Saturday, 4 July 2015

Current Events 11: A Note to the Perpetual Naysayers

A new post in the series - Current Events

It has sort of become a norm, almost fashionable, in some sections of Indian educated classes and our media to simply oppose something because it is proposed by the present government, or more specifically by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

PM says -- share a picture of #IncredibleIndia. These naysayers say – but will that solve the problem of rural poverty?

PM says -- share a #SelfiewithDaughter. These naysayers say – but will that solve the innumerable problem girls and women face in the country?

PM says -- clean up India. These naysayers say – but how will that solve the problem of corruption?

PM says – come, let's do yoga. These naysayers say – but why should I stretch and breathe?

PM says – give a gift of an affordable life insurance scheme to some needy woman, perhaps your domestic help, on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. These naysayers say – well, isn't that really a proof he is a Hindutva-wadi?

Lest anyone should misunderstand my intention, the purpose of my writing this note is not to encourage any blind following or a servile, non-thinking, brainwashed attitude. That would be disastrous for the nation and for our civilizational renewal. Rational thinking is a must for any democracy to function and move ahead.

But my request to the naysayers is simply this – why not take at least a minute before opposing or criticizing an idea, and think carefully whether you are opposing just because it is suggested by someone you love to hate! And while you are in that thinking mode, think also as to why you love to hate him.

Dear Naysayers, while you are busy thinking about your reasons to oppose, may I make an informed guess. Perhaps you love to hate him because if you didn't do so, you wouldn't be able to think of yourself as progressive, secular, broad-minded. Because after all, in the circles that you would like to be a part of he is supposed to represent all that is opposite of these 'politically correct' qualities. So you must oppose him, and everything he proposes, naturally. Thou Shalt Oppose – that's the first 'commandment' in these politically correct circles, isn't it so?

To what extent you have indeed understood the real meaning of words such as ‘progressive’ and ‘secular’, and their suitability and relevance in the Indian context – that is for you to ponder at your leisure. (Fine, go ahead and give your servant a gift of life insurance on the occasion of Eid, if that makes you ‘secular.’ But do it!)

But here's a simple thing I would like you to reflect upon right away. Just opposing doesn't mean anything. You need to also have some original idea of your own if you want to change something. Let me give an example to explain further.

Mere saying that posting a #SelfiewithDaughter will not solve the many problems girls and women face in the country means nothing. First, it assumes (wrongly) that those who are sharing pictures with their daughters are not concerned about the issues of gender inequality or women safety or sex-selective abortion or several other challenges faced by girls and women. More importantly, it diminishes and even ridicules the efforts of all those countless individuals who in their own little circles of influence have made sincere efforts in making their families and communities a little more equitable, a little more humane.

Dear Naysayer, what makes you assume that those who have been responding so enthusiastically to this #SelfiewithDaughter campaign are doing it only as a meaningless gesture? And that they would be better off taking an 'action' rather than merely posting on social media a picture with their daughter? Do you know any of these people? Do you know any of their stories? NO. So, you better not assume anything, better not think of them as any 'lesser' beings than yourself.

Also give some thought to this -- there is a tendency of the mind that revels in this “either-or” type of dualistic thinking. Are you becoming a slave to that kind of mentality? Are you beginning to believe that one can either be a 'talker' or a 'doer'? To continue with our example, are you beginning to believe that if one posts a picture with one's daughter, one naturally doesn't 'do' enough for the daughter? And that one is only making a false show of things? Are you beginning to believe that only those who don't share their selfies with daughters are the real 'doers'?

Hidden behind millions of the #selfieswithdaughter there may be countless stories of courage and thoughtful decisions taken by one mindful parent here or one thinking daughter there. The stories, choices, thoughts and emotions hidden behind the faces in these pictures are theirs. Respect their stories, respect their choices, respect their courage, respect them. They are not asking you to share your picture. Why ridicule or belittle their choice?

Are you beginning to believe that if someone expresses a feeling of healthy pride in something – one’s daughter, one’s family, one’s city, country, culture, heritage, tradition – one is not really a thinking individual? Or that only cynicism makes one intelligent? Are you beginning to believe that one can either take pride in something or be able to have its critical understanding? Why this either-or? Why not "and"?

Remember, taking pride doesn’t exclude or disregard critical thinking. Taking pride doesn’t mean that we are not mindful of our sense of responsibility to make things better. For our children, for our daughters, for our families, communities and societies. Just because we post pictures of #IncredibleIndia doesn’t mean, by any logical analysis, that we aren’t aware of or aren’t doing our little bit to make India truly incredible.

A healthy sense of pride actually leads thinking individuals to become more thoughtful and mindful. If I am proud of my daughter, I would do everything possible to make her life beautiful, to help her fulfill her dreams and aspirations, to do all that is in my power to give her a safer world, a just and equitable society. If I take pride in my home, I would never want to keep it dirty. If I am proud of my rich cultural heritage I wouldn’t want to destroy it in the name of meaningless modernity. If I take pride in my cultural traditions, I would be even more concerned to develop a critical understanding of those so that I don’t become a blind follower.

A healthy pride in my culture will actually compel me to constructively work on adapting and creating new outer forms of the traditions suitable for present times, but without sacrificing the inner spirit or the essence of those cultural traditions. A healthy pride in my cultural and civilizational uniqueness will give me all the more reasons to make an active contribution to its renewal and renaissance.

Dear Naysayer, I am not saying that you too should take pride in this or that. Or that you should do this or that. All I am saying is that you think before you follow the ‘politically correct’ command – Thou Shalt Oppose. And do not think any less of those who don’t! For all you know, those who don’t oppose merely for the sake of opposing may be a lot more critically aware of all that is wrong with our society and nation. And perhaps they may even have more carefully thought out ideas to make things right, one little step at a time. So, as a fellow citizen may I request you to do your constructive bit for nation-building and for making a better society, instead of wasting your energy in simply opposing and criticizing.

To see previous Current Events post, click here.
To see all other Current Events posts, click here.


Did this post inspire some thought or reflection? Why not share it with me?