Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States, is admired for her many great qualities — and oratory is one of the toppers on that list. In 2016, when she delivered her speech at the National Democratic Convention, she said her motto was, “When they go low, we go high.”
It was an instant hit and social media was flooded with messages applauding her speech.
Michelle spoke about having to raise her daughters in the limelight of the Presidency as it were, and yet instilling the importance of rising above all sorts of negative influence in them. It was a speech that stressed on the importance of basic human values, something that seems to be in rare supply these days — particularly in India, because here, public figures seem to hold beliefs that are the exact opposite of what Michelle Obama holds as important.
In India currently, the motto on mudslinging among politicians is, “When they go low, you go lower.”
Azam Khan’s ‘khaki underwear’ remarks allegedly against BJP leader Jaya Prada shows that the political discourse has really stooped. If only politicians in India could get inspired by Michelle Obama’s motto on how to maintain basic decorum while campaigning, it would have been easier for them to strike the right chord with people.
Unfortunately, what we are hearing now during the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 is nothing short of hate-mongering under the garb of politics.
The nastiest and foulest language is used to refer to opponents — the crassness of the barbs would give an AIB roast a run for its money. In their effort to sell the politics of fear, division and win the election at any cost, our leaders are setting an absolutely wrong example.
When BJP president Amit Shah vowed to create a national citizen’s registry that, he said, will remove every single infiltrator from the country, unless they happen to be Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist, it sent out a wrong message to other communities living in India. When a campaign adopts a divisive model that humiliates already marginalised communities, it definitely is against secularism according to the Constitution. Similarly, when leaders tend to overtly threaten people to say that if the electorate does not vote for the particular candidate, they should not expect anything from the party, their lack of inhibition in demonstrating their arrogance and coarseness brazenly comes through.
Name calling has suddenly become the new go-to approach adopted by the majority of our leaders in this election campaign. One wonders if it is because of their strong conviction of winning, or is it the fear of losing that makes them so blatantly rude? Using names like ‘Pappu’, ‘naamdar’, ‘speed breaker’, ‘expiry babu’, ‘bottle of poison’, etc., shows how low our politicians can stoop.
Their imagination is so malicious that President Trump’s ‘Crazy Bernie’ for Bernie Sanders, and ‘Crooked Hillary’ for Hillary Clinton seem so juvenile in comparison.
Perhaps name-calling, being rude and passing condescending remarks is the new culture that we in India have adopted and accepted.
If this is the new normal, this is something we need to worry about.
From "Pappu" to "Chor", personally disparaging name-calling does not behove those vying to lead the nation. (Photo: DailyO)
It makes us wonder what makes our leaders stoop to such level of crudeness — politicians forget they are leaders who are also role models. They seem to care less about the impact their words can have on people and more about how to give juicy headlines to journalists craving breaking news. The desire to win elections is much stronger than the need to connect with the people. Perhaps they missed out on the basic lessons on humility and respect when they were in school.
Being disrespectful, name-calling and demeaning a person is the only virtue we find in our so-called leaders — this is not what we want our children to watch and learn. Children are influenced by what they watch on media — television viewing not only entertains, educates and informs our children, but also forms (or distorts) their perception about what is good, acceptable and civil. Without any censorship ratings on programs shown on television, children are vulnerable to the messages conveyed — which helps them form an opinion and also shapes their behaviour.
When children hear words like ‘intolerance’, ‘rape’, ‘murder’, ‘mob-lynching’, ‘traitor’, etc., and when they see people in leadership positions making fun of their opponents, resorting to name-calling, threatening voters and shouting in newsrooms, they consider such behaviour as acceptable — even appropriate. They will learn to raise their voices, so that they can mute the weak and the powerless.
This is extremely alarming.
The language we hear from our politicians does not represent the true spirit of India, and these are not the kind of leaders whom we would like to look up to. Nor is this the country we would like our children to grow up in, where people live in fear and insecurity, and where intolerance has changed the social fabric of the nation.