Author – Austin Cruz Dsouza
The electoral season seems to be upon us with fair amount of wild speculation and hot gossip going around brisker than our morning tea. Elections in India are surely an entertaining affair where everyone dwells in debates that otherwise one would have confined to their minds on any ordinary day. Then again, these are no ordinary days. This highly ‘anticipated’ affair reminds me of an anecdote:
Once a politician running up for re-election sat in a restaurant and decided to pay for the meal of a gentleman seated across his table. The gentleman thanked him but refused to take his offer and replied in a tone most loathing – “I want no free meal but I’d like very much to kick the person responsible for my troubles in his pants”. This obviously was aimed at the government’s failed policies but being what he is, the politician replied, “Dear Sir, to quote Theodore Roosevelt – if you could kick the person responsible for your troubles in his pants, you wouldn’t sit for a month!” This amusing statement points out that our troubles are of our own doing, politics or otherwise.
This poorly materialized soap opera that we call Indian elections, provide immense opportunities to engage in entertaining conversations as well as spread our share of misinformation. Some of these conversations borderline stupidity, and we as a country have set gold standards for being obnoxious and religiously loyal to our stupidity.
I recently overheard a conversation that was carried across in a restaurant, which is one of my regular haunts. As their train of thought went, a mid-aged gentleman assured the other that his ballot choice like every other time would be the same. The other person seemed vaguely confused on the dilemma it posed, since his companion had changed his permanent address and was now subjected to a new choice of candidates. The speaker sensing the confusion, with an air of pride declared, “Brother, my party is contesting here too; candidates keep changing but I’m loyal to my party. They will do something for us folk, the guy on the TV said so.”
With that the IQ of the room instantly died, to paraphrase those select memes – ‘Ban-na hai to stupid bano, smart toh phone bhi hota hai.’ This seems to be the motto of the general populace. Lack of will to conclude that we should primarily focus on our elected representatives rather than their banner, stands as one of the two major issues that seem to recur every electoral season. The other being “influence induced through misinformation”, where the latter plays host to various attacks on religious and communal sentiments.
These atrocities form a part of various social networking sites as the virtual world is being made the leading mode of campaigning due to heavy code of conduct restrictions. The sheer amount of information generated, calls for judicious selection in what we chose to believe.
As noted in various studies, the IQ of a population can drop with increased exposure to misinformation of any kind. Moreover various research studies – scientific or otherwise, propound theories that we as a race are indeed becoming less of the intelligent beings we advertise to be.
No matter how many such re-runs of ‘Dumb And Dumber’ seem to persist in our nation, a solution to check such circulation of misinformation needs to be designed. This is to be done keeping in mind constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression. As pointed out by various noted news debates, a fine-line between infringing constitutional rights and manufacturing facts needs to be drawn.
In my attempt to drive the point suggested in this prolonged attempt to sway minds, I am obliged to point out our nation is greatly divided between the blinds that believe religiously, the fanatic – that assume their word is law, the rational – that are stuck between a rock and a pleading political face and the young minds that are right now being shaped by the chaos we spew.
‘You may kill the man but not the idea’ they said. After decades of independence, many national and international observers in India maintain there is a fine line between insanity and greatness, and our country seem to colour these lines a whole new 50 shades of grey! As I conclude, I punctuate these observations in the words of Edward Everett Hale –
“Do you pray for the senators, Dr. Hale?”
“no, I look at the senators and I pray for our nation.”