There is a ban on common sense

Published: Sep 07, 2019, 05:09 IST | lindsay pereira

Not a week goes by without calls for boycott of something online or offline. When will we discover the properties of staying calm?

There is a ban on common sense
Two years ago, the CEO of a popular social media platform allegedly happened to say that he had no intention of expanding to poorer countries like India. That comment triggered a massive outpouring of rage, because nothing angers some Indians more than the truth that they happen to live in a poor country. Pic/ Getty Images

Lindsay PereiraI have stopped keeping track of what needs to be boycotted or uninstalled. There usually is something, or someone. A celebrity who dared to ask the wrong question, for example, or an app that dared to put out a tweet on social media that didn't go down well. The first time I considered the power of a boycott was in school, when we were taught history and how our forefathers used it as a tool to send a powerful message to the British. It meant something back then, this ability to stop patronising someone or something and effectively get them to understand why your anger was legitimate and deserved a response. The use of a boycott was carefully considered, a potentially powerful weapon in the hands of people who had been denied a voice but had no intention of going silently into the night.

That weapon has slowly been turned into a joke, by people who now spend hours online each day looking for something to be offended by. This isn't hard, to be honest, because the Internet is the kind of place that can offend anyone and everyone if they allow it to. It's what anonymity encourages — the ability to put across a point of view that not everyone will agree with. Unfortunately for us, we are turning into a country where not agreeing is no longer an option. If we don't agree, we are not with the majority. If we are not with the majority, we are enemies of the people. As enemies, we no longer have the right to a voice and must, en masse, move to Pakistan.

A couple of decades ago, when dial-up modems prevented rabble rousers from rapidly getting their knickers in a twist, there were fewer incidents of outrage directed at the world. Stray events filtered down to us slowly, of vegetarians being appalled by the presence of meat products in their French fries, for instance. I look back at those protest with nostalgia, comparing them to the presence of meat products that now casually leads to murder. It's also important to consider that these acts of murder are routinely recorded, shared on WhatsApp, and sometimes dismissed by courts as insufficient evidence with which to hold murderers accountable. It's a far cry from taking a fast food company to court.

Look at the past three months alone for a surprisingly large list of what has been threatened with a boycott. There have been all kinds of websites, as always, along with a number of apps, which have been installed and uninstalled, rated poorly and abused, for doing things that have been considered offensive by people who wanted those websites and apps to conform to their way of thinking. It's sad that apps generated more outrage than acts of bigotry and hate by people, but that's a topic for another day that will never come because dissent isn't patriotic anymore.

Two years ago, the CEO of a popular social media platform allegedly happened to say that he had no intention of expanding to poorer countries like India. That comment triggered a massive outpouring of rage, because nothing angers some Indians more than the truth that they happen to live in a poor country. There could have been a positive response there, on our ability to showcase how we manage to do things despite our lack of resources. What happened instead was 48 hours of chest-thumping involving advertising the assets of rich Indians — a classic example of what an inferiority complex looks like. I came across a petition filed online that month, addressed to the Prime Minister's Office no less, asking for a "ban and boycott" of the app because the comment had "hit us in the heart" and we could not accept something negative said "about our mother". The petition had 1,253 supporters and was only one of many doing the rounds at the time.

There are all kinds of ways in which we choose to engage with a point of view different from ours. Unfortunately, we appear to have turned into people with blinkers on, refusing to compromise on any view that deviates from our own. It's why celebrities, common citizens, and even social media accounts that dare to question that view are now targets. We can choose to use criticism to better ourselves or shut it all down to live in a deluded world where everything we do is always right. Unfortunately for our children, we appear to have picked the latter.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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