The warm feeling we all get when we cross paths with a soldier is indescribable yet something almost universally relatable. Their aura of courage and strength gives us strength and makes us feel extremely proud.
It’s easy to call ourselves “responsible citizens” and patriots on every occasion. Many take advantage of their rights as citizens, but few fulfil the duties of being a citizen. One such group of people are our women and men of the armed forces, that set the example of dedication and strong will to serve their country even more than serving their families.
Soldiers are not just the ones wearing a uniform. Soldiers are those beings of steel that can stand alert in frigid cold and sultry heat to protect our borders. They help deliver food to drought- and flood-stricken areas yet they never raise a voice when they themselves face shortages of food and rest.
Recently, a video had gone viral of a BSF soldier showing deplorable conditions that him and his fellow soldiers were living in. His claims were investigated and got a lot of attention through social media. While he exposed certain issues in the army camps, he was also reprimanded for breaking protocol and putting the entire camp at risk of attack by sharing his location through the video stream. That issue aside, however, I think we need a serious conversation about out social media activism that we so proudly tout all day long.
The soldier’s initial video and his later videos gained a lot of attention on social media, where most of today’s activism can be found. But what is more important than merely liking or sharing a post is actually acting on an issue. Every movement, not just this one, gains traction online and then sputters out and dies. The news channels, our Facebook and Instagram posts, and our forwarded WhatsApp messages become useless when we do not care enough to finish the conversation we started.
For example, our online activism and passion was seen loud and clear around the world when the hashtag #uninstallSnapchat began trending (and was even reported on by international news sites a few weeks ago due to comments made by the company’s CEO regarding ‘poor countries like Spain and India’. In our hungry-for-viral habit, thousands uninstalled Snapchat (and quite hilariously, uninformed ‘activists’ uninstalled Snapdeal instead) in protest, yet no one thought of a proper conclusion to the conversation that those comments had sparked: “How can we solve poverty in India?”
And this is the problem with our social media habits — things go viral and then disappear. We are united by sharing and reacting to each other’s posts but we have yet to unite a movement together. If we are to become more patriotic and make a better India, then simply uninstalling an app or sharing a soldier’s video will never suffice. Why can we not raise money to supply our soldiers with more food in cold remote areas of our country? We always spend our money on ourselves first, then on our sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, and friends. Is the veil of social media so thick that we refuse to see that our army women and men are also someone’s sister or brother, wife or husband, mother or father?
In an effort to use the power of social media for something truly constructive and productive, actor and philanthropist Akshay Kumar shared a video in which he conveyed his idea of an app where citizens and people around the world could contribute to funds for the families of martyred soldiers. His idea was approved by the Government of India and in just 2 and a half months, it was launched by teary-eyed Akshay Kumar himself and Union Minister Rajnath Singh.
Kumar’s platform, all the way from idea to design to launch, is a perfect example of what good social media can do when we decide to unite for a common cause. Maybe it’s time to uninstall games that drop imaginary candy for you to match and instead turn our attention to the issues at hand in our society, especially for our brave soldiers. They are our heroes and symbols of courage, and the least we can do is be symbols of encouragement for them.
Like Akshay Kumar’s character in his film Holiday, I think every citizen has a duty towards her or his country, and if a solider is never off duty, then neither should we.