It was 1975. If you were a middle class-kid living in urban India, entertainment options after school included, inter alia, your evening game (soccer, cricket, badminton – if you were rich), watching the traffic, chasing butterflies in the garden (if you had one) and watching Krishi Darshan (literally “Visiting the Farmer”) on the telly and learning about the benefits of urea to crop growth. You could also work on graffiti on your neighbour’s wall and risk his ire (it’s a real kick getting even with the grouchy uncle who never returns the cricket ball that lands in his compound).
On one such evening, The Kid was sitting with his friends (three guys, two girls – rain stopped play, so the kids are sitting in a shed) discussing the previous evening’s TV programme.
(TRUE STORY LIBERALLY EMBELLISHED FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT)
With just one channel to choose from, there was never much debate on what to discuss about TV. The chosen one for the moment was a lady singer from Bangladesh, beautiful voice and lovely looking woman.
“She’s a really good singer, but her ghazals sound horrible”, says The Kid.
“What?!!! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT? DON”T YOU KNOW SHE’S CALLED THE GHAZAL QUEEN?!!!!”, - his friends in chorus - if screaming together qualifies as music.
“Abbey, he’s an Angrez ke aulad from Bombay”, pipes in Sanjay – he’s the leader of the pack. This is normally the alpha male – the guy who can beat everyone else up – just like the days of Alexander and Kublai Khan. When you have a critical mass of buddies, you can become Emperor and Great Conqueror.
“She has been recognized as Ghazal Queen in The Times of India”. This is Laila’s contribution. Laila is the Cleopatra-female of the pack – very articulate, extremely knowledgeable and beautiful - and de facto leader of the women’s wing in the precinct. Her Mom is a Minister in the Central Government. The Times of India, of course, is the arbiter of all truth in this crowd.
After some heated debate, The Kid is now confronted with a tricky situation –
He can either battle through on a matter of principle – “she-sounded–awful-to-me-on–the–ghazals-and-the-Times-of-India-isn’t–sitting-in–my-eardrum” is one course of action. This will have consequences such as social ostracism by new found friends and likely hard tackles on the soccer ground for a few days.
He can do the “maybe-you-are-right-and-the-dog-was-barking-while-she-sang” line of rapprochement. Veiled threats wafting through the shed included zero-scope for making friends with the girls plus a beating by the Leader somewhere down the line.
The dog barked and sanity was restored along with the singer’s sobriquet as Ghazal Queen. Everyone seemed happy about convincing The Kid otherwise. The group retired to catch the latest episode of Krishi Darshan. They would find out that this one was a cow-dung special. That was the bullshit for that day.
Similar things abound in adult spaces about forty years later. A key benefit of the Internet and electronic media is that the mob now has a louder megaphone to back brute numbers.
Here are some gems that one routinely encounters:
“Hurricane Sandy is the worst storm ever “……media pandemonium. Records indicate its come in at number 17 (since 1900) in bad storms indexed by insurance companies with the met guys. Poor New York has floods, electricity and telephones down, transportation disrupted and, tragically, some people died. These things don’t happen when storms hit other places (the cyclone in Andhra in 1977 killed about 10,000 – even the media in India barely mentions it. It’ll probably turn up in some newsreel called “Classics”).
“You mean you don’t care about the environment….” – this to a person who’s expressed a view that carbon-taxes are a dumb way of doing it or efficient operations are inherently environment friendly and profitable. The pro-environment mob MUST endorse carbon taxes and profit cannot coexist with efficient use of natural resources. Does this sound like a Fundamentalist?
“Romney can’t be trusted, he’s the 1%.” or some variant thereof. Its Romney’s fault that he is rich. By inference, rich people can’t be trusted with public welfare. Poor people are likely to be corrupt - they have an incentive to be. This leaves the middle-class. (No wonder rich and poor politicians work on screwing the middle class……they create all the electoral problems.)
“Arguably the greatest Grand Slam final every played….” Is a preferred description for every five-set men’s final played in tennis. The “greatest” has been improved upon, on an average, about 2 to 3 times a year. But a generation grows up believing this to be true, every year.
“How CAN YOU SAY SACHIN SHOULD RETIRE?!!!!! Don’t you know he’s our greatest batsman ever…!!!”…….after Sachin’s sole century in many months has been against Bangladesh (or some such sordid sequence).
The above captures a typical line of argument on a random subject in public spaces. If you’re loud enough and can rally the mob, you win the argument and there is no other point of view. Watch NDTV’s debate shows and measure the decibel count.
High Decibel levels plus numbers have a gravitational effect on the Truth. The More you Holler, the Truth bends your way. It’s the fifth fundamental force.
We’re liberal and democratic. And we oppose any other point of view.
The More-holler-istic Majority.