Loving to hate in Cyberia

I closed my personal page on Facebook three years ago when I realised that it was taking too much of my time. The final heated debate that took place on my wall was about my support for the Pakistan cricket team in the 2011 World Cup. My ‘friends’ accused me of being anti-national and of blasphemy. The viciousness was evident in many messages and comments. I responded to almost each and every comment in language that one could call courteous. But I was sucked into the very same sentiment of ‘hate’ from which these comments originated. I was as hateful within as the person I accused of viciousness. May be that was the reason I left but the Internet bug did not leave me. I still held on to a fan page and later opened a Twitter account.

With the polarised tension surrounding Narendra Modi, I have observed exactly the same hate, anger and fear in our voices. It does not matter if I support or reject Mod; it is about how I feel about the other view. At its core, these attitudes are not about political, philosophical, factual or historical differences; there is something lying dormant deep inside us. The ‘tone’ that emanates in these articles and comments is not about Gandhi, Nehru, the 1984 riots, pseudo-secularism, the 2002 riots, poverty, development, Uniform Civil Code or corruption. It rips something else. And this is not just a political phenomenon. It exists in any disagreement, be it on music, economics, science or even that most elusive quality of love! The language of expression is abusive, hateful and the ‘Like’ button is liked and pressed most is for Hate.

In our squabbles about being right or wrong, we are so filled with hate that we are unable to see who we really are.

And what are we?

We are insecure individuals clinging to ideas of society that make us most comfortable in our skin.

What is that ‘skin’?

Meant to cocoon, to protect, to conserve, that ‘skin’ has been turned by our various conditioning environments into a metal armour of hard impressions, tough presumptions and non-‘breathing’ understanding. It clogs the pores of our thought, our feelings, our very life-breath. But do we all not think and evolve? We do, but so tight is that conditioning armour that our evolving ideas function only within it and only further reinforce our ‘secure’ cocoon. From within this cocoo,n we sometimes try reaching out to that which is outside only to quickly grab that ‘something’ and bring it back into our own armour. Freedom to us is that which allows this insularity to expand, but strictly within and in control.

Our virtual avatar appears in different forms. It comes through as blatant and brash in some, clever and devious in others and a veritable charmer in yet others. It is such a charmer that it charms even the charmer. It works on me in the last category.

The Internet is a vent in our armours, an avenue to think and say things but from within our protective coat. It allows us to feel safe in our own kind. If I post online, I am sure to get a few who will like, share and praise what I have said because that reinforces a sense of mutually protective and aggressive security. I protect myself cased in the virtual from the crowd. In some spaces on the Internet I don’t even need to reveal my identity. “Go ahead, give it as hard as you can, let it be ugly,” we say to ourselves. Smile, as you ‘post’ with revenge because the opposite number cannot really hit back. Very rarely will I meet any of the people within these online rants to understand, let alone, confront them. The Net does something else. It makes every discussion unidirectional, microscopic and lacking the profundity that goes beyond the literal. It is ironic that unlimited virtual space limits our mental space. The Net has actually got us in its web, tangled, knotted up, tighter and tighter, by each sally of hate that we send; each jibe we post.

Inside all this lies a negativity, which burrows deeper and deeper into our flesh and spouts its venom in every word of dissent. When this dark lord makes us say things in anger coupled with triumph, he is actually laughing at us. He is laughing because we are oblivious to the truth: that all this hatred that we let loose is actually ‘going’ for none else than us. We seek happiness in the delusionary deconstruction of others. But we are actually destroying ourselves.

Originally written for The Hindu

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