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Of Criticism And Beyond

By Sahil Mehta

It's human nature to criticize. Some people do it less, others like me subject anything and everything to criticism. To be perfectly honest, it's quite difficult not to when you live in a country like India. Sometimes we use sarcasm to mask it, but more often than not we just start a tirade or a string of expletives. It's okay. It's human nature. It's a sign that we want more. 

Criticism is good, at times. Artists, writers, film directors do care about it. Ok maybe not Ram Gopal Verma, but still some of the others do. They appreciate it because it offers them a reflection of what people think of their work. It gives people a chance to improve. 

Criticism in other walks of life, too, has the potential to make spread awareness. To show dissent and disagreement with laws, governments, policies, acts. And that's perhaps the single greatest reason to protect an individual's right to expression and freedom of speech. The right to criticize is as important a right as any other. 

Similarly, well phrased, well meaning sarcasm has the potential to make an impact that perhaps no other form of speech has. It makes people  sit up, take notice and more often than not laugh. And that makes you remember. Of course, it can be humiliating for the person at the other end, but hey he/she probably deserved it. 

But what happens when it becomes a way of life? 

It becomes a poison that slowly pervades through society and makes people bitter. It decapacitates human thought and handicaps people to the point of inaction. It makes you a cynic, and the subject of your criticism defensive to the point of aggression. 

This is what happens on typical discussion of the state of India and the direction it is taking. One person will start by talking about how the government is ineffective, self-centered, power-hungry and thoroughly incompetent. Now at this point, the discussion might take one of several courses depending upon the personal thoughts of the other participant. But in all likelihood, he/she will agree and provide examples in support. Then we will take a trip down history lane and highlight each and every mistake that we know the ruling party to have committed. Eventually the discussion winds up with the sad conclusion that it is a sorry state.

But good people, you, me and almost other person above the age of 18 likely to partake in such a discussion is already aware of this. In your hour and a half of criticizing the system, the government, the politicians, the bureaucrats and you fellow countrymen did we once try and come up with a solution. Of course we didn't. There isn't any, right? 

Photo credit - Chinmay Maheshwari
BTW that line was sarcasm in case you didn't get it. The questions at the root of the problems may be tricky, and the solutions even more elusive and complex, yet they shall never come about by endless criticism. They will come about if you stop criticizing and start thinking. 

It's easy to criticize. It has always been so. Going beyond it, now that's the hard part. 

Another example that comes to the mind from recent times is that of Satyamev Jayate. After the episode highlighting the fallings in the medical system, the response was all too predictable. People in their homes went on criticizing the doctors endlessly, bringing up each obscure case they had heard about, from their neighbours' brother's old friends' neighbour who just happened to know someone who died. The doctors all too predictably became defensive and attacked the show. Sigh

The show made an effort to highlight a problem and spread awareness. We took it and blew it out of proportion. Now every time you question a doctor he considers it a personal affront. Nobody cares about actually changing the system and getting rid of the few bad people. 

I don't mean to criticize, it might seem I do, but I don't really. I just want to point out that criticism is good when you're trying to make people aware of something. But then you cannot spend your entire life sitting on your comfy couches and telling anyone within listening range what's wrong with life. It gets boring, it gets useless and it loses its impact value. You need to look beyond and look for solutions. 

A friend of mine in college takes an affront when he hears people say "India main kuch nahi badlega. India aisa hai/waisa hai..." He told me "Kyun nahi badlega. Main badlunga".

Perhaps thats the lesson we need to take! 


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