What a couple of weeks it’s been for those of us who are labelled (libelled?) Liberals! In some senses, we started out hoping we’d be the “meddling kids” of the “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for these meddling kids” fame from a Scooby Doo episode. Instead, we got a disappointing anticlimax in which our masks have been stripped off to show the world what kind of villains we are. India has won, liberals have lost. The smug sounding westward looking English speaking elitists have been invalidated overnight like they were 1,000 rupee notes, while India ushered in a new dawn where a majority of Indians feel happy.
This has led to an existential crisis for some of us – a meltdown as it’s being called in some circles. So, how does a 1,000 rupee coin meltdown and recast itself into a shape that gives itself meaning? Nobody knows. But here are a few of my thoughts over the last couple of weeks. You’re welcome to board the Catamaran of Catharsis which may go anywhere the wind blows to make sense of what’s happened to the liberal clan. Off we go…
Along denial river
A tryst with density: In the immediate aftermath of widespread disappointment in my self-selected filter bubble, a lot of new voices penetrated saying “Respect the mandate”. Of course, – it’s not like it’s an expert economist’s opinion or an authoritative data point that we can just ignore it. But it didn’t stop there, it turns out that several people did give up their LPG subsidies and all of the cylinders saved up thus are now being used to gaslight us into questioning the sanity of liberals. Add to that the newfound emergence of voices on your timeline who want to say exactly how wrong I was and what that makes me – because even before the PM takes the oath, there has to be a swearing ceremony. Maybe I just imagined the last 5 years?
Pivot to devote: In another corner was a more realistic path to salvation. Time and tide wait for no man, but it seems Time does turn the tide based on election results. (Oh hi, unifier-in-chief). For those of us pre-election liberals with an MBA, this is a seemingly attractive option. Become apolitical. Or better yet, do that thing that startups do all the time, the thing you Excel at – Pivot. The recommended approach involves starting with the communication plank of “I’m not a fan of totalitarian regimes in the slightest, but as an MBA I have to agree that their marketing strategy is next to none” and proceed from there to…
The Arctic of Anger
Sitting on the offence: Elsewhere, higher-order liberals try to leverage their core strength of being
sensitive and empathetic offended at the misrepresentation of facts. But it’s also important to take the temperature of the room so we can strike where the irony is the hottest. For instance, 50% of us have relatives closer than we’d like to admit yelling their lungs out about how EVMs have doubtlessly been rigged, while the other 50% is shouting about the greatest leader since sliced bread. Run away from both of them, towards the middle ground – where you will find several discombobulated liberals and move on to…
Demon-monetisation: Now you’ve arrived. Unleash your 2000-word think pieces here. Maybe talk about why liberals are the root of all evil. But don’t do it publicly though. Instead, these highly insightful thought pieces based purely on feelings that will provide us with the requisite outlet for letting out some steam at the softest possible targets should not be made easily accessible. Everyone knows that misery brings happiness – like they say, suffer ka phal meetha hota hai. So make your fellow liberals stand in long queues outside Automated Venting Machines to collect their favourite feel-piece and help alleviate their withdrawal symptoms.
Irrelephant in the room: But what of the long run? How do I come to terms with this new reality? We must understand that media houses can’t start debates about how irresponsible they have been with the tremendous power they wield. That does not make for a reductive shouty debate which guarantees 6 news channels the number 1 spot. My feeling is that in reality, liberals have been largely irrelevant in the public discourse this time around – except as a punching bag. Perhaps,my body is thrown off so much by the summer heat that it’s processing humidity as humility. On the composite product of Uselessness and Ability to irritate, we liberals now find ourselves in the spectrum between “an India v/s Sri Lanka bilateral series” and “Vegans”.
Yes Vegan: The most endearing trait about us is the ability to take offence on multiple levels. For instance, 50% of us are already offended for making a joke about vegans. But allow me to elaborate – the irrelevance of vegans is based on a specific context. Vegans who’ve been speaking of animal cruelty for the longest were considered sanctimonious, but the movement is now gaining momentum because of the arrival of objectively tastier alternatives to meat such as the Impossible Burger, which will be accelerated once popular media picks it up. In the same vein, the liberal irrelevance is specific to a context where the mainstream messaging deluge cannot be countered with a sancti-national alternative. Perhaps, it needs something more – perhaps a disruption of media models, or an opposition that can get its act together. It is clearly yet to arrive.
Stand-up comedy: But hey, if you’re still here you weren’t speaking up to win, you were speaking up because you felt it’s important to stand up. And how wonderful it is when people laugh at your stand-up. Always look on the bright side of life. Embrace some comedy. Stop countering the fake news peddler’s sense of rumour with your never-ending sense of tumour. Bring back the sense of humour, and think of the Liverpool fans who’ve been waiting years to win the premier league title, and when they finally had a real shot this year to be denied by the closest margin and be disappointed yet again, still believe and say “next season is our season”. Then, when you feel like you’re ready to get laughed at again – go back up there and stand up for the voices that are not heard. You’ll never walk alone.