Are We Really Tolerant As A People?

A series of both known as well as common people have spoken up against intolerance in the past few weeks and months – as also against this debate; with each passing week, we get a new face on either side of this intolerance debate.  Each side, to be fair, has cogently placed its point in front of the audience. This, to be frank – is not worrying; it is in fact a great development that at least a debate, an open discussion is being taken up in the Media and among the public; and in that debate lies a sense of hope...

The problem lies not in the cogently presented arguments; an argument, albeit misinformed – can be countered with facts and logic only if it is presented in a logical and controlled matter; but, if it is put forward in an insulting or attacking manner, the scope for logical arguments getting through to either side reduces to near zero, creating a vicious circle of point and counter-point, an argument without a logical end or a defined direction in sight. And that is what is happening in India as of now, in my humble opinion!

I will not take sides directly in this article; the reason will become apparent in this article itself.  Some people have said India is becoming intolerant, while others have risen in anger against such statements. It is fine if you don’t agree; but the way you present your arguments matter one hell of a lot. Ok, fine – so the intolerance brigade is crazy, out of its mind, wrong and easily impressionable. But does that mean the tolerance brigade respond with illogic and insults? Is that a sign of tolerance – or are you proving your intolerance by hurling insults?

The intolerance, in my opinion, is not in the Government – but in we the people, and at a much deeper level than previously thought . Intolerance is in not allowing that there might be a viewpoint that differs from yours; that others have a right to an opinion that is at variance from yours. Intolerance is in not granting the other side a respectful listening, and instead targeting it with ridicule, insults and pointed taunts going right upto leave India. Intolerance is in not in the hero-worship of an individual – everyone is entitled to a role model/s. The intolerance is in not granting that there may be people who don’t agree with you, and not granting them that leeway; rather, targeting them. That is true intolerance


THE GOVERNMENT & THE INTOLERANCE BRIGADE
A lot has been said against this Government; but I cannot find a clear instance where the Government has been  directly or indirectly intolerant. Fair is fair- let us criticise the Government by all means; we are a democracy. But let us not go overboard. There is a difference, a vast difference between the Government and some of its elements. In fact, the very worst thing the intolerance brigade can do is call the Government intolerant – that is serious stuff, and is not done.

That said, the silence on several questionable and at times outrageous statements and utterances by several leaders of the ruling party at the most inopportune moment {Is there really an opportune moment for outrageous remarks? I wonder!} is a cause of deep concern.  I have no doubt that at some point a message must have gone to the errant leaders to reign in their views; but this is not in the public domain.

The worst that this Government can be faulted for is its inexplicable silence, which is getting more and more deafening with each passing moment. I wish the Government, and specifically the PM, gets vocal, talks down the nonsense emanating from the ruling party’s fringe, faces them down and calls their statements publicly in strong terms. That would go a long way in redressing the increasing disquiet in some corridors.  It is this interminable silence that is causing deep concern and worry. Eventually, I have no doubt that our PM will speak up, given his handling over the years. I only hope he speaks up as soon as possible – and in strong terms, which will quell the debate.


THE TOLERANCE BRIGADE
This is where things get interesting. The tolerance brigade, seemingly firm believers in India’s justified reputation of religious as well as intellectual tolerance, are up in arms at the seeming insult they feel at India being called intolerant. That in itself is fine – an open debate and discussion is welcome, as it can help clarify matters. The problem is the level of stridency in the response from this tolerance brigade, which leaves zero scope for engagement for mutual benefit and conflict reduction. If anything, the conflict of the ideas escalated.  

Ok, so you don’t agree with the views of some of the people. Does that mean you tell them, taunt them to leave India and go to Pakistan? Does that give you the right to call them desh-drohi and a traitor? {Not talking of Aamir or SRK, please! I don’t watch Hindi or English movies, only selected few make grade that open my pocket! I am a fan of Marathi movies – and to me, Swapnil Joshi, Mukta Barve, Vikram Gokhle, Subodh Bhave, Ajinkya Deo are bigger stars}

Does that mean you insult the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call the other side a “Haraamzaadaa”? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade make a comment ”I will help you and drop you to Pakistan”? Does that mean they make pointed jokes and taunts – not once, but consistently at the other side? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade call into question their patriotism? Have the Tolerance Brigade considered that the Intolerance Brigade may be as patriotic a side as the Tolerance Brigade? Does that mean the Tolerance Brigade makes it an issue of national pride and national image?

This is one of the most disingenuous arguments that can be made; the shrill response from the Tolerance Brigade is actually equally harmful, as it does not encourage dialogue. In fact, of the two sides, it is the Tolerance Brigade that is more  shrill, personal in their attacks, insulting and deeply wounding in their response. This is equally harmful to national image; a calm and considered response would have settled the hash of the intolerance brigade once and for all.

National image is the composite of all elements within a nation; sporadic statements don’t hurt as much as a shrill and strident response does. Furthermore, the personal level of the insults being hurled, the taunts and the baseless go to Pakistan nonsense is actually proving the Intolerance Brigade right;

Google defines intolerance as intolerance as : ɪnˈtɒl(ə)r(ə)ns,ɪnˈtɒl(ə)rəns/ noun unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one's own. This is the same definition that is found in Oxford as well. So, who is being intolerant? Arent we proving the allegations right by our utterances, strident statements and personal aspertions? Think about it.


CONCLUSION
There isn’t any; not yet, anyway. But, given the personal attacks, insults and strident, non-stop insults and taunts being hurled by the self-professed professors of Tolerance, I am stepping out of this nonsense. I don’t see how you can engage with a side that cannot be engaged with, and insists on deep wounding barbs, citizenship taunts, insults.

Equally, I cannot see how I can take sides with the other side,  as it will only lead to further arguments. What is happening isn’t a debate, it is a joke, and a sad, tragic and deeply worrying joke – a joke caused by the stridency of one side. There are flashpoints, but these need calm reflection, not insults. And the presence of these flashpoints cannot be denied or wished away. Maturity demands an immediate de-escalation, and a calm, controlled re-engagement at some later date.

Some have stated their fears of rising intolerance. To echo the protestors,  I too am feeling scared.  Not of the Government,  which is a good one.  I am scared of the public and it's hyperbolic euphoria, its deep taunts, complete refusal to engage in constructive dialogue. That is why I have decided to stop penning on these matters.  I will stick to book reviews,  Foreign affairs, selected current affairs of a non-political nature,  but nothing on Religion,  and now these matters as well. 


Yes,  I am scared.  Scared out of my wits by the public euphoria and clearly visible intolerance to views not conforming to their own. The level of stridency is scary; and beyond anything in my experience. So, I step out. The vicious and targeted approach of the protectors of our Tolerance have won the day.  

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

PK, The Movie : One Of The Best...

Pink Movie - Asking The Right Questions Of The Man!