Why the up­per classes are im­i­tat­ing the weak

Mint ST - - VIEWS -

MANU JOSEPH

a jour­nal­ist and a nov­el­ist, was a for­mer colum­nist for ‘The New York Times’

While propos­ing the quota the gov­ern­ment said it was for the “poor” among those castes that were too high to qual­ify for any of the ex­ist­ing quotas, but the pro­posal’s poverty thresh­old is so high that over 95% of In­dia’s top so­cial rung will prob­a­bly be in con­tention. This makes the quota a farce. The so­cial jus­tice and em­pow­er­ment min­is­ter has hinted that the eco­nomic qual­i­fier will be brought down as a way of in­tro­duc­ing com­mon sense into the pol­icy. In any case, noth­ing al­ters the fact that what In­dia has pro­posed is a quota for the up­per castes.

Would B.R. Ambed­kar have ever thought that a day would come when the up­per castes of In­dia would get a quota for them­selves? If In­dia’s finest thinker had not an­tic­i­pated this, it is be­cause it did not oc­cur to him that the be­havioural pol­i­tics of the op­pressed would be im­i­tated and usurped by the strong. This is a phe­nom­e­non that we can ob­serve across the world, chiefly in democ­ra­cies. The strong are even claim­ing to be of­fended for be­ing deemed priv­i­leged. They even use those two phony ex­pres­sions that un­til now were the pre­serve of “vul­ner­a­ble”, po­lit­i­cally cor­rect char­la­tans: “It’s prob­lem­atic” and “It’s of­fen­sive.”

In Novem­ber 2018, a group of jour­nal­ists, all of them women, posed for a pho­to­graph with the CEO of Twit­ter, Jack Dorsey, who held a plac­ard that said, “Smash Brah­mini­cal Pa­tri­archy”. The re­sponse to the im­age was un­usual. Un­til re­cently, the Brah­mins of mod­ern In­dia lurked in his­tor­i­cal guilt. If they be­lieved in their ge­netic su­pe­ri­or­ity, they con­veyed it only among them­selves and in pri­vate. They cer­tainly did not ob­ject to any ex­hor­ta­tion that their power should be dec­i­mated. But now they rose in rage against a mere metaphor on a mere plac­ard. They found the ref­er­ence “casteist”, “racist”. They said they were of­fended, and that their sen­ti­ments had been hurt, which in In­dia clearly means, “I want to put you away in jail.” Dorsey had to is­sue an apol­ogy.

In the US, Don­ald Trump has used the #Metoo move­ment and its fram­ing of men as a re­pul­sive col­lec­tive to give white men the most prized qual­ity of our times—vic­tim­hood. He said it was a “dif­fi­cult” and “scary” time for young men in Amer­ica who, he claimed, were at risk of be­ing falsely ac­cused by women. His son, Trump Jr, said that he was more wor­ried about his sons than his daugh­ters in the age of #Metoo. Men as vic­tims of women is not a new idea but it was al­ways a nutty fringe move­ment. Now it is more main­stream than the me­dia por­trays. From what I gather, Amer­i­can men are ex­hibit­ing a set of be­hav­iour that is sim­i­lar to the po­lit­i­cal be­hav­iour of women—for in­stance, they con­sider them­selves a po­lit­i­cal bloc with com­mon con­cerns and fears. In re­sponse, the Democrats ap­pear to be wary of stri­dent, ar­tic­u­late and in­tel­lec­tual women, like their se­na­tor El­iz­abeth War­ren, who will in­tim­i­date the av­er­age Amer­i­can male.

In other places, the new ur­bane male may not de­spise strong women but he has other tor­ments, psy­cho­log­i­cal and so­cial, and in the lib­er­a­tion of mod­ern emas­cu­la­tion, he is en­thu­si­as­tic about flog­ging them.

Why is this hap­pen­ing? The most im­por­tant rea­son why the priv­i­leged are im­i­tat­ing the weak is in the huge suc­cess of the move­ments of the so­cially de­prived. For in­stance, caste-based reser­va­tions has worked well. Not just that, their big­gest ben­e­fi­cia­ries have been the most priv­i­leged fam­i­lies within those com­mu­ni­ties. On the back of reser­va­tions, they have over­taken their equals in other castes. That is the flaw in ev­ery quota. The pri­mary ben­e­fi­cia­ries are the cream of the com­mu­nity. This is why many so­cially pow­er­ful castes in In­dia feel they have a moral right to ask for quotas.

Also, there has been a loss of re­spect for re­form­ers. The cham­pi­ons of equal­ity are all ben­e­fi­cia­ries of in­equal­ity. For in­stance, in the “Brah­mini­cal pa­tri­archy” im­age, the Brah­mins did not see any so­cial un­der­dog. When women who were not only priv­i­leged but got more op­por­tu­ni­ties than most In­dian men abuse “Brah­mini­cal pa­tri­archy”, the claim is so far­ci­cal it gives a Brah­min the moral con­fi­dence to be of­fended.

This con­fi­dence is a con­tri­bu­tion of so­cial ac­tivism it­self, which has cre­ated a cul­ture of lament. In a so­ci­ety that re­wards ex­pres­sions of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, it was in­evitable that even the for­tu­nate will find moral rea­sons to state that they have been wronged.

In the age of lament, we hear those who are born with the mega­phones.

The strong are dis­cov­er­ing the power of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, vic­tim­hood and the moral high ground

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