Digital Native: Do not go Gently into the Good Night

Posted by Nishant Shah at Mar 03, 2017 04:07 PM |
If there’s a lesson to be learned from the resistance to the Trump administration, it is this — patriotism is not a feeling, it is an action.

The article was published by the Indian Express on February 9, 2017.

It was that time of the year. We wore our patriotism on our sleeves, painted our faces in the colours of the national flag, proclaimed our joy for the republic we live in. We performed our proud presence as nation-loving citizens on the social web, while ignoring the ominous fact that the chief guest at the celebration of our constitutional existence represented a country where lashes and stoning to death are still legal punishments. Be that as it may, it is undeniable that our peer-to-peer networks helped catalyse and stir the pride in our Constitution that enshrines us with some of our most basic, fundamental, and human rights, for life and living.

As Republic Day recedes from our memory, let me warn you that the future of our social media feeds is grim. As we consume the impending Trumpocalypse, we cannot but realise that we have not only been there, but also done that. A government which does not communicate freely with the press: check. A discourse that supports messages of hate against specific religions and provides “alternative facts” in our history books: check. Politicians spreading fake news and populations being swayed by it: check.

For all our Amreeka-loving souls, it might be a grim reassurance that we are ahead in the game and the United States of Trumpistan is merely catching up. The social web might seem to mimic the trend, where a problem becomes a problem only when it hits the developed countries in the north, but it is good for us to realise that the doom and gloom that these trends are forecasting are already the realities that we live in.

However, there is one major difference that is worth noting. In the USA, even as this orange-hazed madness unfolds, there are people marching, protesting, and fighting to defend the annihilation of their democratic, constitutional rights. Their patriotism is not going to wait till Independence Day, but is right now on the streets, flooding the social web, inundating airports, and demanding in unprecedented ways, the recognition and the defence of their rights. While there isn’t much to be said about a nation that had an electoral system that allowed for a populist to come into power, there is something that we need to drive home —patriotism is not a feeling, it is an action.

And so, if this Republic Day, you shared, consumed, viewed, read and rejoiced, even one item of patriotic impulse — even if you merely retweeted Kiran Bedi’s photoshopped image of world monuments adorned in the tricolour —here is my challenge for you.

Before the memory of patriotism and the pride of the Constitution fade away completely, we are going to head into Valentine’s Day. It is a day that is fraught with tension in India. On the one hand, there will be the sceptre of consumerist capitalism that will wear us down with the sales, the dances, the parties, and an aggressive market to sell, sell, sell, everything that they can, pretending that true love is in buying gifts. On the other hand, we will have the righteous people who even their mothers might find difficult to love, standing on the streets with weapons and force, intimidating people on the streets and slut-shaming women who they will deem too “Western” to be allowed to live their lives in peace.

Whether you believe in the fabricated spirit of St Valentine or not, whether you want to join the candy-flavoured pink brigade or not, whether or not you participate in the dhamaka shopping frenzy of the season — here is your chance to put your patriotism to practice.

One of the most beautiful expressions of our Constitution is in our right to life, dignity, and self-determination. It means that as long as our actions do not harm and hurt others intentionally, it is our right to live, love, and express our life and love in ways that we determine worthy. So, as people around the country gear up to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and hooligans across the states polish their trishuls and lathis to obstruct these celebrations, bring your patriotism to the streets. Go and stand in solidarity with these people, defending their right to live their life without fear and intimidation. I am offering you the #RightToLove to show your support of people who want to take that brief moment from humdrum lives to find and experience love and longing, and if you see any acts of intimidation or violence, whisk out your phone and capture the event, share it on social media, make an intervention in person and fight against those who insist on violating our Constitution, and defend our country from the forces within.



Nishant Shah

Dr. Nishant Shah is the co-founder and board member of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, and is a professor at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at Leuphana University in Germany, and is Dean of Research at ArtEZ Graduate School, the Netherlands.