The Uncertainty of Position in Times of Flux or Why Bother to Like, Comment, Share, Subscribe

I “like” and “share” and get into “comment” wars with frequency, even though I know that it won’t matter in the least. Pointing out historical facts, actual gains for people or miseries people suffer doesn’t make the least difference to anyone I engage with.

I’m beginning to feel like all this is but a futile charade.

I am reminded of when I see posts advocating vegetarianism or veganism because of how inhumane the consumption of animals is. My brain switches off its empathy centre and marshals together not arguments but decided positions, e.g. “I am not obliged to open my heart to fowl also”, and e.g., “pah! that fellow is rather nutty in their views about vegetarianism”. I dismiss the potential of being argued into shifting my position on this vegetarianism/ non-vegetarianism question. I understand how and why this vegan friend/acquaintance feels as strongly as they do about not consuming animals. I honestly do! And yet, I have to admit, I don’t care, because it would decrease my pleasures in life. Even politically I argue that by quitting the nonvegetarian team I would decrease the mainstream’s acceptance of the best source of proteins that the lesser privileged classes and castes have traditionally had access to.

A similar binary has arisen, grown and entrenched itself in India since 2013. You’re either “vegetarian” or “nonvegetarian” and all arguments to the benefits of the former or the demerits of the latter fall on eyes that quickly, defensively and dismissively scroll down. Just as eagerly, I jump on articles and pieces of news that expose the sweeping lack of empathy for the marginalised groups this government has. Just as smoothly do those who, in my opinion, would most benefit from having their faith tempered with reason, let these narratives glide. And, similarly, on the other side, every time I see someone applauding the dear PM, or defending the government’s in/actions, I’m worried, irritated, amused or horrified. In my mind, they can see no fault in Modi. In their minds, I see nothing but faults in Modi.

The very reason I stayed away from debating, and practicing in courts of law, has become the norm of interaction in my social media life. We are all adversaries here, standing across from each other, arguing from a position which we already hold. This is not an intellectual exercise, we are never advocating for the opposite of our personal beliefs. We let the extreme on our own side go unchecked because we don’t want to embarrass one of “us”. But we pounce on the extreme on the other side, never to argue with, only to showcase and ridicule this embodiment of the straw man. Maybe this is how political views pan out in society. Yet, I find it worrying that I no longer wholeheartedly respect the contrary opinion or its holder, that I’m always looking to score brownie points against the opposing team (bring ’em down!), and that I’m constantly cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I don’t at this time see a way out from here. I won’t suppress my opinions because every voice amplifies the position I stand for and I believe it requires defending and protecting. I acknowledge that this is how the system is set up, where we the people are constantly at war amongst ourselves in order that the best ideas may emerge from the thrashing and sifting. (Or is it in order to make us easier to govern?)

Are adversarial systems bound to provide the best outcomes? Do they inherently allow for both sides of the argument to emerge and enable judges to understand the matter better? Or do they instead provide opportunity to mock, ridicule, insult and dismiss the claims of the adversary, the stakes so high that each side eagerly embellishes and camouflages, warping reality to win. I’m aware that non adversarial formats may allow one side to settle for less than is their due because it may not be in their their natures/ culture to be demanding. The non adversarial systems may also, unfortunately, invalidate anger as a legitimate response to pain and insecurity.

So where does that leave me? I’m a nonvegetarian who isn’t going to shift to vegetarianism for the foreseeable future. Maybe I’ll do it when I have traveled and experienced enough cultures. It’s a slippery slope any way, this animals-have-feelings business, because it is being proved by science that plants have feelings as well. The only way to live humanely will be in denying the self of all gastronomic pleasures and experiences. I’m not changing plates and palates for the best of arguments. Does it matter that farming meat is a substantial contributor to global warming? I’d sooner advocate for a ban on private transportation. Till then, I stay immovable in my decision to vote for nonvegetarianism.

So, then, why shout into this echo chamber? Why say, “me too!” and, “how can you!”? What tribal need of belonging does it satisfy? Is that feeding the good wolf or the bad one? Am I becoming better by joining this camp, or is my personal betterment immaterial to this moment of history? What does the rise of the alt-right and cohorts signify? Is it a reaction to political correctness, or to neoliberal capitalism, or a manifestation of imperialistic racism already practiced by the Free World, now finding its reddit page on the shocked headlines of the NYtimes? Are we readying ourselves for a battle which is in fact a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is the battle imminent already and all I’m doing is finding myself a transcendental identity to give me fighting odds? What would Neil Gaiman say about all this? Thoughts like this keep me up late at night while I read Persuasion.

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3 thoughts on “The Uncertainty of Position in Times of Flux or Why Bother to Like, Comment, Share, Subscribe

  1. wow, this is so utterly insightful and brilliantly self-aware. Probably the best thing I’ve read in the last 24 hours (although I haven’t read much apart from yesterday’s edition of the Indian Express). Nevertheless, thanks for writing and sharing this 🙂

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