Words as weapons in the land of the free
Logic is no longer our strong point. But we are argumentative Indians, remember?
Sanghi: I don’t like what you’re saying.
Me: It’s a free country. I can speak my mind.
Sanghi: If you were not in a free country, you wouldn’t be able to speak your mind.
Me: I know. What’s your point?
Sanghi: India allows you freedom of speech.
Me: I know. That’s why I’m using it. What’s your point?
Sanghi: My point is that you should not use freedom of expression in a country that allows it.
Me: What! Why?
Sanghi: Because we are great and allow freedom of speech. Therefore we should not be criticised.
Me: Let me get this straight. You are proud of the fact that you belong to a country that allows people to express themselves. But you want to become a country where people don’t express themselves.
Sanghi: Yes. I just want the label. I don’t want the thing the label promises.
Me: I see.
Sanghi: Similarly, I want the label “democratic” and “secular” also. They look nice. They make me look nice when I go to other countries. They make the country’s image shiny.
Me: Fascinating. Tell me more. What other labels do you want without the burfen of action.
Sanghi: Oh, so many. I want “educated” and “civilised” and “cultured” and “scholar” and “intellectual” and “peaceful” and “global superpower”.
Me: But you don’t want to do any of the things that bring these labels.
Sanghi: No. It’s too much work.
Me: You’re a disgrace.
Sanghi: You can’t say that. Just because we have freedom of speech, you think you can say anything? If you were in another country where there is no free speech... Positivity as opiate of the masses: Our middle and upper classes suffer from a massive addiction problem.
An addiction to positivity. Religion feeds it by telling us we are special and that god has a plan for us and that our aspirations are divine. However, our feel-good lives come at the cost of other people’s misery. And because their misery has a somewhat dampening effect on our vaunted “positivity”, we deal with that awareness in two ways.
One is to believe that they’re not really suffering as badly as people say they are. The other is to say they are stupid and their sufferingis their own mistake. These excuses help us sleep better and hide behind more illusions. Illusions that hide one simple fact - we are junkies addicted to a feel- good narrative. But sometimes, like right now, things get so bad that our favourite positivity peddlers fail topro-vide us with a large enough dose of feel good “pride”.
These are times when compassion has a chance of asserting itself. But the peddlers can’t have that. So, they push more “pride” our way by televising old serials, telling us to not question practices, and by asking why we have to be negative always. Kick the habit. Class isn’t classy. Those walking hundreds of kilometres to get home without food or water are the nation we seek to protect. Acknowledge this and maybe, just maybe, we will grow into actual members of civilised society.
Since some have asked, I am not saying positivity is a bad thing. I’m saying addiction to it is a bad thing. Use of anesthesia can prevent pain. But overuse can stop your key functions. We die when the heart stops. Positivity is a need. But we shouldn’t let it put us to sleep.
(Vijayendra Mohanty is a storyteller, podcaster and content creator who tweets @vimoh. He is looking for a thousand subscribers so that he can do this full-time. Check him out.)