The Age of Outrage

Anushree Srivastava

Do you ever, like me, feel that you are a yellow in a world full of purple minions? 

Yes, yes, my writing continues to be filled with vague references to the movies I watch every so often to escape the feeling that we have a Kalki amidst us, ready to destroy this world that we refer to as ‘Kalyug’. For the uninitiated, Kalyug, aside from being the name of a poorly made cinematic piece, is a reference to Hindu mythology’s ‘Kaliyug ’or the age of darkness and misery, and Kalki is believed to be the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu who will put an end to it. If you ask me, this is starting to feel more and more like the age of outrage. Wherever you look, you will find hordes of people collectively outraged and vehemently expressing their dissent over social media. Remember when your parents admonished you for using social media for the first time? Yeah, they knew what they were talking about, kids! 

A vast majority of outrage is focused on political issues at present. As someone who has actively stayed off personal social media for the better part of the last 2 years in an effort to retain her sanity, I can assure you that a persistent mind will find a way to pollute your newsfeed through the most unrelated channels. Take for example the erstwhile professional platform of LinkedIn which was once believed to be a site meant solely for networking and professional updates, but which now, unfortunately, is a battleground for political ideologies. With my uncontrollable desire to not be perceived as judgmental, I try to give credit to those who feel better about their non-professional digressions by adding a disclaimer like ‘thisis not a political opinion’, however, if I may ask, is it a professional one? Nope, but then the ‘woke ’crowd reminds me of some lessons I learnt in middle school about freedom of speech and expression. Did we ever think how badly this was going to come back to bite us, really? Had the drafters of the Constitution envisioned an era when social media would be providing free platforms and inflated egos to more than half the population of this planet, perhaps a few things would have been left off from the final draft of the Constitution. Ah well, you win some and you lose some (peace of mind)! 

If you have made it this far in the article, allow me to provide my opinion on this whole ‘age of outrage’ situation. The way I see it, every instance of outrage stems from the need to overcorrect or overcompensate. For starters, let’s talk about mental wellness. It is a critical aspect of life and it is heartening to see the amount of much-deserved attention that it is getting now. That said, it is quite easy to use mental wellness as an excuse to justify actions that may be deemed questionable. OTT platforms like Netflix are cash in on our tendency to overcorrect by creating shows where infidelity and toxic behavior are justified (and romanticized) under the garb of self-preservation. As the author Kate Atkinson said (in her book, Life after Life), ‘Carpe Diem seems to have become everyone’s excuse for bad behavior. If people believed in eternal damnation, they might not be seizing the day quite so much’. Be sensitive, yes, but the moment you start to unsee the fine line between mental wellness and outright crap (for lack of a worse word), it is overcorrection. 

In case you are having trouble grasping the concept of overcorrection, let’s try another example. Not too long ago, there was a post on my newsfeed about a disabled man’s experience in a job interview. This experience was narrated by someone related to the man. Within seconds, there was outrage over the use of the word ‘disabled’. The comments ranged from anger to surprise at calling someone disabled as opposed to ‘differently/specially abled’. What amused me was a single comment from the protagonist of the story himself, who simply wrote

that he was indeed disabled and carried no shame in it. He emphasized that the term ‘disabled’ in itself is not derogatory and finding alternative terms is basically overcorrection. There, a group of purple minions likely received the antidote through this response and the post soon became viral for the right reasons- that response. 

I spoke about political issues, and I wonder where to start. There’s so much anger everywhere I look. I won’t even get into the topic of vaccine hesitancy because I am from India and in here, we staunchly believe in the power of vaccines. Ours is a country that eradicated the deadly disease, Polio, through humungous efforts by the public health community, therefore, when it comes to vaccine hesitancy, for most Indians, it is a solid example of a ‘first world problem’. Ain’t nobody got the time for that in India! Also, we are Indian, we love freebies. Free vaccine shot? Allow me to roll up my sleeves for the right reason! 

Along with being the champion of vaccines, we are also a country with a zillion languages and faiths. Therefore, we are naturally a breeding ground for a multitude of political issues. The endless debate between the left- and right-aligned camps is hardly productive and yet it somehow manages to grow bigger with every passing day, thanks to the very easily outraged minions in our land. In my observation, ironically, both camps seem to have similar logic- if you’re silent, you’re on the side of the oppressor. The left camp screams this in every anti government movement to shame the moderates and the right camp, whereas the right folks use this to question why the left crowd does not challenge certain archaic concepts in a minority’s school of thought. Amidst this outrage are the media hounds who do nothing but fan the fire. The journalists and media houses alike try desperately to cash in on the fickle-minded, outraged masses. In their claims to be objective sources of news, they practice objectivity only in ensuring that no personal interpretation of the news is offered. However, the bias creeps in due to omission. Left-aligned journalists seem to omit any news that speaks of the good done by the government, while the right-aligned groups do nothing except sing praises of the country’s leaders. When the day ends, the ordinary man is merely an armchair activist who is perpetually outraged, and the media hounds keep trending on social media for fanning these fires. This, right here, is the real-life Squid Game, ladies and gentlemen! 

They say that an ideal is one that never touches the real. The idealistic values of any movement, left or right aligned, are hardly practical in the real world. Instead of learning to strike a balance, both groups cry for the reversal of the status quo in their favor. Overcompensation right there! This is evident in every ‘-ism’. Feminism is often misinterpreted as a movement to put women above men. No, treat us as equals and we are good to go. Empowerment does not come from changing pictures on LinkedIn to show that one is a working mother, it comes from actionable efforts to fight the systemic misogyny. Similarly, racial equality will be guaranteed when special status and reservations are revoked. If you oppose the redaction of these laws, you’re not on the side of equality. Proposing that all religions be cancelled is, once again, overcorrection! Whatever happened to taking the good in things and rejecting the bad! As a Hindu who has not been super-religious at any point in life, I am still proud of the goodness taught in this religion and I refuse to have it ‘cancelled’ in a fit of outrage. Moreover, if you take away religion from humans, they will find another tool to latch on to. Exploitation of beliefs is not defined by the tools; it is defined by the one who carries them. Discrimination is like democracy- by the people, of the people, for the people. If you don’t stand for it, do your best to never discriminate. In that regard, I feel quite amused when Indians join anti-racism movements for other groups around the world. I do not know about you but I have witnessed Indians being racially targeted by all other races alike and we don’t even have the inclination to protest that (yes, I will happily step aside for additional checks that no one else seems to

have to go through, Sir). We are big on waiting for Karma to bite a racist butt instead. Ergo, the absence of an opinion does not imply being on the side of the oppressor. I’m as opposed to drawing a caricature of a minority’s religious entity as I am to be mocking a majority’s Gods. If you believe that either qualifies as ‘art and culture’, honestly, just do better. Read more and explore the real world of art. Misguided outrage and how! 

Very few things carve a space in my mind as strongly as a concept that I came across in one of the posts of Humans of New York. This post talked about ‘moral absolutism’, and I see its prevalence all over the world. Here is how it goes- 

I cant stand moral absolutism. You know, theres always that guy who wants to point out that Martin Luther King cheated on his wife– as if he obviously couldnt have been a great person if he did something like that. Or someone will bring out an inspirational quote, and get you to agree, and then inform you that Hitler said it. As if a good thought couldnt come from Hitler. Moral absolutism keeps us from learning from the past. Its easy to say: Hitler was a demon. Nazis were all bad seeds. Thats simple. Its much harder to say: ‘Is that humanity? Is that me?’” 

The world, unfortunately, is big on moral absolutism. Don’t believe me? I invite you to explore the discussions on the current leader of my country and it will show you how no good deed by a person will be acknowledged in light of any work that he did which was not approved by the masses. 

I started with a reference to Hindu mythology, and I think it to be poetic if we ended with it too. It is great to want to do big things and change the world to make it ideal, but a wise mind understands the limitations of its reach. In Hinduism, there are two concepts- Dharma and Karma. Karma are your actions- the things that you do in life, and ‘Dharma ’is the ultimate purpose for which you were given this life. We also have reincarnation because it is believed that only once the soul has performed its Dharma will it attain salvation or ‘Moksha’ (yes, Hindus have been recycling even before it was cool). Until then, you may have lived multiple lives where you did good or bad Karma and then a life where you attained your Dharma and were free from the cycle of rebirth. To my knowledge, if you did not receive a letter carried by an owl that informed you that you were the latest Vishnu avatar (aka the ultimate God), believe me, your Dharma is not to change this world before you can change yourself. Focus on your Karma, try very hard to do good and be good, and bring about small changes within your own little world. That, in itself, can cause a butterfly effect to bring about \a bigger change. Once you realize that the world will find a way to heal itself without requiring you to spike your heart rate and blood pressure, the age of outrage will slowly start to dissolve. People will not change when you want them to change; they will change because they want to change. 

Until this starts to take shape, I will go back to waiting for the real Kalki to please stand up and I ask you yet again- Do you ever, like me, feel that you are a yellow in a world full of purple minions?