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In the age of outrage

In the age of outrage
The passing summer has proven - if proof was needed - to every environmental cynic, that global warming, nay, global heating is with us for real. The month of May had scaled another “hot” level. With every rise of the mercurial degree to set new highs, all “Met” records have been erased. 

The new normal is gaining unbearable heights for peak summers and another whole litany of oppressions of life has been added to the existing woes of man-womankind in this part of the world. The heated atmosphere has raised tempers, sharpened contestations in every segment of human interaction and confrontation is the new art of conversation and discourse. 

The consensus is a four letter word more or less like an expletive, be it in politics or in social interaction. My way or the highway is macho and signals sterling leadership qualities.

A nineteen-year young life is snuffed out by a pistol-wielding “Rocky”, the prodigal son of Bihar politics for daring to overtake his car on the state highway. Only loud media protests compel the local police to arrest the powerful family. And then a media person gets murdered, allegedly attributed to a gangster with political patronage. A former Chief Minister’s convoy gets attacked. 

A lawyer for the municipal body in the capital of India gets killed for not taking a bribe to settle the hotelier’s lease in his favour. Death sentences are routinely awarded by the equivalent of kangaroo set-ups like Khaps, Maoists, sects and cults, all beyond the pale of the law, and executed before an apathetic police can do anything. 

People are lynched for suspected beef consumption or a deemed covetous “look” at a person of the opposite sex. Indeed, just give a dog a bad name and hang him. 

People are actually dying or getting battered for much less, for as much as not standing up in a theatre when the national anthem is playing or going out for a drink with a companion in revealing clothes. A mere point of view could definitely shorten one's life. A well-known television anchor’s twitter handle gets trolled and in public space and she is called names. Another civil society activist is threatened with violence just because she proclaims her belief in free sex. 

The social media is anything but social. It can be an unwelcoming place, especially if you want to dissent or even show sympathy for a minority viewpoint. Men and women are getting hot and not in a nice way. The news is full of exploding tempers as rhetoric has overtaken substance. Look at any of the media channels, pretending to anchor conversations on the vital issues affecting the country. It is a slugfest without restraint or civility. Shout, scream, and abuse is the response template. Anger is the new rage. Little wonder it seems like a global trend.

Rage gets a renewed uplift as the election season starts to appear on our horizon. The best way to excite the voter is to work on the depressed rage at his perceived or real sense of injustices. This is not too hard a work as fabricating rage against the government of the day whose failures are a legion, is too easy. The aspirants of power do their best to arrange for disruption of the law and order in one area and then keep escalating it elsewhere.

 Abetting through sympathetic community incitement, surreptitiously, will help keep the fires raging and the incumbent government will be looking incompetent at the least and a helpless non-performing one in any case for sure.

Politics has now evolved into an artful event management. Its obligation to provide governance is being spun off largely as a matter of perception manipulation. It can be done through many stratagems, fudging growth, hyping the routine acts of administrative responses and we are better than the best ever anthems. No doubt, aesthetics is the preface to the substance of achievements, but imagery cannot be the whole substance. Paid loyalists have to generate crowds, crony businesses have to fund rallies and willing media has to inflate the fantasies of the power elites.

The emergence of rage as a personal and public ideology is charging the atmosphere and raising the dust. The turbulence will accentuate conflicts. The absence of discourse will only shorten the democratic spectrum. Worse, if the argument is not palatable or a viewpoint is contrarian, the response is to tarnish the person’s credentials or his heritage or highlight an unverifiable indiscretion of his family. 

Negotiation is the only way forward for a society’s well-being and prosperity and finding solutions to its problems. Tough stances convey obduracy rather than sagacity. Those who aspire to govern us should remember that rage is the preface to violence which can only create wounds rather than heal them. It is useful to remember the wisdom of Bernard Crick who wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics”, “Politics is ruling of divided societies without undue violence”. Apt for our countrymen.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
Raj Liberhan

Raj Liberhan

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