Why Do Indians Feel This “Dire Need To Always Be Right”?

Posted on February 26, 2016

By Vimlendu Jha:

A demonstrator waves Indian national flag as she takes part in a protest demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union leader accused of sedition, in New Delhi, India, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX27J7O
Image source: REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Indeed, defining India or an Indian, now or always is difficult, let alone ‘true’ Indian or ‘not a faithful’ Indian. We have our shades of realities and pretensions, our struggles and victories, and most of all we have our ‘individual’ identities that mostly takes precedence over the idea of ‘collective’ identity, collective nation. What we state about ideologues on or of ‘India’ also stands true for most nations. Globalisation has furthered this sense of insecurity amongst the underprivileged to be able to negotiate access to the starched structures of societies, keeping guard of how much ground one needs to lose to attain the bare minimum threshold of perceived relevance. Indeed, the privileged have less to worry about these matters of ‘petty’, conservative so-called regression. And one feeling that binds us all, or if not, holds common between these two worlds is ‘pride’. Yes, the manifestation of ‘individual’ pride and ‘collective’ pride (which may or may not hold direct correlation with each other) takes one on two different paths, as destinations are often different.

We Indians are pretty smart people! We derive our sense of pleasure and pride from a whole range of things from our glorious past, rhetoric of our present and the romance of the future. The recent unfolding of events only establishes our love for hyperbolism at one end and varied idea of nationalism on the other. Although it will be of relevance to explore what stops us from conceding to a contrary point of view. What is the DNA of the ‘super –ego’ or our ‘individual pride’? Can an ‘argumentative’ Indian also be an ‘apologetic’ Indian? Why are we an ‘unapologetic’ nation, and why do we feel this dire need to always be right?

As one constantly feeds on our perceived modalities of judgement of ‘self’ and the ‘other’, the act of an apology is to give in. None of us like to lose! Media is one such institution. We have seen the media landscape evolve over last few decades. Having grown up watching Doordarshan (DD) as a kid, to now watching Times Now as an adult, we have come a long way. DD had an opening time and a ‘shutter down’ time when it started. The programmes covered by DD were based on overall needs and interests of an Indian – news, entertainment, sports, and education. Today, news coverage by television channels has everything but the news itself. Although, I do give it the credit of being able to successfully feed the hyperbolic restless greedy sides of our souls. The question, however, that stands tall in our faces is, do news channels ever err in their perception, reportage, ethics and therefore, their professionalism? Yes, they do. Are they always right? No. Do they ever apologise? Rarely. Why? Perhaps they think they will lose ground (TRP) if they accept their mistake. I feel Mr. Arnab Goswami or his channel or for that matter, even NewsX and Zee News folks would have found much more respect from their viewers, their colleagues and from themselves if they would have conceded their mistake and apologized to this nation. Arnab, you cannot be perfect, you can make mistakes too. Accept, repent and move on. But yes, why would you, we are an unapologetic India!

I remember reading an ‘apology’ column almost every week in the newspapers about editorial errors or mis–reporting during past decades. There is a decline in that phenomenon, newspapers are also catching up with this new found pride in being ‘right’ all the time.

Is one’s judgement always right? Be it in the informal, psychological or even legal domains of our engagement. A judgement is a convenient concoction of facts, opinions, biases and indeed evidence. We all judge and then we have the judiciary system of a nation. Do we always judge a person, event or circumstance correctly? No. Can one practice absolute objectiveness to evidence? Does the judiciary have an absolute wisdom over humanity and can never err institutionally? Well, there is something called ‘contempt of court’ that speaks for itself what the answer to that question would be. For the benefit of a healthy democracy, it is important that the Judiciary concedes that it cannot possess absolute wisdom and propriety over right and wrong. It will only be progressive and modest on the part of our courts to come out publicly and apologise for errors they or their institution commits or has committed. It will only make it stronger, respectful. Justice P N. Bhagwati took 30 years to come forth with an apology and accepted his ‘act of weakness’ during a case related to fundamental rights during the Emergency. He accepts with regret his surrender to an ‘absolutist’ government. Justice Bhagwati will be revered for his turn around, or more a correction in his conscience.

Political parties are the most brazen lot. We permit them to successfully survive chronic selective amnesia and allow them to live in a bubble of their own. And often, we offer them our company in their construed bubbles of sanity and righteousness. The political parties are mostly driven by the façade of an ideology which is self-serving, divisive and violent. Each national political party in this country has had a history of violence – inciting one, participating in many, and also owning up to that violence, without regrets though. One may ask, how can it be pleasurable, if it is guilty? But then repeated experiences of the vulnerable in India stands proof to the fact that for such political entities such acts of violence feed their pride in the BRAND that gets created, with absolute refusal to change or correction over time, for it never considers itself wrong!

Modern India and its voters would have only appreciated if someone came forward and apologized for 1984 Sikh Riots, 1989 Bhagalpur Riots, 2002 Godhra Riots, 2014 Muzaffarnagar Riots, and many other regressive crimes of the polity’s colleagues and comrades. The times today seek an unconditional apology without rhetoric and change in the political narrative of each and every political party. We don’t have to look very far away, Musharraf apologized for his past errors in 2010, Nawaz Sharif apologized just the last week for the Kargil ‘misadventure’. Do I see any hands goings up from the India political class, for their acts of the past? Well…

And this list can go on. It’s ‘masculine’ enough for men to accept the discrimination they impose over women and to stop doing so. Army will not be weak in the eyes of the enemy if they accept that everything they do in the name of AFSPA is not correct. Religious leaders would not receive a disconnection notice from the almighty if they stop spitting venom and being regressive. Police stands to gain the trust and support of the society only if they can dare to apologise for custodial abuses and violence. As law abiding citizens of this democracy, we would love and respect them more if those who hold the authority over the ‘right’ and the ‘true’ have the strength to admit the ‘wrong’.

To accept one’s mistake is not to be weak, it is to be stronger.

Let’s all learn to say ‘sorry’ in our personal and public lives – on the traffic signal, at workplaces, in families, in governance, to ourselves.

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