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Here are the 4 things that were wrong about the privileged ‘liberal’ vs Ola cab driver episode

Something about whether people on the right are well informed, Mr. Liberal must debate with those of his own education level but with an opposing political view.

Yesterday, social media was abuzz about this incident. Everyone was talking about Ola cabs.

Tweet by Ola cabs

Well done Ola cabs for explaining the basics of democracy, the right to free speech and the importance of the free exchange of ideas in the public sphere. They were referring to this incident.

Tweets by Kanav Sharma

The pity is that Ola had to explain these basics to a person who holds himself out to the world as an employee of a top consultancy firm and a graduate from the reputed Indian School of Business.

As social media pointed out, there is a lot that was wrong about this incident. It brings up issues about democratic mindsets, liberalism, intolerance, class privilege and a lot more. In fact, this incident can be a learning experience as well as a moment of clarity for all. So let me state in four key points everything that the privileged liberal got wrong here.

Liberalism or fascism?

The first rule of business is that the customer is always right. Fine. The first rule of democracy is that we all get one vote each. You can’t mix the two up. Good customer service does not include the expectation that others should submit to your political views.

Did the cab driver complain against the rider for having a different political view? Presumably not. It may be hard for the privileged rider to believe this, but cab drivers are allowed to complain too. But it seems that the cab driver had heard about democracy. The liberal rider had not.

The complaint might actually have affected the ability of the cab driver to earn a living. And it is likely that the rider understood this well. Now what kind of human being would be so heartless as to do something that might take away the daily bread of a humble man and his family? Perhaps someone who cannot see his political opponents as real people, with real lives. Is that liberalism or fascism? Are the two the same?

Keep this in mind for the next time a liberal tries to give a lecture on dissent.

The class angle: privileged liberal vs humble cab driver

This one really stands out in this episode. Considering the vast urban support base of the Hindu right, I suppose this privileged liberal would have met several others who disagree with him. Say at work or in his neighbourhood. At least, let us hope he is not living in such a bubble that he has never even heard an opposing view.

But I am guessing he does not make formal complaints against all of them. Perhaps there was something uniquely irritating about his views being challenged by an Ola cabs driver that sent him over the edge?

Keep this in mind for the next time a ‘liberal’ talks about how they care about the less fortunate in society.

The iron: Are only some people entitled to ‘personal views’?

Notice anything?

Twitter bio of Kanav

Shri Kanav Sharma has been careful enough to mention that his Twitter activity reflects “strictly personal views.” Presumably, he doesn’t want his employer to be bothered by vindictive people who might be looking to get him into trouble at work because of his personal views. Fair enough.

How different is it with the Ola driver? Why should he expect Ola to get involved with the driver’s personal views? Or did the Ola driver forfeit the right to have personal views? When and why? Is the Ola driver not a person or not qualified to have a view?

And finally, the fallacy

Beyond the double standards, here is what the entitled liberal really missed while making his core argument:

The depth to which BJP’s propaganda and fake news has reached, it is getting really scary

Let’s suppose for a moment that the rider truthfully narrated what the driver what had said to him. Let’s suppose that the driver did make some factual errors while talking about the history of our beloved Bharat Ratna winning political dynasty. Let’s suppose the rider was 100% factual (and has always been factual) about everything he said (or has ever said).

There’s still a huge fallacy.

In claiming that people of a certain political view are misinformed, he forgot to adjust for education and privilege. To establish his claim, he must compare his cab driver with those of similar education level on the other end of the political spectrum.

A graduate from one of India’s top business schools is almost always going to be more informed than a cab driver who may not have had all those great opportunities in life. This would likely have been just as true if the business school graduate was on the right and the cab driver on the left.

To conclude something about whether people on the right are well informed, Mr. Liberal must debate with those of his own education level but with an opposing political view.

The fact that a business school graduate could not understand this crucial point speaks very poorly of his intellectual abilities.

But keep this in mind for the next time a liberal accuses other people of going to “Whatsapp University.”

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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