There are a few experiences in my life where I have been dumbstruck by people’s sheer ignorance of social issues that are so important to us today. A reputed doctor in my city committed suicide, as a victim of life-long chronic depression – and one of my teachers, educated at some of the most reputed institutions of India, passed it off as the ‘shrew-like’ behaviour of his wife. When I told him that depression was an actual disease identified by doctors and medical institutions and not just a ‘fad’, he actually had to look it up on Google!
One of my friends genuinely believes that if you interact with the LGBTQ+ community, you actually become one of them – as if it is a ‘communicable disease’. Another friend – smart, educated and liberal – openly says that gay marriage is unnatural and the criminalisation of homosexual relations is the correct action. What scares me is that she’s studying to be a lawyer.
The most concerning thing about the Indian society is the apathy that pervades our social systems. We care little for issues that are traditionally unexplored, that we haven’t grown up hearing about or those that don’t affect us. We live our lives in a sort of bubble – never pricked, rarely poked. Too often, activism is considered to be a precursor to a damaging inclination for politics (this can be especially observed in middle-class families), rather than what it really is – the power to speak out on issues that matter. Even judicial activism (activism by Indian courts) became a separate doctrine only recently. That means that Indian courts got the ‘constitutional permission’ to remark beyond their judgements only after over six decades after the Constitution came into force.
Sometimes, it boggles me – how we are advancing at every stage, only to fail at the one stage that matters. How social identities or mental illnesses or illegal practices are brushed aside and forgotten as if they aren’t at all essential for the well-being and dignity of all humans! When we brush aside our culture of objectification (that is, our tendency to consider the unknown as evil), we are doing our cultural roots a great disservice. When we’re brushing aside the voices of aware, young individuals, when we’re talking about the ‘impurity’ of homosexuality at the dinner table – we’re enforcing the belief system of the next generation that social issues do not matter.
I often wonder why I have seen victim-shaming to be more common among our parents and elders, than among people from our generation. Recently, when a couple was beaten up in the Kolkata metro by a mob of self-assigned moral police for ‘standing too close’, I was shocked at the photos that surfaced. The girl was covering the boy with her body, bent double to protect him – and the mob did not stop beating them. This blatant lack of care and regard is the root of every ignorant person we face (for instance, those who think a person from the Northeast is a ‘chinki’ – and is thus not entitled to basic dignity and respect).
We simply do not care – we type out a status update promoting Swachh Bharat with one hand, and throw trash out our windows with the other. Furthermore, what’s worse – it is nearly impossible to socially sensitise a population of 121 crore people, and we’re running out of time. Generation Z is going to enter adulthood very soon, and may raise kids with the same callous disregard for being.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” And today, we can see this happening – our culture of harmony, co-operation and understanding are eroding to form one of division, disillusionment and disregard. Instead of opening our minds, we are bolting them and shutting them down with harsh scolding and rash statements. We are scoffing at mental ailments, calling feminism a ‘fad’, and terming horrific sexual assaults as ‘minor crimes’. And as I see so many of my friends being dragged along this path of archaic mindsets, I don’t know whether I should be happy (that I’m not on the same path) or distraught (because I couldn’t make them understand).
Featured image used for representative purposes only.