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“The Audacity of Justifying – Anyway, Anyhow”

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Our 21st century world has been witness to momentous developments. In the last eighteen months, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our lives and ways of living in unimaginable ways. We seek physical distancing even as we crave for greater emotional bonding and binding. We share and witness stories of people reaching out to one another. We also read and hear horrific tales of greed and selfishness being openly practiced in these moments of crisis. One has also witnessed an increasingly sharp polarisation in society. Our neighbourhoods and communities are being partitioned into we and they. Our dialogues are much more among we. The focus of discussion is invariably about they!

“The Audacity of Justifying – Anyway, Anyhow”

At public forums when debates begin on issues, most begin their analysis with the conclusion and then try to search for evidence to justify that conclusion which they anyway wish to reach! Issues are no longer discussed on their true merits. The merits are invented in order to reach a desired stand. The hiatus between we and they in terms of those who support what we believe in and those who are arraigned against us is becoming openly visible. The shrillness of the attack on the opposite side is becoming more intense. The opportunities for reaching a common ground or consensus are very rare and fast disappearing. Can this we and they ever become us?

In the last few years, once has witnessed this trend of glorifying our perspective and demonising the opposing view. The social media which provides us a cloak of anonymity has further fuelled this trend. Issues (and people) have been so tightly fixed in the two opposing camps of we and they that everything about they has to be trenchantly criticised and whatever belong to the realm of us needs to be passionately defended. Selective evidence is collated (often manipulated) and quoted to either buttress the conclusion one wishes to arrive at or lampoon an opposing viewpoint. Thus, the information explosion ranging from genuine news, half-truths and fake news flood social media. For every supposed fact there is a counter fact. For every so called authentic information there is a counter information. The fake often masquerades as the authentic and the authentic is reducing to being a manipulation. Two examples would suffice to make this point.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused misery and grief across the country (and the world) in the last eighteen months. A crisis of such proportions requires a coordinated effort of the authorities, social organisations, communities and the citizen. A pandemic is not the time for a blame game. It is a time to sink our political differences and desist from the temptation of scoring brownie points. Ideally, it should not be a centre or the states but a centre and the states issue. Commentaries and writings on the government handling of the pandemic have sought to place the blame at the feet of any one level of government depending on the political colours we endorse. Should the lockdown have been imposed without providing adequate notice? Should it be left to the states to decide on how best to enforce a lockdown? How do we procure adequate quantum's of the vaccine? Should the vaccine be provided free of cost to everyone? These are all important questions and need to be assessed on the merits of the specific issues involved. On the contrary, the stand is often defined by where we sit politically. In the process, the main issue is pushed to the back-burner and the debate gets reduced to a slanging match between opposite political camps. In this We vs They blame game, the focus is not on the solution or collectively dealing with the problem but on apportioning the blame. In the second wave of the pandemic, when different states of India were witnessing a rise in cases, a concerted and coordinated effort involving all stake holders was the need of the hour. What seemed to be gaining more attention was who was the political party in power in a given state. Managing a pandemic involve inter-governmental coordination. An acerbic fight of finger pointing is of little help.

We just had a keenly fought state assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory. The election campaign saw charges and counter charges by the different political players. This happens in all elections. One was hoping that all the parties involved would arrive at a consensus that given the pandemic situation, there would be common norms that they would follow. The minimum expectation was adherence to the pandemic protocols. More often than not, keeping in mind the desperation to win votes, these norms were ignored and many a time blatantly violated. Rather than focusing on ensuring the safety and health of citizens, the spotlight was much more on mud-slinging on who was responsible for the violation. Very often, actions on one side was justified because the other side did the same. Thus, one wrong righted another wrong! Rather than focusing on the right way of doing things, parties justified a wrong way of doing things simply because the opponents did the same. Accusations on selectively highlighting wrong doings became the approach rather than focusing on the gross violation of norms itself. It became a debate on Why are you only talking about what we did.... they too did the same, but that is OK for you!

Going back to the question we began with, is it time to move away from We and They and focus on Us. Is the challenge and solution more important or is apportioning blame of greater significance? This intense polarisation has led us to excavate selective data to justify the conclusion we anyway wanted to reach. Facts do not seem to matter. Are we in a phase where we celebrate the Audacity of Justifying - Anyway, Anyhow. Reality is never black and white it is multiple shades of grey!

(Dr. Sandeep Shastri has been a keen student of Karnataka politics for over four decades)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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