Monday, 9 March 2015

The erosion of sensible opinion

As kids, we used to ask a popular riddle:

Which one of these sentences is correct?
An egg yolk is white. OR
An egg yolk are white.

Most, who’d heard it for the first time, would have a go at the error in grammar. There was, after all, even emphasis on it when it was asked. The correct answer, though, is neither – an egg yolk is yellow. The riddle works because choosing between the options that are ‘given’ to us is so ingrained in our behavior, that we fail to consider an alternative. Or the fact that there could be something wrong with both of them.

We fail to consider, that real life issues are not an examination, where you HAVE to choose between the given choices. Especially not, when those choices are two extremes promoted by a sensationalist media. It is important that we interpret “We are free to make our own choices” to mean that we are free to ‘create’ our own choices as well.

The problem starts when closed-minded thinking begins to enter the minds of the common people. Every issue is brought down to one question and two options – Yes and No. Do you think that reservations should exist – Yes or No? Do you think that PK should be banned – Yes or No? And it gets better – Do you think that women can have it all? Yes or No? Everyone doesn't even agree on what ‘all’ means here. Yet, you have news channels and random ‘social experiment’ YouTube channels showing graphs for people’s responses.

image source: Text mine.

Based on these responses, in the recent debates on PK, the AIB roast and the Delhi gang rape documentary, as well as in the enduring debates on racism, feminism and casteism, the media, and by extension the people, have started branding everyone into one of two extreme categories –

One category, is where you are branded as a revenge driven victim like this:
A hateful, yelling, spoilt and rich freedom of speech pretender.
A loud, spiteful female supremacist.
A selfish and greedy person over-capitalizing on a tragedy.

The other, is where you get branded as an orthodox conservationist like this:
A short tempered person with misguided morals, but who considers oneself Alok Nath.
An indifferent male chauvinist.
An entitled by birth replacement of a stereotypical pre-independence Britisher.

Then comes more of the fun. While the media (if you are lucky and unlucky enough) will brand you into either one of these, you can even get branded into both!  Because, as we say for driving – everyone who drives slower than you do is a moron, everyone faster is a maniac. So you get your own, ‘personalized’ branding from anybody and everybody.

It is said that every debate has two sides. That is exactly why we should not be having debates. We should be having discussions. We should start asking ‘How do you think that we should resolve casteism?’ rather than ‘Do you think that reservations should exist?’ Only then will the moderates start speaking up, and we will come up with pragmatic solutions to problems. Attacking each other from two ends of the opinion range is an act of cowardice and laziness performed in the knowledge that there will always be extremists to support you on either side. The media loves to sensationalize. Twitter loves to outrage. Should we not be more sensible than that?

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