Taking Offence Is Our Fundamental Right
Before I even attempt to start writing, I bow with folded hands, “No brickbats, please”. No boycotting our page either. 🙂 Not just me, very soon, a whole lot of us will have to initiate a conversation / discussion with this safe approach. I truly believe that we are the most whiney, sensitive, thin skinned and easily offended society in the history of the world. Nobody is as prolific at getting offended as we are! And then the chain reaction or the herd mentality (at the cost of ruffling many feathers, may I call it bhed chaal please). One person gets offended, passes it on to his peers, and thanks to social media, it spreads like wildfire. Before you know, we are collectively offended.
And it’s not just our speed that separates us from the rest — it’s our endurance. We have a limitless capacity for offendedness. Every week there are dozens of new national outrages and boycott campaigns and social media crusades to raise awareness about some offensive thing, or to get someone fired for saying some offensive thing, or to teach people that some previously non-offensive thing has now become offensive.
Let’s Snap at Snap Chat!
Recently Snap Chat came under public scrutiny, generating a storm of opinion, wherein the parent company failed at keeping its efforts to keep the complaints of an ex-employee, Anthony Pompliano, under seal. What if all this was just a disgruntled employee trying to settle a score? Based on the information available, can we say beyond reasonable doubt that Evan Spiegel is a digital racist? We can’t. But perhaps, taking offence seems to be emerging as a fundamental right. Within a day of this alleged statement becoming public in India, the app rating dropped from “five star” to a “single star” on the App Store. Things went a tad further wherein some ill informed, over excited users even confused Snapchat for Snapdeal and deleted or downgraded the app used by the e-commerce platform. By the way, in the same statement that he supposedly made, he mentions Spain along with India, but nobody there seems to care.
Responding to criticisms of digital racism and of having wounded the national pride of India and Spain, an official Snapchat spokesperson said that the app was meant for “everyone”. The words used in a media response reportedly were: “This is ridiculous, it’s available worldwide to download for free.”
Our Favourite Hobby Is Getting Hurt
Every other day, and sometimes twice on Sundays and other public holidays when there isn’t much else to do, one lot of Indians get their religious, moral, political, ideological or none of the above sensitivities hurt by what another lot of Indians are doing, or not doing. A non-meat eating community gets its sensitivities hurt because other communities want to eat meat on days which the first community considers to be auspicious. No one is asking the non-meat eaters to eat meat. Indeed, no one is asking them to eat anything, should they exercise their right to go on a fast-unto-death as sanctioned by their faith. Sensitivities also get hurt by books, and by films, and by paintings, and by rationalists who argue against religion, and by questions like whether Subhas Chandra Bose did/did not die in that plane crash in Taiwan. Sensitivities get hurt by how people, specifically people who belong to that suspect minority called women, dress and behave in public, if they wear what is deemed to be ‘immodest’ clothing or drink alcoholic beverages. Leave aside all things, we get hurt even if Pakistan cricket team is called better than ours. The list could go on….!
Say No To Tantrums
India is an ancient civilisation but young nation. We are not just a young nation; in many ways we are a juvenile nation. Although some of the jokes / matter of fact statements may be uninformed or in poor taste, India’s tendency to react strongly to relatively minor perceived slights can ultimately dent its international reputation. so, let’s just take things in our stride, at least understand things in the right perspective and get our facts right.
Having said that, sensitivities are tricky things, to say the least. And the less said about them the better because you never know which sensitive toe you might inadvertently tread on. Ouch! I rest my case!