Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Two Sides of the Fence

The polarities are suddenly becoming sharper, the splits very wide, and the schisms very drastic. There are numerous raging, burning, outrageous issues (note the adjectives used for issues), which demand one to take a stand, either for or against; nothing in between. One is expected to take a position on either side of the fence, not on it. This phenomenon causes cramping in the room for informed debate, understanding nuances, broadening horizon of thought, to be considerate at times and above all to understand that life is not about polarities all the time.

In social sciences polarization means the social process whereby a social or political group is divided into two opposing sub-groups having conflicting and contrasting positions, goals and viewpoints, with few individuals remaining neutral or holding an intermediate position. The few are becoming fewer, are bullied into becoming fewer, are coerced into becoming fewer.

Social space, both media and otherwise is rife with issues that concerns the general public. Be it the political ones, where either you are pro-Modi or anti-Modi, social ones where either you are against airing of a convicts interview or for it, one related to sports where one is required to display well demarcated allegiance. And ‘display’ has become an important element of this narrative.

In the melee of such strongly voiced opinions sadly the views of the fence sitters doesn’t get heard or gets misconstrued. Her thoughts are most likely to be interpreted by the majority as one on the extreme sides. Now there is a social reason behind this. It is a constriction of understanding of a middle path, which we are gradually shunning since a long time now. One either cracks an entrance or not, one either gets past that IIT gate or not, one either marries or not, you get the drift. For on the other side of ‘not’ is an unforgiving world.

A whopping 65.8% teens report to have been cyber bullied. The percentage only drops for adults but the fact that it occurs doesn’t go away. Anger, frustration, sadness are the predominant feelings that those bullied on facebook, or twitter or by e-mail have felt. Bullying at one level is again based on sharp differences in opinions expressed socially and that which is then taken to a much personal level.

Many of us must have experienced or noticed that after a point, which is not very distant, debates and discussions give rise to untoward personal attack. Intolerance is on a rise, if one doesn’t belong to a camp, a basic divisive entity, one doesn’t find a place elsewhere. All this breeds another kind of individuals who are groomed with the belief that unless you hold and express strong and controversial viewpoints you will not attract friends or attention. The mental trauma for those who are unable to withstand tirade against them leads to dire consequences, a fact represented by increased percentage of suicides stemming from cyber bullying or social media acceptance.

We should understand and make understand the vulnerable young that it is ok not to have opinions on everything, it is ok not to indulge in slugfest online and lose sleep over it, it is ok not to be identified with the majority or the minority, it is ok not to outrage all the time, it is ok not to have followers who follow you for the bigoted views, it is ok not to choose a side of the fence, it is in fact just fine to sit on it sometimes.

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