Ruckus.
Babble.
Chaos.
Irreverence.
Arrogance.
Protest.
Bullying.
Questions.

All this and more happens every time the nation starts defining any concept… it could be anything stretching from nationalism to terrorism. All that one never really sees are solutions, answers, a convergence of ideas, and an acceptance of dissent. All that is never there are people held accountable. All that ever happens is mud-slinging, shoe-throwing, scuffles, and mere jostles. Yes, people get hurt, psyches get hammered, voices are silenced, and surrounded by an uneasy calm everyone goes back to whatever one was doing.

Potions of a peppy melodrama

Forget what the issue is. Forget what it is that people are fighting about or want to debate and achieve. This is what has been happening these past few days in the second month of 2016…

People like O P Sharma run around with limbs flailing to hit out and the mind ready to fire any number of numbed reasons for whatever it is that he is doing. People on the television shout about everything connected without attempting to be coherent because they know that no one is actually listening. The nation is busy concluding. Groups, and they could very well be lawyers, take the law in their hands and feel joyous about challenging the Supreme Court to now appear and do what they think cannot be done. Services, and I mean the police too, forget that they are being paid not to stand and watch or wait until shuffles graduate to scuffles and then to ruffled moments. Students forget all the subsidies that come from the money collected from tax-payers and run around shouting slogans that even they probably don’t understand. Politicians, as usual, appear only to make stand-alone inane statements that are always correct and also incorrect, if that is what you are determined to prove. Journalists, who have an equal number of unethical dolts amongst them, take umbrage to the way mobs are prone to behave and go around crying about how unfair the world is.

What happens to the common man?

The literate and internet savvy common man too now has another battlefield called the social media and this breed takes its abuse-hurling and name-calling to the digital world. The rest from the common man breed probably stand on kerb-sides and in front of paan-shops having a few extra zarda flicks and fearlessly air their opinion. People from the Page 3 fraternity feel that unless their statement is printed they haven’t done justice to all the gulps of red wine that the sponsor has arranged… and so we have meaningless words like ‘amazing’ and ‘disturbed’ mingling and meandering aimlessly between vague references to Umar, Kanahiya, JNU, Bharatmata, disobedience, national flag, universities, politics, and of course, art and culture.

So yes, life is all about potions of peppy melodrama at such times.

The impact of notions

Try and update your Facebook timeline or tweet about what you think freedom of speech should be and in no time there will appear friends and strangers telling you that you have no notion of such complex terms.

Freedom of speech.
Sedition.
Pro-India.
Anti-India.
Rights and duties.
Terrorism.
Nationalism.
Anarchy.

These are just a few of the keywords that have these days the impact that can jangle the nerves of the strongest man. We forget, however, that most of us have mere notions of what they mean… and this has nothing to do with the levels of intuitive abilities or text-book erudition of a person. This is because these concepts change over time and are always contextual. For instance, in a world where we love to talk about going borderless, convergence of cultures, and unity in diversity, why do we want to blabber about nationalism that is clearly out-classed in more than one way? These definitions are determined by where mankind has reached in their march of being civilised… but, oops! Are we civilised yet?

Nevertheless, even notions have an immense impact and this is what we need to really understand. We need to stop scratching each other perched on flimsy cages of notions.

Navigating through it all

Have you noticed that even when people are sitting listening to speeches by those who have half-baked ideologies or they are going for an emotionally-charged march to protest or they are sprinting across the court premises to snatch mobile phones… there will be a lot of them who are actually thinking of the taste of those New York cheesecakes that their cousin has brought with him… or are lovingly looking at the latest Gear S2 on their wrist… or are actually thinking, ‘How does this skinny journo have a mobile phone that is more expensive than the one in my pocket?’

The truth is that even the staunchest of us is forever navigating through rivers and streams that have nothing to do with the massive and dangerous waves of unjustified emotional surges that surround us at such times.

So we have a choice here. We can stop, take one step backwards, and remind ourselves if thinking of that cheesecake is better than hitting a person who is probably also thinking of samosas or kachoris. What I’m trying to say is that navigating through the insanity of ideas that we do not completely understand is dangerous and that it is by far better to let the right people do it.

I know that conflicts are always about deciding on who the ‘right’ people are and that skirmishes happen when what the right people do is perceived as wrong or insane. Take the example of the commissioning of the BRT concept for Delhi… and then its subsequent dismantling. No one is sure if what the right people have done will be construed as right in the years to come. So it is with complex issues like nationalism and freedom of speech. There are myriad interpretations and perceptions that are so powerful that they can fool anyone. I cannot possibly suggest a solution but what I can say with confidence is that they emerge finally from debates. So let the fight and the conflict remain away from the realms of the spoken word and the written word… let people have the right to speak and write about what they think is correct and does not aim to incite weaker minds to misconstrue the message and act irresponsibly.

What is fantastico music?

Come on now, I am not talking about Messi and his exclaiming ‘Fantastico!’ when he first saw the Tata Zica… I am talking about the notions of nation that have throughout history caused turmoil everywhere in the world. So from Hitler and the Nazis to Afzal Guru and Kashmir, it is these notions of dispute that have always begun on a rather subliminal level to slowly cross the boundaries of the mind and convert idea scintillas into social conflagrations. This is what should never happen.

Why must people like Subramanian Swamy want ‘the JNU to be closed down for four months for ‘fumigating’ the hostel of unwanted elements’? Why must anyone recommend that ‘those having proven record of being jihadis, Naxalites and LTTE terrorists must be expelled from the university’? Why must any form of conflict of opinion escalate into a tsunami of scuffles that lead to scarred minds? Why must governments wait and look for scapegoats instead of taking definitive action to diffuse a conflict?

Action isn’t about allowing goons to manhandle unpalatable opinions or letting the police search and arrest those who have views that rattle the politicians. Action is all about encouraging the music of healthy debates to weed out misconceptions. But most important is to first ask everyone to ration the potion of notions that they have… and to stop breathing fire because of them.

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This article was published in ‘The Huffington Post‘ dated 26 February 2016:

2016_02_26_The Huffington Post_Notion of Nations

2016_02_26_The Huffington Post_Notion of Nations

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Ration the potions with notions of nation

Ration the potions with notions of nation

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Published in MarketingBuzzar:

2016_02_20_MarketingBuzzar_ration the potions with notions of nation

2016_02_20_MarketingBuzzar_ration the potions with notions of nation

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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Arvind Passey
19 February 2016