I am not a permanent supporter of any politician or political party; for the simple enough reason that every single one of have successfully disappointed me more times than Modi has said “Mitron”. I happen to think the rational approach is to judge them on a case by case basis. This of course would not have been necessary if the all the political parties were in the habit of consistently sticking to their declared ideologies.
Funny thing is, not all the parties or leaders have an ideology or vision these days, unless you’re willing to consider “CPM bad” or “Lock her up” as visions for running a country. Is this particularly disappointing? Not any longer, it isn’t. I think people all over the world have collectively given up the illusion that politicians are selfless honorable people who have different but noble ideas about what is best for their constituency. We have all accepted that the people governing us, in our name, will be corrupt, greedy and just about completely indifferent to anything except to their insatiable thirst for power and, more often than not, money.
This, I’ll go out on a limb and say, has never been more obvious than in the last few vote cycles – whether I look at my country India, my tiny state of West Bengal, the U.S. (with the happy exception of Obama, in my opinion) or Europe. If a more unapologetic, more influential media (both electronic and print) is the most obvious factor for the same, the rise of social media would be a close second. Thanks to them, and special mention should go to the fact-checkers and whistle-blowers, the public now has more information than ever about the people claiming to represent them. Ten years back, probably even Hillary Clinton would’ve accepted Donald Trump’s claim that he was always opposed to the Iraq War. Add to the fact that now, unlike a decade ago, the candidates also have the means to reach the populace directly instead of going through various media outlets with editing scissors, and everything they say is forever on the record.
Now common sense suggests when you add more information and transparency in the mix, you should see more accountability, more…um, common sense, mutual understanding and respect, and an educated conversation. Instead, what we have at hand is a tidal wave of lunacy all over the place, and a level of polarization that has long exceeded all levels of crazy.
Take India for example. No matter who you identify as politically or socially, you can be sure that there’s generalizing, degrading epithet for you in play and a distorted narrative to fit that epithet. Support Modi’s “Make in India” initiative? You’re a “bhakt” who is a Hindu-nationalist, right-wing idiot who will hail anything Modi says. Think secularism is under threat in India? You’re a “sickular” who is Hindu but is a traitor to his religion, has been brainwashed into eating beef, doesn’t see how Hinduism is under threat from some mysterious, invisible, creeping Muslim invasion. Question the government’s attempt to dictate what you can and cannot eat? You’re an “Anti-national” who should “Go to Pakistan.”
The writing on the wall is as clear as it is ancient – If you’re not always with us, you’re against us. Unless you can bring yourself to constant unquestioning agreement, you’re not just irrelevant, you’re certainly an enemy. It seems fairly ironic that in a democracy an opinion is not considered to be of value or merit unless it always, always matches someone else’s, but then logic was never a friend of the zealot.
Emily Mortimer said in an old Newsroom episode that nothing is more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate. Well, here we are. An electorate that is swimming in information, and more ignorant that ever. A population that chooses to believe only certain pieces that fit their existing worldview and narrative. Anything that doesn’t fit is propaganda or MSM or presstitutes. Why did it come to this? I don’t know. Maybe it’s easy to belong to a herd, to join in a trend or a hashtag than to think for yourself and speak out.
I’d say it’s fair to criticise Modi’s poorly planned demonetisation and yet appreciate the man’s “Make in India” initiative. I think I have seldom seen a more gracious, thoughtful leader than Obama, but I don’t mind admitting the man’s record in the Middle-East left much to be desired. But that would be too long and complicated a conversation for a crowd that is only interested in identifying you by your first words, count you into their ranks and then forget all about you.
So is there anything to be done to improve things? Yes. Change minds, one at a time.