I don’t know whether this will drive home the message of empathy for many that I wish, but here is my attempt. And I will keep this more categorical than usual.
So three quick points:
Art is critical for learning.
And when I say art, you can broadly and vaguely relate to literature, social sciences, culture, music, poetry and others forms of artistic expressions. Like a friend of mine said it once, “Art is not just for entertainment. It is a challenge to understand what we really are, rather than what we wish to be. The challenge is to observe our behavior rather than glorify our intentions. The challenge is to declare ‘I don’t know’, because without the realization of ignorance, there can be no knowledge. And then comes the second challenge – to go beyond knowledge itself and to recognize experience as it is in its raw state and not in interpretation.”
2. We perhaps are desperate to feel something.
And we need some degree of emotional reassurance and predictability in our life and life events. We are addicted to emotional formulas that we need to fix our fake feelings periodically. If you want to feel emotions, go to a hospital emergency room. Simply feeling an emotion about an over-dramatic news reporting proves absolutely nothing. (Adapted, thanks to some amazing writings by Ray Carney)
3. Newspaper/Media is a disease.
And you can be cured of it if you spend a year reading the previous week newspaper, says Taleb. An erudite is someone who displays less than he knows; a journalist is the opposite. And he tells, that there is an agency problem with Journalist. There is no difference between a journalist at Times of India and the restaurant owner in Delhi, who, when you ask for a taxi, calls his cousin who does a tour of the city to inflate the meter before showing up. Or the doctor who willfully misdiagnoses you to sell you a drug in which he has a vested interest.
Further quoting him, journalists have dual options. You can criticize either what a person said or what the person meant. The former is more sensational, hence lends itself more readily to dissemination. The mark of a charlatan –say the journalist Arnam Goswami, promoteur of pseudo-rationality –is to defend his position or attack a critic by focusing on some of his/her specific statement (“look at what he said”) rather than blasting his exact position (“look at what he means” or, more broadly, “look at what he stands for”), the latter of which requires an extensive grasp of the proposed idea. (adapted from some great writings of Nicholas Taleb)
Now let’s look at some important aspects to consider while you react to the recent happenings with coronavirus breakdown in India:
I am not sadistic and neither nihilist. And So aren’t you. Are you?
And lets assume that most people, effectively perhaps more than 99% of the people WANT to survive this pandemic. Be it men or women. Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs. Consultants, Doctors, Policemen or Farmers. Everyone wants to survive this, we are in this together. Yes even Muslims too, if this surprised you.
Tabliqi Jamaat is one missionary Islamic society. aka RSS?
It could be like the RSS of Muslims or it could be the Sanatan Dharm or Arya Samaj of the Hindus. I don’t know and I think many of us don’t know. You may spend some time knowing it but if you don’t want to, like I don’t, be aware that it could be like any of the above types of societies or something else. So just be aware, that is all I am saying. I am sure many of you are hindus but still don’t associate with RSS or Arya Samaj or alike. So if you are expecting all muslims to be responsible for this, then buy the same logic, all Hindus should be responsible for the demolishing of Babri Masjid.
The virus could have hit any of the mass gatherings.
It happened to be here, of course because of foreign participants. So everyone else who attended are VICTIMS and not CULPRITS of spreading coronavirus. Remember, this could have been any other gathering, you can just say, others were lucky enough.
Now why are these people spitting or hitting the care givers?
Now this is critical. Its really bad and unaccepted. It is putting the entire country at risk but WHY are they doing? Are they really masked terrorists who want to kill themselves and people around them? Or are they lead by their religious teacher who is guiding them to hide? Or are they scared of how will they be quarantined or treated, if at all, the conditions they will be put into once they are taken by government care givers?
Because the media isn’t exploring this aspect of Behavior economics, I give an attempt. It is definitely not the former (I hope you see that too. For the lack of any other sohpisticated argument, So many terrorists cannot be born out of nowhere.) but it could be mix of the latter two. Now why don’t they trust the Government? Now that is a million-dollar question.
I don’t know and haven’t met any of those but from the sparingly little I know, this Government has done so much to gain faith of the muslims in the recent past that this fact comes as a total surprise to me.
And here is where Arts can help the Scientific logical community that I am surrounded with to understand that you can’t code humans. They behave from their past experiences, their accumulated feelings and thoughts and the possible peer faith they can pull.
And beware, I know you will say, why to dig into history for this one incident of non-compliance! But oh my dear, who has ever been able to disassociate a child from her childhood traumas or the royalties from their kingship. It is close to biological.
Media is telling us they are criminals – because that’s the emotional formula that works on you!
You don’t want to know why a person is acting in a certain way; but you want to find who to blame on.
- Blame China, but for how long? They give you products and your economy depends on it.
- Blame the NRIs? Oh they give you political wealth to win the election.
- Then Blame the Poor migrants? That is tricky, it can make you loose an election – because they are not a small number.
- Then Blame the Government? That is blasphemy!
Who should be blame? God has never been more generous to Modi and Modi has never been so lucky. One spread and Muslims can be blamed – the safest escape.
NOW NOW NOW
Now haters gonna hate and I know many of you would take me as a typical critique to our well-respected Prime Minister and the Government. So here is just a quick snap of my take:
I respect the government
- For calling a lockdown – it was important!
- For stopping international travelers to come to India. This was late perhaps but in situations like this, one can never be sure, what was the best time. Panic comes only when the symptoms go out of control. So well taken.
- For respecting the care givers and recognizing the lament of the poor and the vulnerable; and telling the citizens to deal with empathy in these difficult times.
And I respect the COVID Warriors –
Doctors, Policemen, Daily delivery guys, vegetable vendors, Housewives, and the CSOs coming together to feed the migrants and many I might I have missed.
What I still can’t ignore is
- The Mass Exodus is completely out of the news and we don’t even know enough how many could really reach their homes safe. The social media is full of stories of love from CSOs and general public; stories of ignorance or atrocities by the State; or stories of hopelessness from the vulnerable. Like always, it is the poor who makes the most silent of the sacrifices, and even if they scream, media is experienced enough to silence them.
- Medical infrastructure and the testing speed in our country. Many reports tell it is not enough. If people ask questions, and if people demand that to be central to media debates, things might be so much more sensible.
- Twitter trends over the last two days went from #NizammuddinTerrorist #Muslim_matlab_aatankwadi, #Jihadi_Islam. These are IT cell-based accounts, spreading the venom, I could be getting emotional here in the end and saying something without much reference but I have seen through many chronologies to come to such a clean conclusion.
So the bottom line is – Use Art ways – learning, exploring, feeling – than Media – spreading venom – to make a judgement.
And if you aren’t really keen about making judgements, that is perhaps much better off. You then have to just feel what you are feeling and learn to learn more about yourself, and if possible explore others.
And just by the way, this stands alright if you are an individual. If you are in the Government or Media, Please be responsible. Please ensure you manage the people who are in need (migrants) with sensitivity. Please ensure that you prevent hate messages for a community, and rather deal it with appropriate peaceful mechanisms, and gain the lost faith.