Whether you are in the US, India or some other nation or any society for that matter, 2020 has shown us in greater contrast and vivid detail the power that the digital world and the elements therein have when it comes to creating competing narratives and stories which hold a formidable power to destabilize/ impact functioning democratic societies and place them on the edge- either forcing them to become operationally dysfunctional or change them completely into a new entity- which may serve or dis-serve the people living in those societies! Join me here as we take a quick look to figure out why and how democracies get nailed in today’s digital space and if there’s any real way around or through this to safeguard the values and principles of democracy for our collective today and tomorrow!
Democracies have thrived and survived without major glitches around the world since time in memorial, however as societies began to advance, gain access to more and more knowledge and as the power of print and the documented word began to be taken as a gospel, democracies the world over were beginning to set themselves up for failure in due course! The unchecked, unregulated and disproportionate access and power of media through agenda driven deployment the world over has done more harm to democracies than anything else! Think about it! Every time you hear about a scam, a scandal, an ideological narrative, the whole spread about labels like “RW”, “LW” who gives birth to them? Think about it! Whether these are endorsed by political establishments or not is a different matter, but the fact that these labels very often come from the cradles of media houses who desperately try to make news for themselves! Think about it, whether you like or not like a politician, whatever your ideology is, “why would any successful, right thinking politician want to jeopardize their individual careers as politicians and let go of all that power and control that they get to have by involving into something which at the very foundation of it, threatens to take that away form them!” So now the question, if politicians are not keen on this, why would media want to get into something that has the potential to threaten the existence of their business?
Well, the answer to this is embedded in the societal framework and how societies forgive and forget! Forgetful societies are often vulnerable to onslaught of media garbage with or without political endorsements! The simple reason why these societies are forgetful are, is because a large section of these societies is simply struggling to make their lives meaningful by surviving and rising just perhaps one notch higher then what they had inherited in terms of life standards and aspirations! This small step too is at times so all consuming that, in the very struggle of survival and touching their next aspirations, they are left with no choice but to keep ignoring every now and then what is unfolding around them and thereby the whole social ecosystem ends up being a blind animal with sensory perceptions intact but not wired to any purpose driven action or effort! Furthermore, as these onslaughts increase in frequency and variety (based on which section and for what reason they are coming from the society), these societies become vulnerable , anxious and thereby more narrowed down in their outlook to life and survival, simply taking away any remaining resistance, dissent or question that they may have for those who govern them, and who makes this happen- well who else the omnipresent media with or without the clout of the political system at work either behind, alongside or leading the charge!
Societies that are hard to forgive, are paradoxically spared and the media and the political clout weigh their options a thousand times before tinkering with these societies, because they know it too well, that one wrong move or perhaps even a right move at a wrong time and their careers are surely coming to an end with unprecedented speed and certainty! Societies which are not forgiving are the ones’ who have established themselves as a core and a foundation to nation building for generations together! These are societies which resemble small clusters developing into larger towns and cities, where growth has always been slow, steady and calibrated enough at all times to ensure that the local flavors are not trampled over and that essence is the key why these societies become successful and retain their strong identities even after 50-75 years or perhaps over 100 years in the case of some societies and nations! So what is really getting played out and why has democracy become so vulnerable especially in the last 20 years?
You see, based on what type of society you are part of , you perhaps witness a generous dose of narratives from the media spaces every day, every hour and in case of few societies (which suffer from information overload and are necessarily societies running on (mis) information steroids!) perhaps very few minutes! Now these narratives very rarely have anything to do with “you” and very often are at their very best “teasers” being sent out by “someone” who is managing the show. How and what reactions begin to crop up gives that “someone” the power to negotiate, bargain and leverage “something”, “somewhere” in the elaborate fabric which has interwoven spaces of media, political clout and bureaucracy!
With the advent of the digital ecosystem the abuse of democracy has only accelerated; knowing well the vulnerability of people across societies (not because they are dumb, simply because they are too busy fighting and figuring out their survival- the next meal or the next pay check!) it has just unleashed a relentless onslaught to drive agendas and narratives with little or no time for people to think, evaluate or even fact check! The result, is chaos- again based on the type of society and which part of the world map you are in, the impact can be mild or severe and the consequences of this agenda driven media hype (with or without political benevolence) is almost always detrimental!
This is how it always has been and this is how it will remain to be, the point is, earlier there were unspoken and unwritten rules, a point beyond and below which neither the political clout and nor the media would ever want to navigate and explore, but once those lines have been erased, it is a virtual free for all and with every person, every element of the “someone” trying to out do the other, the value systems begin to evaporate and societies start to appear like predictable simulations, wherein set pieces get played out before every major political event, announcement, strategic announcement or before regulatory changes are made! Depending on what type of society you live in and who that “someone” is (whether there is more power in the political clout or the media has enslaved the political clout) the rules of engagement will keep shifting and needless to say, the price will be heavy and more often than not paid by the members of the society who almost never realize what hit them and why! So does this mean that there is no respite for a democratic set up to survive in a space where the political clout and the media, either by themselves or hand-in-glove are working to erode the foundations?
The answer is a YES and a NO! Yes there is away to get over and beyond this heady cocktail of political clout and media nexus and NO if Inertia gets the better off the society! Societies and importantly democratic suffer from what I call as the “Curse of Democracy”, like Democracy has multiple blessings and people can write and write poems, essays and even their PhD Thesis on why Democracy is vital, fundamental, progressive and the true personification of the human spirit, nothing wrong with all or any of that, but what a lot of people fail to factor in the singular fact that democracy is not a state of a society or an end destination; it is rather a lifestyle, approach chosen by the society for empowering its people to reach their aspirations, it has to be and should be always in Action, it has to be practiced, preached , lived and kept alive by ensuring that the conduct of every member of the society is aligned to the laid down democratic principles and guidelines that have been chosen and adopted by the society! It is when this sensitive element fails, that the political clout and the media are able to drive narratives, (mis) represent intentionally or by error and create competing views and postures not for debates, but for confrontation and if you have read the story of human evolution, confrontation and aggression brings the best of animal behaviour among humans and that is what we get to see all around us, in one way or the other!
The only way to safeguard democracy and ensure that the adopted values, principles and the future are protected, is by breathing in and practicing what we have adopted! As individuals, don’t bribe that official, follow those rules, don’t ask for favors for jobs and business, be who you are, stay authentic, live a lifestyle that you can afford and then see how the things begin to change when a major section of society embraces this! Sounds utopian? Sure seems like that for me too, but that’s the essence, societies get driven to false narratives and unwanted ideological confrontations simply because of the latent inertia of speaking out when it matters the most and standing by what is right and allowing too many exceptions! Societies are at times forgetful and at times forgiving, what is needed is that they need to be unforgiving at all times and unforgettable each time, that’s when the political clout and the media will dare not drive false narratives or (mis” lead thoughts, (mis) plant ideas or resort to under the belly tactics to pursue their own selfish agenda of exercising demonic control and a falsified sense of achievement at the cost of millions of tarnished aspirations!
Democratic societies have the been a witness to milestones and achievements of scientific and creative excellence in the last 300 years of human history and also in the medieval and ancient times! There is a reason why the “I” matters alongside the “WE” and it is this spirit of finding the individual excellence among the collective good that hold the promise to the future of democratic societies! Shun the clout whether political or media, switch off that shrill channel, spend that time to develop yourself and your family, each house doing it, you will have a changed town in a year, a changed city in three years and a changed state in five years and in a decade a whole new breathing, vibrant and alive nation with a promise of the future!
Democracy is like a flowing river, dam it right, it will nourish and give you the bounties of nature, dam it wrong and it will wipe you off unleashing the fury of nature! The change begins with you, the next time you go to Vote, know that well! Vote today to align your future!
Well, honestly, switch off that “idiot box” and whenever you are presented with information, make a rule to fact check and do bother to know, if what you consume are candies or garbage coated in sugar!maybe it’s easy, maybe it’s difficult, perhaps will take an effort, but remember, as humans fundamentally we all are hardwired to care and share for each other, we lived millions of years earlier on that way and in these modern times it only makes simple plain sense to step away from all that puts us onto a path of confrontation and contradiction with each other to a level where we begin to think that “You” and “I” is greater than “WE” and nothing can be far away form the truth than this!
So I leave you with these thoughts, grab that coffee and switch on that news channel/entertainment channel and try to run a test to see what you are being served today- candies or garbage!
Ciao for now, stay safe, stay wise and I will be back with another one soon!