“We condemn the killing of Gauri Lankesh.” “Culprits will be taken under arrest.” ” They will not be spared.” “Justice will be served”. Welcome to the world of Indian platitudes. A place where public life merrily wallows in a framework of banal statements. There is no element of this public life left wherein the forces of subterfuge couched in a benign sounding language of empathy has not cast its effect. I disagree with people who feel there is no empathy in today’s world laced with xenophobia. Not because this is a false iteration but because its expansive meta narrative fails to distinguish between the genuine and the feigned. At the same time, if we don’t take recourse to such hackneyed binaries, the concern for churning out a plural discourse becomes a non-starter. The problem then lies with how the discourse gets stuck within a larger agreeable platitude where modus vivendi becomes the unabashed operative norm.
The pendulum of our trite public conversations, even if functional, gets frozen in the larger invented meta narrative. The only change might be of the overpowering of one set of ideas within the already dysfunctional pool of the ‘right’ cacophony. Politicians are past masters at it. Be it corruption, unemployment, communalism or even the plethora of inducements they keep making on a daily basis, the persona is regal but basically we are beating around the same bush. Speaking in platitudes in a way have become a way of life. They are so deeply ensconced in our collective conscience ( another ludicrous term that has lost meaning because of its constant regurgitation) that in fact a slight deviation sounds like a grossly unsettling aberration. They say creativity blossoms in an oppressed environment. Keeping aside the possible dangers of such proposition, the statement becomes a non-starter in the Indian case as there is seldom any acknowledgement of there being an ‘oppressive environment’ in the first place. The reason why so many liberals find themselves in the similar boat as that of order disrupting hoodlums is because the enlightened elites believe in merely nudging the boat and not toppling it. The sorry scenario where this all encompassing boat is capsizing before our eyes stems from a silence that refuses to breach the boundaries of the mutually agreed platitudes. The boundaries are porous. Don’t be be-fooled by it. As the people who master the environ that keeps the status quo intact also are the ones who viciously spin the closeted narratives that surreptitiously bypasses the promptness of the social media.
This social media inspired globe-trotting elites thrive on the dictum of Jio aur Jeene do. It’s a convenient euphemism to say how we are least bothered and worried about what happens in the world which is beyond our comprehension. Be it Rohingyas getting deported, rationalists getting killed in broad daylight, accused getting bail in a jiffy or even the terrible consequences of demonetisation for the informal sector, we are happy by making our presence felt by dishing out a barrage of humdrum talks which would not offend anyone. These have rightly been termed as ‘thought-terminating cliches’. They not only fail to provide a substantial moral and material support but also derange your minds to the level of a non-thinking mind. For people who largely form part of a cultural milieu where fate and destiny are worshipped, there is an inexplicable fear for voicing an alternative viewpoint. This along with a discerning veneer of nihilism makes one almost believe as to how there possibly is no need for so much hue and cry about a positive change. We take the liberty of quoting John Maynard Keynes’ words of how in the long run we are all dead to a point where platitudes of ‘peace’ and ‘tolerance’, even in its own world of mutual reciprocity, starts sounding like hollow words with no real meaning. In this world of apathy for posing questions, the debate gets bracketed within the ostensibly agreed upon laxman rekha. Consider this : We see people mourning, pledging support to victims and their hope for something to happen. Everyone agrees lynching is bad. But the same people refrain from poaching on to the “touch-me-not” territory which invariably involves mawkish groups like religion and family. For people who agree lynching is bad never show the desire to talk about the moot question which is – Is the Cow really a holy animal? , Since when did it become holy?, Why is that so many Hindus don’t worship the Cow as a holy animal and ultimately What is Hinduism anyway? With their ingenious minds of course, the establishment sycophants will be razor sharp in scuttling this thread of convoluted questions. In order to show some sort of compensation, we redirect the discourse to our seductive penchant for selective memorization. Students are at the forefront who take exasperating pride in stuffing their minds with the most worthless set of dates, facts and figures and blurt them out in response for a quick fix solution. Because, a conversation has to end with fanciful solutions. Who has time to formulate and understand questions? It’s a double whammy if you are women as ‘mansplaining’ is the cool thing in town. You have to operate within the patriarchal, paternal platitudes or otherwise the charge of you being condescending toward your own familial and cultural traits will hover over your thought process for the rest of your life.
Routine procedures can give us nothing beyond ennui and boredom. However, they give the sense of being free from any unwanted social headache. Thinking requires the zeal and patience for change. But it comes with the dread of social opprobrium. Till we surpass our own inner demons, the world of platitudes will keep everyone happy. It is like the banal situation in our country at the moment as to how the only thing we agree upon is that Cyclone Okchi did in fact affect our western coast. Reasons for the same? Well, we concur with whatever reasons the establishment has to give. We deserve special mention awards in pliant and sycophantic citizenship for successfully managing to preserve the status quo. Maybe the ‘ Most robust platitude’ award?
Suraj Kumar Thube did MA in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is interested in Indian politics and Indian political thought. He spends most of his time reading books, playing football and listening to Hindustani classical music.