a conservative out to make a provocative point; it usually means being insensitive and impolite. As for students, some of them might have paid the price for having been politically incorrect, be it a jovial leg-pulling session with a friend which instantly changes into a diabolic slugfest of words or the brash brainstorming question to the physics teacher in the ‘doubt clearing’ hour.
Well, a sumptuous summer awaits us, where we snuggle into the tranquil pallor of our rooms and experience home once again. The unadulterated vision of spending cherishing moments with family and friends is overwhelmingly heart warming. I guess home is one of the places where we ought to speak and act ‘dillogically’ .But being politically correct on the odd occasion does help. Just ask Harry Reid.
The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student of BITS Pilani, Goa Campus.