The last two years have shown us but one thing: as a nation, we have the collective mental and emotional maturity of an eight-year-old.
The last few years in our country have been more controversy-laden than the entire run of South Park. And the truly worrisome part is the fact that we are undeniably metamorphosing from a society that believed in open-minded free debates to one that lays down inflexible, unwavering, non-porous, set-in-stone barriers across minds and men.
It’s not the loss of freedom of speech that threatens us. God knows that one legislation is being so blatantly misused that Ambedkar must be turning around in his grave today. It’s the loss of that indispensable element of individuality, the thing we call the freedom to make a personal choice, that is being eroded away. Free will is being rendered impotent and we are faced with an utter loss and destruction of intellectual and personal ideals in today’s scenario.
We are, in short, being stripped of our power to choose sides or stay neutral – deprived of our right to perceive matters they way we choose to. We are being remolded as pawns in the hands of the powerful few
If this isn’t the destruction of democracy, I don’t know what else is. And it is this that I find frightening – the prospect of existing in a society where free speech is a caveat for the powerful to force words into your mouth and dictate their agenda to the public. The scary aspect is the looming threat of public opinion being hijacked. The predominant portion of the middle class has been reduced to nothing but mere sheep, goaded on to demonstrations and “outrages” by the media and whatever it projects.
One of the most disturbing effects of this process is our growing inclination as a society to view everything in the extremes of black and white alone. You’re either a BJP supporting, Modi-loving, Hindutva nationalist or you’re a secular, ‘anti-national’ Pakistani agent and a terrorist sympathiser. Good luck with that sedition case they’ll file against you. You’re either intolerant or you are non-patriotic. You’re either an all-out feminist or a male chauvinist pig. There is no in-between. And no moderate opinions are welcome. This is the sorry state we are being reduced to. Gray no longer is a reality. There are no moderate, independent opinions that are welcome in a public forum. And that is what we must be alarmed about. This rapid conversion from the pluralistic, diverse mosaic of a nation to a segregated, binary society.
Think about it: the human eye can distinguish up to 50,000 shades of grey, yet just one shade of pure black or pure white. If this isn’t the ultimate tribute to tolerance and diversity and an understanding of differences, then what is?
It’s fast becoming a fashionable trend to bash anything and everything related to the right-wing government, be it well-deserved or otherwise. Similarly, denouncing anyone who doesn’t support or subscribe to the right-wing’s policies and agendas as ‘anti-national’ is an extremely disturbing new development. We seem hell-bent on shutting our minds and ears to the voice of reason or even personal discretion and instead blindly follow the crowd.
Take the recently appointed CM of Uttar Pradesh for example. Yogi Adityanath’s been receiving plenty of flak for the so-called ‘anti-Romeo squads’ – a reasonably well-founded concept, sadly mutilated by over-zealous and frankly terrible execution. On the other hand, the decision to close down illegal abattoirs makes a lot of sense both from an economic as well as a aesthetic and social point of view, even if we take only public sanitation into consideration. True, critics say the decision is more anti-Muslim inspired than hygiene-inspired, but the pros are hard to ignore. Similarly, the developmental agendas and the changeover from a sodden, bumbling government machinery to an evidently more energetic and pro-developmental one is something that demands adulation.
And this again, is a prime example of the problem we’ve been talking about. You cannot both love and hate the new UP CM. You must either worship him or abuse him. There is simply no level-minded, fact-based approach you can adopt. No, neither the media nor the vociferous polity will allow that. Why are we being forced to align our views ? Do not the citizens of a democracy reserve the right to form independent judgement and arrive at their own decisions? What are we, five-year-old playschool kids that we must be held by the hand and told what is right and what is not? We’re slowly being attuned to adopting a passion driven , public opinion determined perspective of the world around us. Mob mentality is slowly but surely overpowering rationale and individual reasoning.
In retrospect one could almost say that we, as a society, are progressing backwards. And that, beyond every possible doubt, is sufficient reason for alarm. Tagore’s classic verses extolling the virtues of his ideal nation have never seemed as indispensable as they do now to serve as the signposts for our society:
“Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit”
It’s almost painful to see these visionary ideals, which almost every high school student has surely read and admired, reduced to mere words -indeed, almost made a mockery out of, by the very institutions responsible for upholding them. Tagore’s narrow walls and dreary desert may have been his metaphors for a dramatic effect, but the stark reality of today is that we may very well be consciously bringing that hell to life.
Decades, if not centuries of intellectual, social and spiritual awakening, the life-work of great reformers, and our own strife towards building a cosmopolitan nation of progressive ideals now stand in danger of annihilation. It’s time we forget about the beef and focus on the sheep we are being forced to become. The binariness of black and white is but a farce in the name of freedom. For true democracy exists in the hues of grey.