Fake News, the Desi way
Herds for 'Herd Immunity'
After 1947's midnight hour, no one in India ever said something akin to 'now that we have made India, let's make Indians'. For most of the founding generation, it was no founding: India was always there and they just affected a change of government. So, while a constitution was written, there was no corresponding legal or educational reform. Big pronouncements about big issues were done in big words, but the everyday life of the little men was mostly left untouched. Except, of course, suddenly India was not one country but two and seeds of permanent civil war in South Asia have been sown. While we woke up to the tryst of our presumed destiny, we were different people than how we might have set off. But, as if not to disrupt the spell of midnight, we did not ask the uncomfortable questions.
Of course, as Faiz Ahmed Faiz clearly saw, the morning after was a very different experience from that midnight. Yet we clung to the midnight's hopes, living in the dreams of a secularised, universal man, building a big state focusing on the big picture. That colonial architecture to never to trust one another and yet bow down in front of the text was left in its place. A new meritocracy to command the new socialised economy was convened and was promptly captured by the dominant castes and powerful interests. It was Deja vú all over again.
This left the hole through which the fakery sips in. This is a perfect storm - the absence of a social architecture of trust meets the blind faith in the text in the technological paradise of an eco-chamber, where nothing but what you want to hear is audible. A low-trust society that trusts all WhatsApp wisdom. The lack of trust in one another has somehow translated into blind faith in whatever is received via phone. This isn't just about naivete or technology-induced brain-fade. Instead, deep down, this is perhaps our educational code: Written in English and Hindi, sounding officious, big names, must be true!
The only thing now standing between the mind-machine and sense-preservation is language. India's languages were a barrier to making 'Indian', but now they are protective shields. The factories of fakery can't master all the different nuances of hate as practised in different corners of India. One kind of particularism defeats another, cultural antibodies fight off the viral spread of phobias. It's a paradox: Herds fight off herding! India's diversity is making the fringes immune to the attempts at homogenised dominion.
But the real virus, novel Corona, has created a different situation altogether. With it, the news cycles are faster, threats are real and the little language bubbles that saved us are prisons by themselves. It brought the government everywhere, disabling the hide-and-seek we forever played. In a country where everyone always sought exceptions, following rules has become a life-and-death affair. The demand to submit our bodies to the state has transformed, in a few short weeks, to a demand to submit our minds. The prison has come home.
However, the setting is such that breaking is easier than making. The alternative reality is based on some kind of hope, even if it's a perverse one of a mass murderer. At a time so dark and uncertain, even straws to clutch are hard to find. The fakery, unleashed, as it keeps breaking unchecked, is now corroding away the very ground it stands on. The monster is out of the bottle but it's about to eat its masters.