Canceling people online is easy. In fact, that is probably what Twitter is for. In fact, if we did not cancel people online, what would the modern left do with all that free time? We go online to cancel people. It is what makes us better than all those who came before us, from Lincoln to Roosevelt, or even J K Rowling.
So imagine my surprise the other day when I discovered liberals raising their voice against this great internet tradition.
Economic terrorism? Those are some really strong words against people who merely trended a hashtag calling for boycott of a clothing brand.
If they are economic terrorists, what do you call a group of people who have now blocked the highways around Delhi for almost a year? The damage they have caused to industry and the livelihoods of people is in the thousands of crores. They say that unless the government accepts their demands, they will block road and railway traffic for as long as they like. For that matter, they organized a nationwide “rail roko” only yesterday. So what do we call these people?
I know. We can’t say anything to them. Even if they storm the Red Fort on Republic Day and plant their own flag. Even if they bring their own religious police and execute a poor Dalit farm laborer in full Taliban style, we cannot say anything to them. We must grovel before them. We must address them as “annadata,” the form of address that zamindars have always demanded from the peasants who toil on their land. That’s liberal privilege.
Let us examine more closely why the folks who trended the hashtag were angry with Fabindia. They were objecting to the term “Jashn-e-Riwaz,” which they felt was a rebranding of Diwali. All around the world, what you call something is a big deal. Because names are markers of identity and culture. If you take our names away, you are wiping out our identity. These days, even pronouns are a big deal. So why would liberals think it is too much for a group of people to trend a hashtag against what they considered to be a renaming of Diwali?
Okay, so Fabindia says that Jashn-e-Riwaz was not a reference to Diwali at all. I will take them at their word. If you can think of any other festival, celebrated around this time, that the accompanying photo seems to suggest, please let me know. In any case, this article is not about Fabindia, but about the online reactions on all sides.
Now let us see what happened here. This is from yesterday.
Apparently, some customer service representative at Zomato told someone that all of us should know at least a little Hindi. Along with that, she also quoted a longstanding myth from the Doordarshan era that Hindi is our “national language.” The customer, who apparently was based in Tamil Nadu, was not happy.
So what about the folks who were so outraged by this remark that they started trending #RejectZomato on Twitter? Anyone calling them “economic terrorists”? Never. Like those who called for a boycott of Zomato, the folks who called for a boycott of Fabindia were also anguished about their identity. One group was anguished about linguistic identity and the other about religious identity. What is the difference? The difference is liberal privilege.
What do we learn from this? There is identity politics and then there is identity politics. There is the identity politics that helps liberals win votes and there is identity politics that makes liberals lose votes. The two are treated differently.
Was the customer service representative wrong to say that everyone should know a little Hindi? Absolutely, yes. But was she some kind of govt functionary or big corporate executive? Not at all. She was a small time employee, making a humble living.
But liberals had no mercy on her. They wanted her to be fired. That too at this time of the year, just before ‘Jashn-e-Riwaz’.
Could the liberals not forgive her for making a mistake? Of course not. Because words like “mistake” and “forgiveness” are applied to the sons of superstars. Not some customer service representative who makes a few thousand rupees a month. I don’t know if superstar’s son is guilty or not. I suppose courts will decide. But I have seen liberals falling over themselves talking about “mistakes” and “forgiveness.”
As for the customer service representative, how rich and powerful is her dad? I am guessing not very much. So she has no luxury of making mistakes. She deserves no forgiveness.
We have now reached the single most important principle of modern liberalism. Browbeat those who have no power, but always grovel before the strong.