When it comes to public opinion, the kindest thing you could say about Indians is that we’re an emotional people. It’s like saying that nuclear explosions may cause a bit of smog. This emotional storm is most apparent when people discuss the biggest rivalry in Indian politics today – Manmohan Singh vs. Vocal Cords.
OK no, I meant Modi vs. Rahul Gandhi. This contest heated up this week when Modi got a standing ovation from 1800 students in Delhi – no mean feat, given that the only other Gujarati man capable of arousing such passion and fervour is Falguni Pathak. Not to be outdone, Rahul Gandhi got 1400 new ‘likes’ and ‘cho chweet’ on his FB page the same day. Or as the Congress calls it, ‘Sarkari Gandhi-Putra Chick Magnet Yojana’.
This Delhi trip spurred Modi-Gandhi debates in college canteens, offices and yes, all over the internet. These debates were marked by logical arguments backed by data gathered from credible sources, after which everyone shook hands, wished each others’ female relatives well and drove off to Neverland in a Batmobile powered by unicorns.
I’m fascinated by how politics and other complex issues of national importance – such as the economy and defence – attract idiots whose confidence increases in proportion to their ignorance. They then go around peddling opinions that are based on knowledge and expertise in the same way that the Nazi party was based on sweet interracial love. Don’t get me wrong. Indians are capable of great things as individuals, but put enough of us together and our collective IQ crashes faster than Salman at a bakery.
Also, the more complex the issue, the stupider our beliefs. For example, just go out and ask people a simple question like, “What is the capital of Nagaland?” and then watch them struggle before they finally give up and answer, “Momos?” (The actual capital of Nagaland is Baichung Bhutia)
But ask the same people about Kashmir, and watch them assault your senses with full confidence: “NUKE PAKISTAN! I’m telling you na! War is the only way. Go to war. Problem solved. Enough is enough. Now or never. Do or die. Boom boom time. Chak de India. Melody hai choclatey. Cheetah bhi peeta hai.”
It’s like they think that if they’re moronic enough, they’ll be summoned to the President’s office. I’d pay to see that happen:
President: So we’re having some trouble with Kashmir. I’m told you have a solution.
Conviction Man: Yes, I do.
President: And what is your exact area of expertise? Diplomacy? Political affairs? Military strategy? Covert ops?
Conviction Man: No, but I’ve seen Gadar, like, 15 times.
The problem is exacerbated by news channels that insist on having a finger on the pulse of the nation, and in doing so, reduce the most complex problems of our generation to simplistic polls, such as, ‘Do you think the government should increase military spending? a) Yes b) No.’ Really now? I want to see Option C, the honest option, which says, “I have no clue. The only news items I read are celebrity horoscopes. I’m just a BA pass from a college that doubles up as a hosiery shop in the evenings. All I want from life is to own a 1BHK in Dombivli, and to convince my wife to do that thing I saw in an MMS once, while I lie there thinking about her sister. SO STOP ASKING ME ABOUT THINGS I WILL NEVER FULLY UNDERSTAND!”
What’s the point of seeking public opinion on matters that require specialised knowledge? You wouldn’t do that with other specialised fields like, say, medicine. That would make hospital visits awkward:
Doctor: You have lung cancer. We were going to operate but…
Patient: But what?
Doctor: But Bansi Lal from Jaunpur just wrote in to say that it is a clear case of ‘Mata Chadh Gayi Hai’.
Doctor: So we’re just going to whack away at your tumour with a bunch of peacock feathers.
It would be great if most people just accepted the fact that they know nothing about most issues. We could also do that thing where we just ask questions about unfamiliar subjects. Asking questions came naturally to us as three-year-olds, back when we still thought of pants as a valid poop destination, so really, it shouldn’t be that hard now. I’m pretty sure that public discourse will improve over time. In fact, I’d bet my unicorn on it.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 10th Feb 2013.)
(P.S. I’ve been informed by the good people at HT that as of this Sunday, the column is back to being a weekly. So here’s a massive thank you to everyone who wrote in a few months ago, asking HT to make it so. You guys are the best. Like sex deep-fried in chocolate. Or something. See you next week.)