Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Intolerance Debate - Two Sides, and A Silver Lining

THE PREAMBLE


In the previous part of this article, I concluded by stating “... One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article or statement leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family”... This is the main theme of this concluding third part on Intolerance; this article is more of a heart-searching, a regret and a lament than a contribution to the debate. As previously stated, I have no intention of muddying the waters anymore.


I cannot recall any instance in my life when such an impassioned, and completely biased debate has been the mainstay – and from both sides of the spectrum. While one side is admittedly far calmer and collected, the fact remains that Newton’s third law – action/reaction, is ensuring a slow degeneration. That said, it has to be stated that despite the most cutting barbs, one side has not descended to such abysmal levels of public discourse. This is not about the Government – I am exclusively talking about we, The People; I stated earlier that I have no intention of writing on any political angle as of now. I intend to keep my promise as far as possible.







SELF-EXAMINATION OF US AS A PEOPLE

What causes us, as a people, to express ourselves in such ways? What has the Intolerance Brigade done that is so bad that justifies the Tolerance Brigade  {Some members at least} calling people who express their opinion from the other side with deep insults, give vent to extreme taunts and cutting barbs? Where is the need to show such scathing condescension? I admit that this is present only in some people – but it is present, and for everyone to see. This development is unlike anything I have seen in my life; and has caused to me to be shocked into silence by the unbelievable contempt and lack of understanding on the other side.


Even the more conservative have been, this time, scathing in their vehemence and at times even condescension. The stunning stridency of the defences mounted by the Tolerance Brigade beggars belief, so galling is the high decibel levels of the defence; so much so, that I can only call it a counter-attack. Even the remotest suggestion of a public figure – any public figure – venturing anywhere near the term ‘Intolerance” sets off a  massive spate of protests on social media as well as the regular media outlets!


If this was only about Public Figures, it could be a political matter; the problem is that this even extends to the personal sphere. Whatsapp forwards that poke barbs at the Intolerance Brigade, anti-BJP or Pro-Congress or Pro-AAP people are pretty much the routine. The odd-article or comment from the other side almost immediately  results in someone or the other countering with views of their own. This is, by itself, welcome; I have been privileged enough to be a part of such debates on Facebook as well as Whatsapp with some of my closest friends as well as relatives.


The problem is if someone from the other side automatically assumes me to be a member of the Intolerance Brigade without affirmation of my views; or if someone comes back with a barb and straight insult – or even a show of deep contempt. Fine; you don’t agree – but does that mean my patriotism is in question? Does that imply that only one side of the debate is patriotic? I refer to various updates questioning the same! Or that I deserve contempt or insults? Is this the way to conduct a civilized discourse? Not all discussions degenerate like this  - to be completely fair; but some do. And it is those few that cause intense provocation and soul-searching.





THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY ANGLE
Luckily, in my case, soul searching has managed to overcome the provocation – and for that, I have to thank The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta and the Kathopanishad / Kenopanishad which I am currently reading. Credit where credit is due. That I have managed to overcome the bitterness is not due to my innate abilities, or my self-control, or my personality; it is due to the wisdom that I have found in the Holy books I am currently reading


How do I argue with my relatives – close ones at that? How do I discuss with my closest friends without spoiling the relationship? How do I  discuss this with the benefactor who has helped me? It cant be done; so divergent are the differences, so different the views that any discussion is a recipe for certain heartache and disaster, given the strongly held positions on both sides. It would also be a stupid thing to do – at times, silence is golden and preferable to proving your point.  That seemingly simple, clear and straightforward bit of common sense holds great promise...





WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?

And that is what is worrying me; at the same time – that is also pointing a way out of this quagmire. I cannot recall anything in my 43 years {well, 25-27 years if you count from the late teens} that has aroused so much passion and debate in the people. Why is it that anything remotely questioning the Government this time is inducing so much vehemence and stridency? Why the extreme levels of defensiveness to debate and questioning – and on just about any aspect of the Modi Government? Is it the assumption of the people that Mr Modiji cannot do any wrong? Conversely, why is it so difficult for the other side to give praise where praise is due?


Take Shashi Tharoor, Arun Shourie and Shatrugha Sinha as perfect political examples. Does their praise of  or questioning or their political stance vis-a-vis the Government make them any less committed than what they are? Why is this so much of a problem? Why cant we accept that Modiji is doing fabulously great in some aspects, not-so-great in others, and abysmally bad in others? How does that statement call for anything other than an informed rebuttal on the negative aspects basis facts? Where is the need to bring in insults, barbs and taunts on this? Why cant we, or rather, to be harsh – why are we totally unable to - think in a calm fashion on this? Why the stunning stridency?






SHADES OF GREY

And no side is bereft of errors in this debate; this is the real world, and both sides are shades of grey. But you will not find even one participant on either side willing to admit they are anything other than the purest , most pristine shade of the Whitest White! At this juncture, it is pointless asking who is more responsible; that is an exercise in futility. Never in my entire life have I encountered such cast-in-stone views on any political matter... and that is the biggest question in my mind. Both sides are blaming the other, and neither side is willing to cede even one inch of ground, taking the debate to ridiculous levels, with the hardened positions on both sides now causing mirth and humour to people like me, who are now shaking their {our?} heads in disbelief.


The Tolerance Brigade is either quick to discount totally the ridiculous utterances of the fringe elements, being insultingly dismissive of the societal as well as political impact of the said statements; either that, or some members of this brigade actually defend the above as logical, which is a really sad tragedy. To these people, these are non-events; and they will brook no question of intolerance; some of these people also maintain the Government is picture-perfect and can do no wrong. To this sub-set, any question of anti-Government, critical appraisal is nothing short of sacrilege – so much so, that insults and taunts fly on the mere hint of criticism.


The Intolerance Brigade, on the other hand, is vehement on proving their point. Separate issue that some of their points requires no proof; the fringe elements and their statements are proof enough of the existence of some elements that buy into the intolerance. Furthermore, the way the protestors cut across the socio-political kaleidoscope is mute testimony of the facts as they exist on the ground. 


They however, tend to forget that a fringe does not a nation make! They too, like their friends above, exaggerate – though not to such an extent; some of these people regrettably extend the intolerance claim to the entire nation – which is a highly debatable assumption. Do we, as a nation, really require to prove to anyone our tolerance? I don’t think so.





SILVER LINING AND HOPE

But most critically, what most sides miss is the most vital aspect of this entire pro and anti BJP thing : the fact that this {larger pro and anti BJP debate} has politically revived the nation, and especially the thankless and lackadaisically selfish middle class. For the first time in my memory, political debates are in friends, family and society; for the first time in my memory, politics is not some esoteric rocket science that does not impact us as a people; for the first time, politics is seen as something that interests us directly. And that, to my mind, is a powerful plus, any which way you look at it. And it would be a capital insult to call it a communal affair-  the issues discussed are political, economic, business, and development based


Indeed, for the first time, we have a charismatic leader who has fired the imagination of Indians across religious and political divides. For the first time, we can see passion and devotion towards a leader. For the first time, we can see an involved and committed Indian Citizen, almost entirely fired by one or two leaders. For the first time, we can see, spot and feel the hope that is transparent in Indians wherever you turn your eyes. And for the first time – we have not one – but two clear leaders. One on a national level, our PM; and one on the Regional Level – Mr Arvind Kejriwal. For the first time, we can spot a range of other leaders emerge that can take India to the next level, apart from the above two.


Whether or not you like one or the other; whether or not you concede the status of AK, or whether or not you are in agreement with the policies of either; you cannot deny that each has a dedicated followership; and never mind that as of now, AK cannot compare in any way in terms of dedicated and unreserved passion unlike NaMO. For the biggest plus that we have as a  nation is the slow emergence of  a set of future leaders. Now we can be assured, that even if AK does not meet the promise, the holy land of India, Bharat, Aryavart will not fail her children. She never has, and she never will. As I said earlier – Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai, Rang Laayegi. Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa. That much seems certain.






In conclusion – I just wish both sides would tone down the needless rhetoric, focus on development, acknowledge that real problems exist, and move on.  If this article sounds disjointed and confused – it mirrors my mind in letter and spirit. I cant put it any better than I have above...  

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