It’s 2020. The vision of an Incredible India vastly unrealized, shattered in pieces of mass unemployment, a depressed economy, rising fascistic tendencies, a horrid spectacle of an actor’s suicide and massive collective discontent. Worldwide as well as in India, the tectonic plates of politics is rapidly shifting and morphing into a memetic spectacle shorn of basic decency, coherent reasoning and underlying morality. We witness a cloud of bad news, fake news, misinformation, misrepresentations, propaganda couched as news take form in front of our eyes, assault our senses and sensibilities, and disappear in a smoke of mirrors in one news cycle. Understandably then, the courage to hope for a future and will that vision into reality has been sapped out of us. COVID-19 has additionally has lended a pervasive anxiety of doom.
We witness the beast of news finding a prey to beat down to a shriveling pulp satiating it’s bloodlust, this time prey is an object of our voyeurism, Rhea Chakraborty. We witness the dazzling distraction from the number of infections, the contracting GDP, the floods in Bihar, arrests for protests, gradual decay of our collective morality. We watch and sigh from the safe cocoon of our apathy and passive inaction.
But we must yearn for a future. Because all is lost when hope is lost. Because hope is the only antidote against bad faith. Hope makes you believe in a transcendent strength. The path of despairing self defeatism and political indifference is an easy one to opt. It’s convenient to believe that we have no choices left but to pliantly accept how things are. That couldn’t be farther from truth. What we must remember and remind ourselves is that social realities are nuanced with a complexity too broad and layered to be portrayed by mainstream news channels, which unfortunately are more interested in short spikes of TRPs. Small actions can have significant incidental consequences over time. Small actions are capable of shaping socio-political fabric. Small actions can construct a tangible resilience from political discontent and inactionable rage. Small actions can guide us to actualize the envisioned realities.
The underrated crisis is that society by its very nature conditions individuals to be pliant to give in, malleable to accept anything. A long term, perhaps harmful, consequence is that we have huge chunk of population which exhibits socially unassertive behavior that most people mutually conform to; holding a mirror to each other of similar acceptable behavior so no individual dares to steps out of line. It arises from a deeply held belief that an individual is weak against a collective, from the delusional belief of powerlessness leading to political inaction and consequentionally, to actualise any real tangible change.
For instance, line of thoughts based on the said phenomenon would be, “It’s unfortunate that it’s happening. We can do nothing about it”, “ We condemn this but it is not our responsibility”, “It is sad but it is not my problem”. It is our individual deception of the worst kind, stacked together to forge into collective delusion, prolonged by an indirect escapist tendency towards responsibility, shunning any blame by our unspoken refrain- “No one does anything. So why should I?”
It’s implying that so much hard, brutal work done every day by people accounts for nothing. It is indicating that any gesture of kindness and real work amounts to nought in grand scheme of things. It is saying social movements are inherently pointless in in their ineffective transition to policies. This is where we have to become acutely aware of the trap of cynicism. It is cynicism for the sake of cynicism which only affirms and sustains the status quo, not questioning a thing. We, as a society, must not engage with this self fulfilling prophecy that fools itself into thinking that cowardice is detached nihilism. It melts any dormant self potency. The invisible forces of powers that be, want us to sustain that cocoon of indifference and apathy which leads to thoughts as “The world is terrible, why care?”. We must, however, care.
We must revise our historical memory. That people sustained movements with collective effort to achieve the freedoms we enjoy today. The traces of hard won political victories is stitched into our daily lives. Our ancestors paid a heavy price for those bloody wars, very real in the loss it generated but so were the achievements. Let’s preserve our historical memory then. Let’s remember so much has converge and be right for us to be here.
What can we do?
For beginners, we should not encourage modes of thinking which lead to passive behavior. That does not imply that we should live in denial or ignorance. Acknowledging all the terrible things in the world while actively working to improve the world is hope. We should not let seeped in cynicism to anchor our social life. A better future is not an assured certainty but a possibility. That things will be better one day. Hope is political awareness employed at every level in the our work, our interactions, our life. We should thoroughly examine the consequences of our actions.
Analysing the stories being told
The fourth pillar of democracy-media tends to often overlook the small steps of progression. The storytelling entities which shape the public consciousness are far too busy to depict reality instead of critically investigating the underlying workings and critiquing it. Attention, eventually, is a limited resource. Our world is going through a tumultous transformation, with overwhelming historical changes taking place-from CAA-NRC protests to transgender laws to Kashmir dispute; with unprecedented level of mass mobilization of students and protest groups and awareness in challenging the status quo. 2020 has seen changes both terrible and inspiring. Let’s acknowledge both.
Understanding the nuances and cultivating patience
The shifts in power are subtle, messy and happen over time. The intricacies involved in politics which shape the social reality we come to inhabit are far beyond the binary of failure or success. There is a varying degree to which every social activism registers change on, moving in different axes. Nothing is absolute. Our political actions and articulations of the horrors of present does not immediately result in assessable change. But make no mistake, it doesn’t imply that those are insignificant. The antenna of popular media discounts them for precisely those reasons. Our history is a testament of small actions leading to huge resistance bringing change. Let us treasure the ones among us quietly doing their part and let them inspire us.
The profundity of hope
It’s incredibly distressing to hope, to even dare to hope in a despairing, hopeless landscape. To speak up about important things, to fight for things that need to be fought for. To internalize and synthesis that hope into resilience and resistance. Because that alone will fuel the strength to carve out our future. But for our future, we must hope.
Feature image credit: Agata Endo Nowicka
19. I like books, punk rock, philosophy and panicking over the crushing weight of existence. Student of Journalism, teller of stories.