The Unbearable State of Being a Little Nice| Sujoy Sur

Sujoy Sur

There is an inherent inconsistency with which the society of today works. The inconsistency lies in the aspect of how we seek importance in matters of the world, in how the world works, whereas to expect the final solution from a higher being, an all-knowing, all-aware authoritative figure who shall be able to help us bring us out of our misery and how we see ourselves capable of defining our own little world, independent of the external forces.

With the onset of industrial revolution, besides workers becoming important, the taxable nobodies also saw an increase in their importance, for the need to keep the consumerism in place. After a hundred years of an economic culture tending to feed the imaginative, unending wants of the masses, technological revolution was another great step in our consumerist society. Firstly, because it allowed the sellers to advertise their offerings by feeding on and magnifying the insecurities of others. Secondly, it helped in a greater reach of every possible supply to the demand of the masses, be it bread, information or emotions. But, you see, this ability to feed oneself with all the needs and wants gave an individual a sort of self-sufficiency disguised as his/her importance as a part of the economy. This was the reaffirmation of the idea of democracy which had replaced every possible form of government or state organization all across the globe. The idea, simply put, being: I am a part of the decision making of the government, I choose my future as I choose my representation, I matter because my choices matter and they influence the economy, I matter because I have the ability to carve out my identity, I have an impact on the world by way of the indirect representation of my identity, choices and desires.

But this very democratic culture also alienated us from being representative of the society we live in, our identity being the reciprocal result of the society. Our liability as an individual of the State got limited to be a participant in the state of affairs, precisely why a person should either be involved politically or if not (just as the majority of us today), then be a part of the economy or the popular culture, it also being equally acceptable and welcoming. We heartily welcome this role of ours. Happy to sell out labor to be in return be a part of the larger scheme of things. This is further aggravated nowadays with the fourth industrial revolution underway, whereby, by way of technology the consumer class is made to feel special by recognizing their wants and identity. You wake up in the morning to e-mails referring to you by your name feeding you information you are interested in, sellers providing you with a wide variety of products on the basis of your choices, your social media feed aligning the whole world as per your manufactured identity. We are all made to feel happy in our cocoon, in our self-congratulatory bubble.

This causes an alienation from the matters of the world, the society being a concern of a few labelled individual – a leftist, a socialist, a dreamer, an idealist, a fool. It is not a matter of recent concern, but we humans have always sought solution from a higher being, someone much superior to us in every way possible, who will be able to deliver us from evil. This belief is still continued today, not only in religion, but in our political institutions as well. At times, the higher being has been an anthropomorphized ideology. We, again, see the return of the messiah who can take control of the ills of our society. The people of USA found their messiah in Donald Trump, who they think can protect them from the global forces which have failed to give importance to their ego and traditional identity. Many other countries, India also for example, are finding solace in choosing that one leader who shall bring a change in the society, force them to better themselves.

We fail to realize that this democratic feeling of being able to achieve anything is directly contradicted by our want of an one stop solution in the form on an authoritative figure or an idea. These two cannot exist parallelly in a sustainable way. Yes, we all aspire to gods, rockstars and we know we won’t which does get us pissed, the problem is not this discontent but the aspiration to seek a celebrity recognition in the first place to feel that we matter. We matter. Every individual contributes even when he/she is their private sphere. Hence, we all are responsible for our governance and societal change as the people we seem to delegate the responsibility too. It probably can be labelled as democratic action when seen from a collectivist point of view but I believe it is being responsible autocratic. How can we allow us to be subverted by a leader who disturbs this autocracy. To exploit this autocracy is to become a hero, but not exactly the kind of we see in our movies. We dawn this garb of mediocrity, of us being the ‘just another person’, brilliant in an area we specialize in, and seek recognition through that but be just another person in all other regards.

A hero is not a person who does extraordinary acts, but a person who goes an extra mile when others won’t; a person who overcomes the barrier of the ‘bystander effect’ and makes a move to help that person who bleeds profusely on the road; a person who makes an effort to clean his/her tray after having the subway sandwich; a person who tries not always to mind their own business but tries to reach out to others. It is understandable that it is hard to be so when we know that things are also the way they are because of the institutional structure and its failures, but then a hero is also someone who realises this fact and does not give up. Institutional structures and norms when observed over a long period of time, one can see, are a reaction to the attitude of the individuals in a society. Just that we live in a culture where we work on incentives, taking every situation a quid-pro-quo and expect immediate results for us being so benevolent towards the world, that we forget that a small sacrifice in the present has to be made for a better future. All those lofty virtues – patience, persistence, sacrifice, rationality still hold good.

We have to realise that a good environment, a good state, a good society is not an absolute end which can be achieved. It is not a ‘happy ending’ which can be culminated into but it is a transient state of being which needs to be maintained, which can easily be disturbed but then also be regained. Therefore, this solution seeking in a charismatic personality, an enchanting idea is nothing but a misunderstanding, a short sightedness on our part. There is no respite from being that little extra virtuous if we want to live in a better world. Be the solution to your own self.

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