Off late, there have been so many instances of intolerance in our country that it has become a daily news item. There is anger at seemingly innocuous happenings such as a very normal tweet by a celebrity politician about how people in a neighboring country are “just like us”. It is another matter that that nation could take umbrage at this comment! In Bengaluru, we have the intolerance against the Supreme Court verdict of granting water from the Cauvery river to a neighboring state. The city has been witnessing strikes and shut downs intermittently for a few weeks now for a number of varying reasons. It is quite a fashion nowadays to seethe at injustice and display the anger at soft targets. Sonu Nigam was the victim of social media trolls for airing a Point of View on loudspeakers and their misuse in India.
I am reading the book “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. He makes such poignant remarks on humankind and our ability to believe in myths that we create. He argues that all these religions, companies, nations, etc. are all beliefs created by humans, so we can gel together and work for a common cause. It is what distinguishes us from other species. What a perspective this provides! Suddenly, the very concept of a nation and maybe even a religion, becomes irrelevant and petty. The remarkable aspect for me is that this notion need not even be unique to this generation that is exposed to Mr. Harari. It is very likely that there have been hundreds and thousands of humans who would have been aware of this, since centuries. The power of the belief and the sway that these few, powerful men hold over us is such that the notion of the nationhood and religion being, but creations of an imaginative mind is not the most popular. No one is taught this in any school, but it does ring true and maybe, this is the reason that it is suppressed.
For people like Sonu Nigam and many other celebrities who are trolled on social media for airing their opinions, help may be at hand in the form of Artificial Intelligence. A recent article in Fortune India highlighted the efforts underway at a subsidiary of Alphabet, where work is in progress to identify the instigators of the trolling messages and throttle them at source itself. This will only take care of the social networks. What do we do about the mainstream media? These days, they are a glorified social media network. They are as much to blame for intolerance as anyone else. I confess that I am biased against the News Networks in India and refuse to watch any of them most of the time. Maybe that is my intolerance towards my perception of drivel and utter manipulation of news!