8 September 2016| Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority it is time to pause and reflect.” Sound advice I must say and especially something to ponder upon, after this year’s Presidential debate for the 2016 JNUSU elections.
But, someone would argue and ask, how do we decide who is among the majority and who has been nudged closer to the periphery, pushed out of the haloed circle, or teetering at the margins? Majority is often composed of the select miniscule at the centre, while the majority of the population linger along the boundary, or on the other side of the perimeter. And then there are those, the non-major who either believe themselves to be a part of the clique, inside the circle and therefore would distance themselves from the marginalized but are actually the circumscribing members of the second order that form another group of minorities even though inside the circle. This group presumes that because they can occasionally hobnob with the clique they share the dominant status of the minor group in majority at the centre. Lord knows, how many of such concentric minor groups exist among the majoritarian populace, their status and role changing, their position altering as per the preferences and whims of the select few of the majority. Advancing sometimes closer to the sacrosanct boundaries of the core and sometimes being pushed farther back by some other minority group in the majoritarian crowd. Too speak in simple terms—“majority” is a myth. Majority is the rule of the minority of the few over the many. Be it an alliance, a public sphere, a political constituency, or the state.
We identify ourselves as flesh and blood creatures, as mortals, as homo sapiens, with the same basic requirements and emotional needs. We share but few similarities and those things that we share alas don’t matter much. Secretly, we dither. We loathe being massed together, classed and categorized in broad general terms. We resist being defined, explained and summed-up in clear generic terms. After all, how do you seal and pack in neat little parcels—unruly, manipulative, equivocal, egotistical distinct entities—all fickle and unpredictable changelings. Yet there is safety and comfort in number. There is assurance and there are perks too. And most of all you are sheltered behind the veil of anonymity. Being nondescript is not so bad, and so you quell your differences, suppress all those anomalies—the “unnatural” and “impure” in you and join the surging and swelling crowds. There are sacrifices to be made, and the self is consoled, but for the greater good all differences are forgotten. The “greater”, “major” or “primary” that does not even exist.
Being in the majority could either mean two things: either you are consciously or unconsciously being a stooge to somebody else’s political agenda or you have chosen to use others for the same. Either you are the stepping ladder or there’s someone using you as their foothold. And since, usually the number of individuals controlling and manipulating are less than the number who are being controlled and manipulated. Chances are within the mainstream you are just a means to an end, an entity instrumental and substitutable for the larger gain for not the lesser good. Coming back to Twain’s dictum: always reconsider your situation if you happen to find yourself in the middle of a swelling, rabble-rousing, boisterous, chest-thumping crowd. Always beware the majority!
On the other hand we are cheated and in return we cheat; we like being pampered and please others so that they do our bidding. We advance and we retreat, like the ebb and flow of the tide. We move from being near to the centre to being near to the periphery and sometimes before we know it we have been thrown out of the circle entirely. Majority is a myth, because we never really completely agree or disagree with each other, we never stay constant in our opinions, the state of things never maintain a status quo. Change is ever constant, so how can there be something stable and fixed to be identified as the prime or major? “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosened upon the world…,” warned Yeats. But isn’t this anarchy a reflection of all that we try to suppress: material realities and communal identities, divisive and secessionist politics, radicalism and violence, unrest and instability—the society laid in a state of constant fermentation.
On hindsight, it makes more sense to talk about movements and migrations or the ebbs and flows. And the magnetic pulls or the centres of attraction that determine the sway and pull, direct the course and channelize movements. Call whatever you will, forces that exercise their pull and force on the masses that waylay best laid plans that result in unforeseen results and unprecedented situations; we live in a world of spontaneous, brilliant but effervescent ruptures which threaten to topple foundations that go deep. Perhaps, I am reading too much into the last night events; perhaps I am jumping the gun in proclaiming “How the mighty have fallen.”
There are new colours, slogans, talks, discourses in this newfound anarchy. There are things afoot and the future still seems to be in the making. There are new fractions and new lines of divisions, new assemblages and movements. There are also uncertainties. As long as things stay in ferment and fomentation and do not fall into the state of presumed and pre-empted apathy.
The writer works for The Informer.