As the world screams #metooindia, scrolling through Twitter, meant going through the worst of humanity’s darkest acts. It is one thing to have knowledge about sexual harassment, but a whole other ballgame to realize just how ingrained it is in every aspect of our lives.
It is not easy speaking out, especially on things so intimate and still “taboo” in most parts of India. But what struck me odd was that as much as there were sympathy and moral support being given to them, there was equal or in some cases higher measures of disbelief towards their statements. “You are doing this for attention” if the names called out were too big for someone’s acceptance and if the person abused is too scared to name the accused “It’s all lies”. This is some of the many insensitive comments to such posts. There were much more severe hate comments hurled at all those who came out in this movement.
It was odd that the general public decided to judge someone so very harshly, with or without any personal knowledge about the accusations. A user, aware, unaware or ignorant about the context of those 140 characters had a point of view. And not just a point of view as a general opinion but a point of view with conviction and belief. A conviction they feel they are bound to defend. This point of view was not specific to this thread. No, the polarities kept recurring, different subjects, different judgments. Be it sports, environment, statistics, celebrities and their relationship statuses (Not Kidding!) or political.
What after all is the genesis of this polarity?
Looking back, a lot has changed in our decision-making process in the past two decades. Before the internet, one used to look inward, think through the facts available and speak based on validated knowledge and judgment. Without internet what one spoke was also limited to the geography and the local community. One had to earn one’s right to be heard, one needed the acceptance of the community.
However, with the era of internet dawning upon us, it has led to three major changes in our decision-making process
1. An abundance of Information: With the abundance of information available in the age of the internet, the choicest of information is available irrespective of any physical, geographical location constraints. There is more information available than one could absorb in a lifetime.
2. Access to information: The internet has ensured easy access to information at the command of our voice today on just about any device in a matter of nanoseconds.
3. Reach of information: Social media has given us the platform to make our voices heard for almost no price. Free messaging apps like WhatsApp makes it easier for any information to go viral within no time at all.
The information fallacy
The word “information” is used for a reason. Information is defined as “facts “provided” or “learned” of something”. Remember, there is no guarantee of accuracy on what you have been provided or learned. What you have learned, could be right/wrong /biased opinions/ theories /fantasies/facts or fiction.
Also, the information that goes viral mostly is bits and pieces of information, separated from the full picture. They are more often than not click baits, blown out of context.
Access to information is a good sign of progress in any society. But the root of the problem is not access to information but the ignorance that the information accessed may or may not be accurate or the full picture. We are blinded in thinking that the information we learn is 100% true and such bias is the basis of intolerance. It stands for “I am right and You are Wrong”.
Constructive opinions pave way for conversations rather than debates
While having a point of view is fantastic and much needed and believe you must. But belief must always come after validation. An unbiased deep-dive into both sides of an argument to arrive at a conclusion one is convinced of. Validation brings to the table acknowledgment, understanding and acceptance of the other person’s point of view. Thereby makes you more tolerant towards not so agreeable views. A more “I think I am right because…”. This opinion then leads to a conversation. Constructive debate on a subject rather than trash-talking back and forth.
A pause before judgments
Coming back to the #metoo movement, it is not that all those who came out were speaking the truth. But they deserve a right to a fair hearing before being crucified. Equality is never achieved by giving one gender more benefit of the doubt than the other. Rather we can only bridge the gap by seeing both genders from the same perspective in all contexts. There is a judicial system in place. A legal remedy to hear both parties and conclude upon a judgment. Why not wait for that before we kill the messenger?
You might call me old fashioned. “Who on earth has the time in this day and age to listen to ludicrous arguments when I know I am right?!”. But that truly is the fallacy. The ignorance that one could be wrong can only be corrected when proven wrong. Now, in an individual scenario that might have limited consequences and one can take that risk. Imagine that in a community of people belonging to one of the world’s most populated country, bound together in their “beliefs”; the consequence of their actions if proven wrong, would be nothing less than a catastrophe. With all humility from this old-fashioned soul, develop a point of view or opinion only after being aware and after thorough validation of all the facts.
As Aristotle wisely said “It is a strength of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it”