Each one of us is guilty of encouraging this hatred and violence of speech and action by laughing at rape jokes, forwarding misogynistic cartoons, giggling at religious bigotry and keeping silent, says Smita Prakash.
“She has tremendous hate in her heart,” said Trump of his illustrious opponent. She displayed no shock at this comment. It was a United States presidential debate, but you could easily mistake it for a mud-wrestling pit. They threw all they had at each other, from accusations of adultery to condoning adultery to sexual misconduct. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stripped the US presidential campaign of the last vestiges of civilised behaviour. They were gladiators in pant suits.
The politics of hate is here to stay folks. It is a global phenomenon. The new norm is, and no country is immune. From the politics of Brexit, to US elections to our own politics back home. Yes, ours too. From ‘mauth ka saudagar’ to ‘urinating in dams’ to ‘khoon ki dalali’ to ‘dented painted’, the list is bipartisan and endless.
Racist, sexist and xenophobic statements have a shelf life now of a day at the most. Barely have they been condemned that the next one comes along. Nobody bothers now to demand a retraction or apology. They know it will be forgotten or worse, applauded in the gallery: He says it like it is. He isn’t politically correct. It is locker room stuff.
Gloves are off, fangs are bared and nobody spared. You can denigrate women, children, people with disabilities, minorities, immigrants anybody but the majority. You can drape a national flag over the coffin of a murder accused, you can glorify a self-declared leader of a terror group as a martyr, you can pretty much say what you want and nobody will think the worse of you in the world of politics. The more bizarre your comment, the more hits on your website, more retweets, more airtime.
And it isn’t going to get any better either in the US or back home in India. It is impossible to watch TV debates without flinching at the insults traded, your eardrums face a daily assault if you do not have a choice of walking out of the room where some prime time TV channels are broadcasting their debates. Rallies by politicians are going to make it to TV news only if politicians say something outrageous or denigrate their rivals. Full on rage is the magnet and the fact is that both plebs and the elite appreciate monstrosity now.
As we head closer to two state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, expect decibel levels to increase the nature of politics to fall to new lows. The depressing thing is that the audience is nowhere getting turned off. To the contrary, they seem to love it. They clap cheer and react only when they see people demonize and dehumanize themselves. From here on, expect press conferences to become a circus act, there will be ink attacks and shoe throwing, language that debases patriotism will be used, casteism and communalism will be glorified.
If it disturbs you, then you have to think why you let it come to this. Each one of us is guilty of encouraging this hatred and violence of speech and action. If you laughed at rape jokes, forwarded misogynistic cartoons, giggled at religious bigotry or remained silent when parents, uncles, aunts, in-laws made blatantly offensive sexist remarks, you encouraged all this to come to this point.
It is impossible to say you are apolitical and still be a citizen of a democracy. This isn’t about politics anymore, it is about life. This giving in to hateful rhetoric is laziness that will devour us, as it is doing to the rest of the world. At some point, we would have to say stop. Sadly, it seems that time is not now. As was evident today during the second US presidential debate, the tweets increased when Trump said something horrendous, but when policy statements were being debated, the tweets lessened and people became disinterested. Nobody wants to climb to the higher ground as yet. The politics of hate has an audience. You and I.