Why people don't care for outrage anymore

Silence is no longer golden.

 |  4-minute read |   07-12-2017
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“Pollution is up, where is the outrage?” a journalist tweeted as the air quality in Delhi predictably took a dive back into the dour, smog-filled grey landscape after a week of some delusional sunlight.

In the circus that we live in, a few hours later an angry Ravi Shastri stormed onto the pitch at the capital’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium where Virat Kohli’s masterclass was in danger of being overshadowed by the Sri Lankans wearing farcical surgical masks and literally gasping for breath.

“We are not too bothered about pollution.” Adding fuel to Shastri’s fire was Bharat Arun, the bowling coach, who questioned the sinister motive behind Sri Lankan players vomiting while our hero Kohli seemed to have developed more powers and didn’t even seem to need a mask for the two days he was at the crease. You are right Mr Arun, there is nothing foolish at all about exerting strenuously when pollution levels are hazardous but perhaps both Shastri and Arun will pause before they outrage next time — because soon after their outbursts, Mohammad Shami — one of our own — too joined in the puke fest.

If he was feeling better, Shami would have been the ideal man to give the team coaches a lesson on “think before you outrage”, having been at the receiving end of trolls even for something as bizarre as a dress his wife wore.

Outrage is the most abused word in today’s times, sometimes well-meaning but most often simply the done thing. It comes easy, has no respect for truth, embellishes touchy sentiments and you can spew it as easily from the comfort of your drawing rooms as you can from a news studio.

It is a momentary lapse of control, imagined or otherwise, that is sometimes so fleeting that you begin to wonder: take, for instance, the outrage against the film Padmavati by, among others, Diya Kumari, a descendant of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family.

Before we could finish going through her statement on Rajput pride, she was already on foreign shores, cheering her son in some parallel universe — waltzing with actress Reese Witherspoon’s daughter at a coming-out ball.

Once there were trolls, now are we also becoming compulsive outrageous outragers?

india-gate_040711101_120717071606.jpgOur candlelight vigils don't work anymore. Photo: PTI

There are always exceptions when we raise our voice for the right reasons, but such is the opposition to anything or anyone questioning our conventional apathy that it forces most to hunker down defeated and do what has to be done, individually and silently. “How dare the Sri Lankans fall sick in the air we breathe everyday” or “how dare we appreciate a Pakistani artist”, just like our drinking and driving, our aggression has no limit.

Other times, the discourse degenerates to religious posturing — for instance, in August, the outrage over the death of 60 infants at an Uttar Pradesh hospital didn’t stand a chance once chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced, at the time, that Janmashtami celebrations in state would be held on a grand scale.

Mohandas Pai, the former director of Infosys, couldn’t resist a dig at such outrage — he recently asked where the candlelight vigils were when a Hindu boy was killed for his relationship with a Muslim girl. His tweet seemed more about giving the tragedy a religious twist. Perhaps, we are now left feeling burnt out with the brutal sexual assaults of our daughters — we know the glow of candlelight marches is shone on ourselves and changes nothing.

We were outraged by a four-year-old being booked for raping a girl his age; yet, we have grown quiet even as the victim’s mother runs from school to school — her child having been denied admission.

The problem is also that we have outraged at the drop of a hat on so many counts that now it’s a bit like the “Sher aaya (the lion’s come)” canard of a little boy who screamed once too; just like his desperate calls, no one takes outrage seriously anymore.

Amitabh Bachchan outraged that he wants to live the rest of his years in peace after he was questioned about the Panama papers. The same gentleman though continues to sell everything from jewels to Gujarat.

Then there is our outrage at the New York Times over its depiction of the sari; Mohammad Kaif offended people because he did yoga, and a disabled man not being able to stand up for the national anthem made us violent.

You name it and we “outrage” it. We are horrified over Africans being beaten up by mobs in our country, yet — in the same breath — we refuse to stop calling Northeastern people “chinky”, those are our double standards.

We don’t even spare people’s personal lives: we outrage when an adult woman chooses not to have children or prefers work to the conventional route of settling down.

We gossip, we bitch and we besmirch.

Sometimes those who outrage get caught in the sentiment just like at other times those who question outrage get caught in cynicism. But, either side of the divide, silence is no longer golden.

Also read: Why Delhi doesn't feel sorry for Sri Lankan cricket players who complained about pollution


Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava @jyotsnamohan

Worked with NDTV for more than a decade and now writes on a variety of topics for several news organisations.

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