We Indians take immense pride in our ability to debate, deliberate and argue and counter-argue each and everything that we come across. This right is taken with much seriousness than any other of our rights, I would like to believe. Thus, most of us have opinions about issues that concern us and issues that do not even have the rarest of possibilities to have any kind of impact on us whatsoever.
Media and politicians help us sharpen that skill every day and every time.
They exactly know how to touch that right chord. It’s simple, more outrageous the content of news and speeches of politicians, more the eyeballs. Whether it’s some politician blaming Chinese food for the increasing number of rapes in India or the unfeasible beef ban in Maharashtra or maybe in entire India – all this quite obviously bring out the argumentative Indian in us. And the continuous chain of debates continues and at most times, there is no conclusion to any of them.
There is another aspect to how media works and manage to tickle our argumentative bone – if there is one such. They provide us opinionated and biased news. Moreover they report non-newsworthy stories. I’m seriously not interested where Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma dined last night and whether Anushka is responsible for Virat’s semi-final debacle. When we talk about such stuff, debates stoop to the level of gossip. Here however, people are to be blamed too. We curse and blame them on social media in the hope of getting those 15 minutes of fame via likes and comments.
So why do people debate over issues that matter and issues that don’t?
There can be several reasons. Passion is one of them. Then there is a cultural side to it. We are encouraged to know what’s going on around us and have an opinion on that. This is at least true for the Indian middle class. But is it plain passion and cultural implications or is it just because there is so much news in India?
The issue in my opinion runs deep. We have a knack to not mind our own business. We need to have opinions about everything – whether it’s our neighbor, our cricketer, our politician and everyone else. But we will not do anything about it.
Take another example – the discussions over Deepika Padukone’s video on women empowerment – did she do a good job? Is it really about women empowerment? The video has been liked, disliked, criticized and loved in equal measures. It’s good to question. I’m not saying that. We must and we will.
The aspiring nation
What I’m trying to say here is that all such reactions are signs of an aspiring population – because deep down there we know we have not yet made it. We want to be recognized as a secular, educated, equal society. And when that politician makes an outrageous comment, that team doesn’t win the world cup and a video on empowerment has loopholes and only manages to deliver its message half way – we have an urge to rectify it or at least we need to make them realize where they went wrong. Our egos are dented and there comes the argumentative Indian in full glory.
Having said that, I totally agree that debates are signs of a healthy democracy and we should be proud of them. But let’s not happily dwell in the comfort zones of these debates and discussions – because we have a tendency not to find solutions. Let’s not romanticize our arguments and restrict them to drawing discussions and long status updates on social media and fool ourselves that we have made our point clear and we bask in that glory of proving how well-read and how intelligent we are. Because the point is that more than often all these head nowhere.
Global image and why we need to choose what to react on
There is yet another aspect to such chaotic debates. Most often we are oblivious to the fact that there are people reporting about India outside as well. What global message are we sending? Most often we are viewed as a feeble, chaotic and an over-sensitive country that leans on drama if not hysteria. As all the negative news grabs headlines and our global image is totally marred and we are made to look like a regressive society.
We cannot do much about how we are portrayed globally as long as our media continues to give importance to non-newsworthy (read negative) stories. But what we can do is to choose what we argue about, what we question, what we read, what we like and what we share and comment on. We can also move beyond the temporary highs of wining arguments and get a macro view of things.
I would sum up in one sentence – let’s foster an environment of more action oriented debates.
Let our actions speak louder than our words.