The Age Of Fear Is Here


I don't get the fascination of living in the United States. I mean sure they have pancakes, donuts, cheaper iPhones, easier credit, evolved bar culture, concerts, Hollywood, Marlon Brando(well, he may have raped a woman for a film, so let's not mention him), good internet speeds, apple pie, First Amendment, Broadway, Woody Allen (who allegedly abused his adopted daughter, so sorry for mentioning him), original Oreos, humungous supermarkets, excellent television, Disneyland, comedy clubs, Louis C.K. (so.....he may be sexually harassing women... ), and Meryl Streep(........oh I have nothing on her yet. Fingers crossed that she is as awesome as we think.).

I also know slavery, guns, Westboro Baptist Church, Scientology, lobbying, Dwayne Johnson's acting career, vapid excess, imperialism, and Republicans. The lifestyle, we have argued for decades, is better than anything you can hope for in India and so USA is your ideal dream. I bought that scheme for a while too, but have since been disenchanted with the idea of a better life there as I understood the country better. A significant mix of hate, ignorance, and misplaced sense of pride, coupled with the riches few people dead or alive have ever seen, made it a place to be wary of. My country evokes a similar feeling in me now.

The age of fear isn't a new development for many Indians. Tribals, Dalits, women, Muslims, the poor, the abandoned, the disenfranchised, a few among the sea of those oppressed or neglected, have lived in an India I will never know. I don't expect them to take any cognisance of my privileged insecurities, even if the repercussions of this age are going to be felt by every Indian sooner or later.

The great cultural and political clash between conservatives and liberals now comes at a time where the concept of reality is disputed. Truth, in a country whose emblem declares it the sole eternal winner, has long been disputed and twisted but now lies drained and defeated in a secluded corner. The versions of it which we now peddle, offline and online, act like bullets meant to shatter our reality and rational sense, not to mention a scary normalization of hate.

If the United States' 'War On Christmas' symbolises one of the narratives by the majority to feign oppression, the number of such inventions in India is soon going to put the American Right Wing to shame.    
Consumption of our right wing's narratives is potently lethal, with plausible suspicions being the most desirable outcome you can hope for. At its worst, it can normalise open spaces for the propagation of prejudices with a deep contempt for reality and decency. History, art and culture, gender, science, technology, law, food, and medicine are being reshaped in the image of 'victors' who claim that their rights have only now come back to them. The agenda they have is strong, the support base ever-increasing, and their insulation from being held accountable is nearly complete. An adamant opposition is needed to counter and defend sanity and compassion but it's nowhere to be found.

The response to Shefali Vaidya's tweet ranged from mockery to outright condemnation and outrage. I realise that posting facts to people who have refuted the concept of truth can seem a futile exercise which needs viable alternatives but liberals fail to see the redundancy of the two. The former is used on an overwhelming basis as a tool to shift the power balances but jokes don't change people's determined agendas while the latter is taken now as a badge of honour, a display of one's prowess in riling up the 'enemy' and the 'hypocrite'.

An overwhelming importance is given to the Internet and the events within it. A third world nation with many actual problems role plays a first-world narrative where tweets on Azaan can be as important as daily news of murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, subjugation, government overreach, suppression of justice, malnutrition, suicides, superstitions, poor healthcare, and farmer's rights. The state of conversations you will have on the internet rarely reflect the reality we live in; a fact we are forgetting at an alarming rate. Evolved conversations on gender, sex, and pop culture representation, seem contrived in a country where a woman is stalked and chased with impunity, references to sex censored and sex education vilified, and box office coffers rarely affected by protests against regressional portrayals. The voices you hear and the epiphanies you gain from these conversations are truly remarkable but it's hard to shake their superfluousness when one looks at the world outside of the screens. The one place where the internet is disrupting national sentiment and thinking in a dangerous way has already been surrendered to the Right Wing.

The time when the worst Whats App forward comprised of rejected Rajnikanth Vs CID Jokes has long passed. The world's most popular messaging app is now held responsible for riots and murders while creating innumerable false narratives and rumours. I personally am not bothered by the lies peddled on the medium, having been desensitized to them by years of similarly bogus claims in regional Gujarati newspapers read by my parents. The root problem lies in the empty minds of those who believe and further instigate such ludicrousness without a moment of critical thinking, rationalisation or empathy. The education system inspires many debates but nothing is as accurate an indictment of its failure as the acceptance of falsehoods and status quo by well-educated Indians.

Age of fear isn't upon us because of the viciousness of bigots and extremists, the lack of a formidable opposition with realistic goals, the invasion of fake news in our real lives or even Donald Trump, but a familiar trait of the Indian middle class, which is about to walk her into an authoritarian life.

The fear which guides the lives of middle class and poor families in this country is real. A copious amount of skepticism and fear has nurtured me since childhood. I was supposed to be scared of everything- the stove, the strangers on the door, the empty streets, teachers, bullies, parents, and other symbols of authority. 'Good families' never get into trouble or never confess how much trouble they are in. They function within the confines of shame and society, cautious of horror stories of those who got into trouble. You learn to surrender.

You surrender when they call you criminals, take your money away, and hurt your livelihood for reasons you still cannot fathom. You surrender your privacy for income tax returns, mobile phones, identity, money, and even death. You surrender when they bombard you with propaganda about who your real enemy is, who your friends are, what real history is, and how much of a miracle the existence of cow is.

The capitulation of Indian middle class is not a new phenomenon; it's just that this one might be the last for a very long time. I wish my awareness of it could translate into a passionate resistance but I don't know how much longer I will hold out under the pressure of being treated as a pariah or a madman.

I don't want to move to the United States because the United States is coming here. She's just not coming along with any of her virtues.

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