Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
Image Source: india
Dear Social Media Users,
Remember when Mangalyaan reached Mars on 24 September 2014? It was a proud moment for our nation. It was India’s first interplanetary mission. We became the 1st Asian nation to reach Martian orbit, and the 1st nation to succeed in the same in its first attempt. It was a historic occasion, and the world was applauding India.
But Facebook and Twitter were filled with debates over whether Narendra Modi or Manmohan Singh was the driving force behind ISRO’s monumental success. We were busy defending our politicians and giving them the credit for this Martian victory. At the same time, most of us couldn’t name even 3 scientists who were behind the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission.
Remember when the Chinese stock market crashed last year? Everybody feared total economic collapse. Americans and Europeans began hoarding money, pundits on television were discussing the situation with experienced panellists and world leaders were busy dealing with the delicate macroeconomics of the situation.
But we were busy inflicting insults on social media over whether Narendra Modi was better or worse than Arvind Kejriwal or the Congress party.
Do you see the rising polarization that is gripping our nation? We identify ourselves as Indians, yes. But we are becoming increasingly comfortable with attaching ourselves to ideologies and people who embrace the politics of anything goes. (And before you label me as a Bhakt, Sickular, AAPtard or Libtard person let me state this clearly: this phenomenon is becoming common among voters of ALL demographics, ALL mainstream parties and ALL regions.)
This division has crept into our society. People have stopped judging their leaders by facts, and begun judging the facts based on their party loyalty. This is most overtly seen on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The comment section of a political Facebook post – or nearly any post, actually – will always feature derogatory debates, hate and cursing, just because we have different political preferences. People are becoming divided.
We can blame many factors for this polarization – the political class, the media, ourselves etc. But the truth remains that we, the citizens of this country, are behaving like voters less and political spokespersons more. This is very dangerous for a democracy. The political class needs to be ideologically divisive so voters have a diversity of choice; but when the voters themselves stringently allot themselves to political blocs the national debate on all issues becomes corrupted.
A politically aware electorate is the backbone of any democracy. Such people are more likely to debate frequently about current affairs, be aware of legislations and have opinions about national issues. But a serious problem arises when the electorate stops judging the political class and instead IDENTIFIES itself with it. This leads to hero worship and blind belief. When people recognize themselves with the party they voted for in the last election, they see anyone with opposing ideologies as enemies of India. It is then that the national discourse becomes diluted, with well-informed citizens being replaced by star-struck, agenda-driven, criticism-abhorrent, propaganda-enslaved people who will defend their party or leaders no matter what they say or what they do.
Even now after reading this the comment section will be filled with people blaming BJP, Congress, AAP or some other political party. The same thing happened in Western nations like the US, where the liberal-conservative divide has belittled meaningful discourse and disastrously divided the population. We should not allow the same to happen in India.
We should not allow the political class to divide us – we must understand that we are not cattle to follow a party leader. We do not owe any leader anything; we don’t need to defend anything and everything that they say. We have the right to criticize our politicians when they need it, and defend them when they deserve it. We don’t owe them our unquestionable loyalty – they owe us their unquestionable loyalty. Our allegiance lies to the Tricolour, the Constitution and the Law, not to the party we voted for in the last election.
Let us promise ourselves to be more tolerant of diversity of ideologies. Let us promise ourselves to have meaningful debates online with factual accuracy and relevant logic. Let us promise to not judge each other by our political preferences and thrive together as Indians.
A Social Media User.
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