On Social Media ‘Debates’, Intellectualism and the Cyber-Left (Rant-ish)

I have stopped arguing with people online, especially with those who say things which you would not have engaged with in the real world. But recently, I had a conversation with a friend over the social media progressives and rightwing rebuttal through the means of satire. A stream of thoughts followed and I am copying that comment here for future reflection.

Terms like ‘sickulars’ are not part of intellectualism, it’s the language of the ruling establishment to turn people against those who believe in values like secularism. Also, this is not satire, is it? It’s ‘trolling’. We need to understand the semantic difference between the two, if there is one.

In times like these, we also need all hands on deck. I can trace back this brand of political trolling to 2013 when Modi began his PM campaign and there were people online trying to counter the Gujarat Model propaganda with memes. I was also caught up in that. But within a few months of the new government and several blocks and unfriends later of friends and family, I realised that this is much bigger than Modi or BJP. We need to fight these regressive ideas, not the people behind them. Writing, trolling, satire, etc are useful instruments in the ‘good fight’, but only movements can transform people and society. But when even progressive movements become social media-driven, it fails to create the foundation of values on which society changes. Arab Spring, Occupy Wallstreet, and more closer to home, India Against Corruption, Stop Violence Against Women and Not in My Name. There is a sociologist called Zeynep Tufecki who documents this phenomenon really well.

I think the point is also not to completely stop action because we did not get the politics right in these movements. In social media, now there is a clear case of usually progressive elements like Leftists and Ambedkarites nitpicking every movement against the ruling establishment on the grounds that they didn’t get the politics right. I think we need to organise ourselves, fail. Learn from that, and fail again till we get it right. Any action is a product of that particular time in which we are born and raised. Yesterday was Mandela’s birth anniversary and I happen to be reading his autobiography now, there is a paragraph in which he explains how he tried to read Marx in his 20s and did not understand anything. But that didn’t stop him from fighting for justice because he believed in the transformative potential of movements. He wasn’t a supporter of communist ideals either because he felt that it was too Euro-centric. But he worked with the Communists because they were the only ones who treated black people in South Africa as equals.

The elites tend to think of politics from the textbooks that we read in University. We are not organic, neither do we engage in praxis. That is the failure of the left. If there is anything left of the left, it is kept alive by workers on automobile factory floors, anganwadi workers, garment, mining and plantation workers and others who keep organising to fight the plutocratic state and an investment conscious judiciary. It gets virtually no attention anywhere. But I do know of some who are like us, but have gone out of their way to support workers in these efforts. I have nothing but respect for them. It is also noticeable that when ever I share what they do on facebook or twitter, the analytics tells me that it receives virtually no engagement from people. That in itself is telling. We cannot change that through satire and writing.


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