December 13th, 2015
Written By Vishakha Sharma Billa | Image Source: livemint
A-Reading about the 1857 mutiny of Mangal Pandey fame, in the text book of 8th standard syllabus, I came across one of the stark causes of the failure- non participation of the intellectual class in the revolt. They later joined the freedom movement and the rest is history.
B-Growing up in a township, I often wondered when I saw the donation drives for any cultural event or some religious organization, as all the guys of the neighborhood and school who never contributed individually otherwise to academics, sports, debates or other extracurricular activities, almost always leading the pack here! And they used to do a very committed, very decent job of cajoling, persuading, threatening and ensuring a good collection and even management of the event.
C-In the run up to the May 2014, from 2012 itself, a very strange breed took over the internet in India; the Narendra Modi for PM warriors, they invaded the social media and life was never the same again. Private spaces like Facebook and whats-app became the battlefields. Every voice getting up to debate collided with a wall made up of a mob that thundered one message in one voice. They hunted in packs and usually the loud abusive content pushed every voice of logic or dissent into the vacuum. And all because of the phenomena which today, even the BJP loyalist Chandan Mitra derisively calls an aimless and jobless ‘bhakt”!
Connecting a, b and c, when the liberal voices on the social media started getting together, pooling their resources and a fight back began in the chat rooms and timelines; when Nayantara Sehgal and Uday Prakash returned their awards citing intolerance and the wave began-the first question in my mind was-
‘Why do the liberals, the intellectuals, the thinkers always wake up late? As better educated, supposedly smarter people, don’t they decipher the danger to their ideology sooner? Why don’t they get up and unite like those opposing them and face the threat together? ‘
Thinking more on this, collating my observations of life around, what I felt was that the intellectuals or the well educated liberals are usually the people who have lot going for them in life, they are individual achievers, and their success in the chosen field takes a lot out of them. Their energies are spent in driving their expertise to excellence and they are content and competitive within their circle of spotlight. This happy space, in a way, shields them for a long time from the harsh realities of life, until the darkness starts to envelope a larger space and casts shadows that fall on their sunshine. So till it doesn’t become too much, they feel this too shall pass.
One more important thing about achievers, educated lot was that, their identities are strong and they are unlikely to melt in a group. And thus it is always difficult for the intellectuals to fall in line, in sync with each other immediately, like the soldiers do on auto command. Each one of them will think, analyze and after considering alternative theories and their merits, move ahead.
When they do get together and then what they do to the mindless mob, is another thing, but this unity in diversity does take time and considerable danger to excite them into taking a cohesive action!
While on the other hand, the people low on education, confidence or achievement, find their calling in a mob! They do not have the rock solid identities of their own that they are proud of or want to preserve, so it’s very convenient for them to hide behind some seeming strong leader or an ideology. How they love to melt in the pot of millions and sizzle together, sputter the same language to have a validation from the others that they do not have on their own merit.
The mob also gives them a sense of power, invincibility of numbers and invisibility of a crowd, some belief that they belong, some remote control over perceived glory that makes it seem like a big cause.
And then there is also that sense of entitlement and vendetta against the educated, the learned; together the mob takes revenge of all the humiliations of failures or being bested by these chosen ones in the usual spheres of life.
So to cut the long story short, i felt, it sure is difficult for a happy, fulfilled, driven person to go on a war path for some myth, there has to be a very concrete threat for him to leave his comfort zone and step out. While for a loser to seek meaning by being a part of a rioting mob, moral policing the weak and the women, fighting for some seeming mythological calling, forming a protective ring for their chosen ones, without the luxury of dissent or opinion may be the security he cannot afford individually!
But my only fear is that, in the real life, the tortoise loses!