Be no foolWe must start questioning the intention and integrity of those who govern us.
It looks as if we are slowly turning into citizens of a republic of fools, in which our rulers are buffoons right from the executive head all the way down to the ward chairperson. Politicians have turned clowning around into a political art form, even a survival tactic. In fact, buffoonery has become so quintessentially political that you start thinking that a leader who does not look like a joker is no leader at all.
But the truth is, they are extremely clever people who know exactly how, in acting like buffoons, they can get away with their lies and propaganda. In the garb of buffoonery, political leaders are tampering with the constitution and rule of law for their petty political gains. And yet, we are willing to believe the fraudulent claims of the leaders and keep hoping that they will do the best for strengthening our democracy and nation. After all, we have got used to being fed a daily dose of deceit, hypocrisy and propaganda.
Hannah Arendt was right on point when she wrote, in Crises of the Republic, 'Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing, than reason, than reality, because the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.' When we get used to being fed falsity and mass propaganda day in and day out, we begin to internalise it as part of our lives so well that we have no objection to being deceived.
It is not that we do not know we are being duped; it is just that we resign to being conned because that is the most comfortable thing to do. Once we become adept at submitting to every falsity we are fed, the road to totalitarian politics is pretty straightforward. Leading the fake news industry is the country's prime minister, who still peddles pseudoscience about coronavirus transmission and treatment even today. More than a leader leading the nation, the prime minister appears as a content creator for social media.
And alas, but for a few exceptions, mainstream media, which has the single biggest responsibility to help people segregate truth from falsity, has abdicated its role. The only guiding principle of the media should be an unflinching adherence to truth. On the contrary, the media tells us not what we need to know, but what it wants to tell us. And in doing so, it often disseminates useless information and shies away from telling the truth. And we, the people, take part unapologetically in the making of the fake news industry.
The proliferation of a whole new ecosystem of fake news and propaganda, facilitated by the abundance of smart phones and the internet, has meant that for some, fake news looks like the only newsworthy thing there is. Social media has been the biggest challenge in the dissemination of truth, as there is a flood of fake news doing the rounds of our mobile screens every day.
We are the vanguards of the hashtag generation that posts #PrayForNepal from inside our homes, comfortably numb with the misbelief that there is someone out there who will do all the leg work for us while we continue to complain about the system that just does not work. At the risk of sounding pedantic, it must be said: No, that is just not enough; we must come out and ask sharp, piercing questions about what our leaders and administrators are doing on the ground to contain the inferno that is ravaging the country's forests. We must stop being fooled any more and seriously start questioning the intention and integrity of those who govern us.