A few years ago, I decided that it was time for me to move from India in search of new opportunities abroad. Towards the vivid colors of the progressive western society painted into my mind through Hollywood movies, books by American authors, television series. In a country where taking a girl out in shorts makes for totally awkward and disgusting social situations, how can I be a progressive male who does not force his partner to wear what he wants? Perhaps the much more disheartening sight is of the strongest of women I know, dressing down, to not invite any attention, without anyone telling them to. Can there be a more intimidating situation for women? How can I dream of having a life, founded on progressive ideologies, in India? So like many, I moved to the USA because it paid a LOT OF MONEY!
Around the same time, I started to follow the Men’s Rights Activism (MRA) movement in India. Facebook suggested I follow this dude called Milo Yiannopolis. And he turned out to be quite a find. Over the course of next four years, Milo would turn out to be a central figure at the right-wing news website brietbart.com. His speeches at universities turned into verbal battles with very vocal (to say the least) feminists. It was truly horrifying to watch him being shut down during public addresses, exactly as per his prediction in his various columns and video blogs. His views on freedom of speech for a right-wing narrative, gave me a unique perspective as someone from India. This coincided with the JNU incident in which Kanhaiya Kumar was advocating pretty much the same thing Milo was advocating, yet they stand at polar ends as far as political opinions are concerned. It was a horrifying, yet liberating realization that there can be right opinions from the wrong side (the wrong side for me here is Milo, of course, which I will be getting into shortly).
Rise of Men’s Rights Activists
When Milo was rising in the West, India had Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj and Tarek Fatah coming into the limelight. I understand that some people consider them extremists and overly biased, but I believe India needed them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here. Media delivers the kind of news and opinions people want to hear, this is the unfortunate consequence of reading news through social media. Right opinions from the wrong side will either not be reported or be tagged with misleading headlines.
But much like Milo, Tarek Fatah and Deepika had their agenda which most would consider going a little too far. Inflammatory articles featuring Islamic history, raw details of hate campaigns in Pakistan, conveniently forgotten realities of Muslim women everywhere – all of these came from one source: Tarek Fatah. His latest campaign, and may be the most pointless to this day, is his outcry over Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor naming their kid Timur. Come on Tarek, they are Khans after all (just kidding!). I believe his time would be much better spent on writing about other relevant matters and leave the kid’s name to his parents. But he succeeded in creating an anti-Muslim sentiment across most of India, or at least threatened the Muslim communities and their lifestyles.
Did he have to say those things? Nobody questioned him. He did not have to explain his right to an opinion unlike Kanhaiya Kumar (Much like sedition, India has a law against hate pieces calling it disruption of communal harmony). That shows how successful he was in creating this rhetoric. And he knew, Muslims being minorities in India, the uproar would die off in days and he would gain a lot of new followers. While Kanhaiya Kumar, who was accused of the anti-India slogans, had to literally spend time in jail.
Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj created quite the stir with her movie Martyrs of Marriage. To be honest, I expected a little too much from the movie after seeing trailer. But let’s face it, she is not a film maker. She has also delivered a TED India talk and met with the Prime Minister. To meet the Prime Minister of India, when he was busy with foreign travels, is quite a statement. It is not up for debate that Deepika is a hero for some men, and their families, who were exploited by section 498A. Also, in our country, any law that can be exploited, will be exploited. And in a country of close to a billion people, even a small percentage amounts to a significant number of victims. Deepika, too, has some.
Over to America
Last November, USA voted in Donald Trump for president. The alt-right won the media war, and Milo posted his victory lap through empty media booths in Washington, pointing out that they all went home because they lost.
That was exactly what happened.
The mainstream media went to war with Donald Trump, and they lost. So what happened to the progressive Americans? Well, some of them did not vote because they thought Hilary Clinton would win by a huge margin, the rest of them were denied a progressive leader and, emotionally, voted against the corporate love child that is Hilary Clinton. But a vast majority of Americans do not care about having a progressive outlook, they don’t care what happens to minorities as long as they can get a job and own a car and live the American dream.
There is another America, where people used to get up and got to work in factories and manufacturing plants, that sector has closed down, along with it died a million American dreams. These are ghost towns now, Detroit, for example, was hit the worst. Now those workers are forced to work for minimum wage, instead of the wage they used to earn for their skills. Would you care about immigrants, if you had just got laid off? Imagine you are working in a gas station and this guy, who wasn’t even born here, drives up in a Lexus and you watch this happen over and over every day.
In the old days, they could shout out something racist. But now, that will get them fired.
Can there be any more reason to hate the politically-correct left? They feel they are entitled to the jobs that skilled foreign workers do because these are American jobs. To the people who were struck so badly by the recession and who lost everything, Trump promised to bring back what they had. He put the blame on everything foreign, everything colored and most importantly, the corrupt system and Wall Street cronies. He created a following of Americans, who had their own definition of being American.
Brietbart news played a pivotal role in reporting Trump’s messages with the right headlines. They constantly posted about black on white attacks, during the Black Lives Matter movement. They knew their audience was largely white Americans. To retain their votes, they eliminated any chances of ‘sympathy switch’. They showed black men attacking policemen, but never told them that black men are more susceptible to getting killed by police than white men. They said more white people were killed in police encounters than black men. Of course, they did not mention that black people make up less than 15% of the US population.
The rate of death in police encounter (per 100,000 people) for black men is almost 5 times that of white men. Every time a mass shooting occurred they would blame Islamic extremists, or mental illness and defend the NRA (National Rifles Association) which is basically the gun lobby. They would go on defending the second amendment. In most cases they are wrong, and in some cases they are right.
Back to India
In India, our Prime Minister was elected into power by a record majority. I am from Kerala and even we let ourselves have a BJP MP. As optimistic as I tried to be about our government, things are not looking bright for India. When I distance myself from all the media circus and look at the big picture, our government’s progress card is not spectacular, to say the least. There is no lack of spice and drama – from beef ban, to arresting and locking up student demonstrators for sedition, hike in petrol and diesel prices quite contrary to what was promised and the patriotism police have entered our theaters.
But cherry on the cake came when Prime Minister informed that RBI has invalidated 86% of circulating currency in the country for commercial transactions. Millions of people and businesses were affected. In a society with trust issues, nobody is going to take 500, 1,000 from a stranger. The government is trying to push the country towards a digital economy when we don’t even have electricity everywhere. There’s no infrastructure to handle as many people in our banks. And they did not have time to prepare. People died in queues. People who voted in a hero, were dealt with with contempt by our ex chaiwala PM. Just as they were by the elite Gandhis. Poorest people with no credit cards or checks, farmers, fishermen etc. did not sell their goods for weeks. My only hope is something measurably beneficial comes out of this. Because I do not know how much black money brought back would be enough to compensate the people for their time and effort wasted in getting their own money. While a lot of people got caught with black money, we cannot afford to do this once in a while to control black money. This is equivalent to burning down the house to kill a few rats. (Old Malayalam proverb).
The sad news for Trump voters in America is that the script is probably going to be the same as Modi voters in India. The same professor who predicted Trump’s victory almost 8 months before election, also predicted that he has the highest probability of getting impeached. But even I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Trevor Noah (whose anti-Trump rhetoric I have honestly grown tired of) played parts of his speech, where he explicitly admits that he accused Hilary of all those things only to win the election
And my favorite: “I said it’s a rigged system, but now I don’t say it anymore because I won”.
Plus, “Michigan, that place was great before the election, now we don’t care”.
He pretty much admits, to the horror of most of his supporters (who’ve gone deathly quiet), to manipulating American voters by saying things they wanted to hear. To top it off, he also nominated Exxon Mobil CEA as Secretary of State. The man who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corporate lobbyists gave the keys to the treasury to the largest oil corporation in the world. Steve Bannon is his chief of strategy, who is a vocal white supremacist.
Looks like both sides whether they voted for Trump or not, got the shitty end of the deal.
The bottom line is that people still vote for positive consequences. And no matter if you are right wing, left wing, feminist, or MRA; some of your opinions are worthy and welcome and some others are complete garbage. It makes sense to follow all the biased media, as long as you go both ways. It helps you stay neutral and get on board with some truly horrific changes around us.
But we as people cannot afford to be influenced by gimmicks of politicians.
It is time we make a more educated decision when it comes to voting. We have to get rid of our over the top devotion to a leader and think like a citizen. What did/will he do that improves my life as a citizen? How did/will he improve the worth of my tax money? It is not about which religious group he hates.
Politicians manage everything we own in the country, they manage our wealth and our lives. We don’t trust our parents with everything, but yet some people feel Modi has already overhauled the country and the economy and he has their trust forever. How can you trust him, you don’t even know him? He is yet to make good on any of his promises. This is a classic case of influence of biased media. Most of Modi’s foreign visits were blown out of proportion and became about putting India on the map. His move to hike petrol prices was defended by most of his followers. Really, I wonder if even Congress MPs supported UPA when they hiked petrol prices. They did not even win the election by promising that. The demonetization is already being applauded like it has brought back prosperity to India, when in reality, the economy has slowed down.