Social justice warriors are a rare breed of human beings who put society above self. The phrase ‘Social Justice Warrior’ started out as a badge of honour accorded to those men and women who stepped out of their bewitching bubbles of privilege and comfort to dedicate their lives to serve the powerless, the defenceless and the voiceless. This was until the power of social media and its influencers turned this mark of honour into a smear of opprobrium. The abbreviation of this phrase is nowadays being hash-tagged with feral ferocity to scar anyone who even so much as disagrees with the stated position of the entrenched interests.
I have had to recently swim through yet another tidal wave of this concerted and malevolent campaign of vilification of folks on social media who are vocal, clearly liberal (progressive minded) in their views and who espouse policy positions which are predominantly sympathetic to the underdog and oftentimes critical of the incumbent dispensation. This has invariably and incorrectly I might add resulted in them being slotted as both anti-establishment and anti-development. This would be par for the course (not normalising it) if it would have stopped at that. What is truly worrying is the fact that these people are now being branded as anti-nationals! Anti-nationals whose leitmotif in life is not only to spark off but also to catalyse and accelerate the incineration of the very idea of India. All this bile being spewed because these folks dare to question the actions of the government and raise their voice in favour of the minorities. Predictably, a moniker has started making the rounds of the social media ecosystem which now seeks to target these liberal voices (mostly youth). They are now being trolled and derided as the ‘Yuppie Liberandu Social Justice Warriors’.
The following exposition is my attempt to apply the appropriate shades on the canvas to hopefully paint the true picture and wrest back the narrative. Those averse to liberal doses of razor-sharp sarcasm may kindly refrain from further perusal!
Who am I?
I Tweet or Whatsapp mostly from within the confines of a swank climate controlled space ensconced in the plush comfort of my executive chair or couch. The latest and greatest iPhone or Mac is the weapon of choice in my hands. I opine on everything under the sun with ‘gay abandon’ (Sun and the rainbow – get it?). I do indulge copiously in the succulence of Prime cuts and some of the finest reds to wash it down with. I l hang out at trendy coffee shops where I munch on articles from the NYT, WaPo, Economist, Foreign Policy et.al. or immerse myself in works of fiction and non-fiction alike while I sip my favourite pour-over (sorry bulletproof isn’t my cuppa coffee!). I seek out rare single malts from around the world (Japanese Yes!) and lunge at a bueno Anejo or a bottle of righteous Mezcal. I love trekking the glaciers in Iceland, exploring the amazing museums and jiving in the hotspots in St. Petersburg and walking the streets of the Big Apple or sun-bathing in the Cote d Azur when I need to relax and recharge. I love to break my fast to a bowl of overnight oats hydrated in almond milk infused with açaí berry drizzled with mono-floral mountain honey or a multigrain avocado toast with a cage free sunny side up and then lunch on an organic mixed greens chopped salad bowl tossed in 18 year BV or a bowl of cauliflower rice with kale, sautéed Chanterelles and grilled wild caught Salmon or Ahi. Dinner is some gorgeous Grade A Sashimi and Sake to down it. You get the drift. I’m a ‘perennially recovering’ Fashionaholic, Watchaholic, Gadgetaholic et.al. I’m a snob with respect to pretty much everything. I’m your quintessential ‘young at heart’ yuppie puppy!
Who am I?
I’m what they call an ‘Article Warrior’ (pejorative of course); one who whips out relevant and topical articles from their inexhaustible quiver and slays the ‘untruth’ with unflagging diligence. Just as the wilful dissemination of misinformation (read vandalism of Social Media with propagandist excrement) is the business of some people, I’m in the business of debunking those very myths/falsehoods and banishing bigoted narratives from the societal realm with a broom fashioned out of reason and fact. Call me a ‘Swachh Bharat’ crusader of a slightly different variety! I fight this righteous war because I’m well-bred, decently well-read and my world view is informed by a wonderfully diverse spread. Enough rhyming! I do it because that is the right thing to do.
I’m a conversationalist who loves ‘engaging civilly’ with a multi-ideological crowd on a dizzying array of topics. I have slowly but surely grown a robust conscience that keeps the regular flare-ups of my age-old (society inculcated) bigotry at bay. I’m tethered to a moral compass that pulls me back onto the straight and narrow whence I subconsciously wander off pretty much every single hour of my existence. I struggle mightily to side with bans or censorship of any kind until it is cogently proven to be deleterious to humanity. I stand in solidarity for the rights of my fellow citizens who have a sexual orientation that doesn’t conform to mine. The underpinning of my core belief system is the principle of live and let live. The entire edifice of my existence is built upon that foundation. Every single sinew in my body detests the rule of the mob with all its might. Majoritarianism as it were in every shape, form or fashion. I’m viscerally loathe to anyone dictating to the other including but not limited to the following: what they can say, eat, read, wear, how they should carry themselves, who they should associate with or who they can sleep with. In a nutshell, I’m fiercely ‘pro-choice’ (encompasses all interpretations). Speaking of choice, I constantly impose my will on my children and I’ll be the first to admit that it is patently unfair and even borderline cruel. P.S. I’m a WIP on that front.
I’m somewhat privileged and yet I’m perfectly capable of empathising with the trials and tribulations of the marginalised contrary to what some ‘wingnuts’ would have you believe. This fallacious argument that is untiringly advanced that only those who have ‘been there and done that’ can relate to the pain of someone in a similar situation is plain bunkum and honestly hypocritical. If that were indeed the case, then let me pose to them how is it they can feel the pain of our soldiers stationed on the Siachen Glacier from the snugness of their living rooms so very vividly when a majority of them haven’t even experienced snow let alone the spirit-smothering 50 below temperatures these soldiers have to contend with? There are more kinds of empathy than just cognitive (read up if you please) and you need to have a compassionate heart to be able to empathise. Simple as that.
Yes, I talk…..talk a lot in fact much to the chagrin of many who are ideologically incongruent and invariably whosoever is in power. But prior to talking, I internalise, analyse, rationalise, theorise, hypothesise, often criticise and then summarise. This summary which is the extrapolation/distillation of all that data that I consume ravenously is then let loose on society in form of my my blogs, tweets and FB posts. I tremendously respect folks who roll up their sleeves and pound the pavement, go into the slums, into the impoverished hinterland and do their bit to uplift the lives of fellow human beings. That said, I will not let the rabid and the rowdy rundown folks they disparagingly brand ‘pseudo-intellectuals’ for all talk and no action. I would have these detractors know that thoughtful deliberation is the precursor to ideation and that in turn is the precursor to effective action. Please take note of the fact that these ‘verbose intellectuals’ serve a very important purpose in our societies. Their endeavour is to constantly challenge the status quo to rock society out of its inertia of complacency in a bid to ensure it is constantly striving for a better and more sustainable future for all its members and for their habitat. They also seek to ask questions to power so that it ignites a debate which results in the dissection of the issue/idea to the bone which in turn helps reveal/expose any demerits or disease lurking beneath the surface. This challenging of societal norms or government diktats oftentimes is perceived as a vested interest driven hyper-partisan criticism. Let me assure you the sole vested interest in this instance is the desire to maintain a decent, progressive and humane society which is forward-thinking and forward-moving. Intellectuals are to human society what bees are to our ecosystem!
Let me start this sub-section by stating for the record that I’m of the firm belief that no-one and nothing is beyond reproach.
Faith in a higher power is not anathema to me, unconditional and unquestioning capitulation to the racket of organised religion is. The construct of holy men and women is as offensive to me as is the ‘godawful’ practice of manual scavenging! Organised religion promotes mindless rituals, deleterious dogma, discriminates based on gender and caste and polarises and poisons minds and hearts in its wake. There! I think I have managed to comprehensively describe organised religion in one sentence. Humour aside, I think faith is an intimately private emotion/expresion and it should stay within the privacy of one’s homestead or better yet ones’s heart. The overt and ostentatious exhibitions in the form grandiose ‘places of worship’ and extravagant public spectacle is the absolute antithesis of what faith ought to be.
I also despise Manspreading!
Liberandu is for the lack of a better explanation a portmanteau fashioned out of the word Liberal and the Hindi slang Gan*u (which has multiple translations ranging from coward to a fool). That is, if you were still wondering……..
Social Justice Warrior (SJW)
Who is she/he?
Let’s keep the warrior bit aside for a moment. The Wikipedia definition of Social Justice is that ‘it is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges.’ Add to that the fact that the individual must also fulfill their societal roles in order to receive those opportunities and privileges.
I’m sure the verdict would be unanimous that the manual scavenger fulfills way more than his/her share of societal responsibility. Then why isn’t he/she the beneficiary of any of those opportunities and privileges that society ought to bestow in return? Puny privilege like not having to wade in other people’s excrement! Now is a good time to bring back the word warrior into the mix! Since the manual scavenger doesn’t get his/her due/puny privilege and is also unable to demand the same from society he/she needs some help. In walks the ‘Social Justice Warrior’ to fight on the behalf of the downtrodden, disenfranchised, condemned, exploited, untouchable and persecuted. The vanguard of this social justice movement comprises of many ‘modern day saints’ who have dedicated their lives to the upliftment of those ‘invisibles’. These brave men and women stride out leaving behind loving families and lucrative jobs in response to a call much more powerful and greater than the all-consuming sense of self. It takes ‘inhuman’ conviction and infinite courage to devote ones entire existence to the cause of someone else. This debt to society is impossible to repay. The vanguard aren’t the lonely rangers though in this vigil. They are bolstered by a pen weilding (keyboard in actuality) second line/rearguard who endeavour to shine the spotlight on the ‘invisibles’ and their plight to keep them in the consciousness of both the public and the polity (both have a very short memory span!). The second line of SJWs also lookout for the vanguard by ensuring their voice from the trenches not only reaches but also reverberates resoundingly in the halls of public policy and power. Loud enough to make it hard to ignore. The second-line SJWs also have the back of these activists, whistleblowers and social workers by ensuring the might of the status quo doesn’t crush them with impunity. Examples of the ‘status quo’ are the mining, sand, water tanker, land, liquor, prostitution, labour, construction, political mafias which ceaselessly conspire to undermine the stellar work of these SJWs or worse eliminate them altogether. So the next time your impulse reaction is to embark on a vilification campaign against SJWs because they called your ideologue out please pause and rethink. Rebut forcefully by advancing logical arguments but please don’t take the easy and oft-abused route of sullying their image. Please appreciate the nuance when I say that Medha Patkar isn’t anti-development, she is pro-poor. Fete the ‘boots on the ground’ SJWs at every opportunity. They totally deserve it as they are the ones standing between insatiable beasts called power and greed and the tenuous rights of the common man. That said, please don’t demonise the second-line of social media/mass media SJWs and trivialise the role played by them.
Remember, the gardener’s contribution is unparalleled but the bee’s role isn’t trivial either! In fact, it is seminal.