Since Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US Presidential Election, the world has experienced a polarization trend in politics. Following this, the formation of right-wing governments in The Philippines, Poland, Brazil, India, and most recently the United Kingdom has only served to widen the gap between the global right and left. This gap, which has become an increasingly large and concerning void has resulted in an alienated left-wing, under the rule of the right and with diminishing support from the middle. At this juncture, we must look back and ask ourselves – How did we get here? How did we lose the support of the middle? One answer, my answer, lies in our use of language.
Social media lies at the focal point of this issue. It has become an increasingly common practice to put forth political views with an unwillingness to defend it, encapsulated completely in the phrase “don’t @ me”. Posts are more often than not littered with profanities, in capital letters, and designed to appeal to those who already believe in its cause. But who is this helping? And what purpose does it serve?
We, the left, are admittedly guilty of the above. British comedian Tom Walker aptly remarked after Trump’s win over Clinton, that it was not the liberal agenda but the way it was forwarded was in part to blame for the election result. The same could be said for our general election earlier this year. Data from The Election Commission of India showed the addition of 45 million new young voters into the electoral role since 2014. For a generation that lives and thrives on social media, opinions are formed and changed based on what voters see on it and how they react.
This tweet dated 24th May 2019 by American Politician Mark Kremer was re-tweeted 43K times:
“I grew up hearing and learning racist, sexist, and homophobic things.” In my early adolescence, I thought for myself and unlearned it too. It is 2019; there is no fucking excuse to be racist, sexist, or homophobic. You were raised that way? Unlearn it. It’s not rocket science.
The language in the tweet is aggressive, with the use of an unnecessary profanity and ending in a command. This is exactly the type of statement that attracts those who already believe its inherent proposed ideology and alienates those who feel otherwise. Among those who feel otherwise, of course, are actual racists, sexists and homophobes. We tend to, however, forget about those on the fence, those who haven’t formulated an opinion yet. Such tweets being condescending as they have the effect of pushing those in the middle towards the extreme right.
It seems counter-productive, unnecessarily hostile and almost lazy to make a declaration of views in such a way to dissuade a healthy argument when logic and reason are actually on your side.
The idea of Rights of the LGBTQ+ community has hit modern India with the great force since the striking down of Article 377 of the Constitution, leaving a big chunk of society in an ideological limbo of sorts. While the ruling of the Supreme Court is a great step in the right direction, it is, after all, only a step. The crucial time wherein India decides their attitude towards homosexuality is upon us. With the letter of the law in our favour, rather than forcefully pushing this idea that is perceived as contemporary in the minds of many, the answer to achieving our ultimate goals of recognition and equality may lie in sensitization.
In a country like ours where awareness is minimal and conservative mindsets are the soft norm, the sheer scale and volume that sensitization will need to be carried out to swing the middle towards the left is enormous. We must accept that holding earlier, less progressive generations to our standards of ‘wokeness’ can be unfair. Yes, unfortunately, they were raised that way. And no, decades worth of implanted mindsets cannot be changed simply for the asking.
While being able to call someone out on their racism or homophobia undoubtedly requires courage and strength, we must stop to reflect whether that is enough, or merely just the first step? There must be a willingness to be patient enough to engage with the other side, to show them rather than tell them that their opinions are unfounded. There must be explaining rather than pressurizing, and in attempting to do so our choice of language is critical.
Henceforth, when confronted with a person with views not as forward as our own, let us open up a dialogue. Let us without labelling, aggression and getting personal, make our points in a dignified manner even though the other person may not deserve any of this. And even though the other person may not accept any of what we have to say at that moment, owing largely to their ego, it just may make a difference when that person is faced with this topic in a different setting, in that person’s behaviour, and when that person is inside a voting booth – this is then a real victory.
Johnathan Pie. “President Trump: How and why…” Youtube, 16 Nov. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLG9g7BcjKs&t=182s
 Tewari, Saumya. “With 45 Million New Voters, Parties Need to Talk Jobs, Education in 2019.” Business Standard, Business Standard, 15 Feb. 2019, www.business-standard.com/article/elections/with-45-million-new-voters-parties-need-to-talk-jobs-education-in-2019-119021500349_1.html.
 @MarkJKremer, ““I grew up hearing and learning racist, sexist, and homophobic things.” In my early adolescence I thought for myself and unlearned it too. It is 2019; there is no fucking excuse to be racist, sexist, or homophobic. You were raised that way? Unlearn it. It’s not rocket science., Twitter, 24 May 2019, 7:28p.m., https://twitter.com/markjkremer/status/1132111073547620352?lang=en
This piece has been contributed by Karan Vakil.