Of Incongruent Social Realities and Misconstrued Identities
While we look at the social history of youth, they arethought to be crucial and integral to the society and its welfare and identity.Therefore the social realities around them and the identities asserted bydifferent groups affect their selfhood, self perception and sense of modernity.Today there are no social realities but incongruent social realities, untruthand misconstrued identities that have eaten away peace, harmony and mutualunderstanding among groups in our society and amid this situation youth are drowningin uncertainty, inner chaos and identity crisis.
On Youth-An Assured out of placeness Identity
Youth are suffering today because the identity crises andthe belief that they can be anywhere, they actually end up nowhere. They arerestless and non serious at the same time. They only keep their phones busy andits camera (chatting & clicking). They keep writing captions and usual bulkforwards. The question to ponder over is why people particularly youth nowreact to everything so quickly especially on social media. Youth in Kashmir onone hand are very much resilient, efficient and adaptable but on the othertheir reaction to every damn thing even the trifles reflects their ignoranceand perhaps lack of exposure and shallowness. There are reasons even for such acollective pathological pattern. May be they have lot of free time available,social media addiction, culture of issuing unsolicited advices in wholesalethroughout the day and perhaps the impact of living in a conflict zone. Whileonline we even speak or write on things we hardly know (see the content of facebook live, posts, etc,). Social media also is full of misinformation that isbeing produced and reproduced without giving any thought to its very reason andoutcome simply because we think digital or virtual identities are only virtualrealities not the reality itself. Is it our shallowness, less exposure withignorance in action that has somewhat mixed with our already high politicalculture that perhaps makes us to react to everything now or may be it all lies inside us that we believe is happening outside in reality and thereforeis our illusion. In Kashmir context given their good command on history, youthare also concerned about political immorality (our history of siyasi Awaragardi) who now feel necessary to react to everything political, economical,cultural, geographical, racial, etc, give vent to their irritation and protestand even feel happy when any politician is put behind bars. What are wecelebrating actually? What are we happy about? It is all a bunch of questionswith no answers.
On fluidity of Identity
Needless to say that we live in an era where all politics isidentity politics and it is not just about feminism, or activism against racismonly but has a substantial negative aspect as well. It has already penetratedinto many other arenas of state, society and its institutions. The wholepattern of othering minorities or some racial/ethnic (Northeast) groups bylabelling them as either as terrorists or deliberate Corona carriers is nowtaken as asserting ones superior identity against other's inferior and weakidentity. Also media's provoking rants, high decibel and communally colouredand hateful prime time's provoke the ignorant among the dominant groups thateven leads to violence against these helpless Muslim families or other smallgroups (displacement and beating of Muslims due to corona scare). This all ishappening in today's distressing times when everyone should have been unitedagainst fighting the deadly pandemic. The sensitive generation is watching andsuch unpleasant routine happenings give them a different sense of binariesmade. A considerable section of media smoothly has become an agency of the hatebrigade's identity politics project-it has led to alienation of the rightthinking masses. The society has changed drastically and social pathologieshave been normalised leading to hate and distrust. This too is shaping newsocial realities.
Identity and Hate vs Reality
There is a denial of the reality even when we know thereality just for the sake of our identity and to label the other identities.There is a wider section of intellectuals, community leaders, even politicians,etc, who are silent on such brazen developments in our society but the problemis that their silence (for their own interests may be extension in services,for grabbing new assignments or keeping next elections in view) actually isviolence and has been misconstrued as (all is well situation) there is nothingto worry about, it is all normal. There is a flood of misinformation around andsocial media plate forms are its lucrative carriers however our casual approachto everything and taking media as a reliable source, everything gets forwardedwithout checking its authenticity which further shapes a whole range ofconspiracy theories and rumour mills. Also such hate brigades do itdeliberately for politics (the reality of IT cells, appointed trolls). It alsohas serious ramifications as youth get re-socialised and even resort toviolence out of fear and emotions. Recently many Muslims were even attacked aspeople feared they may have corona virus (Tablighi fallout). It is all due tothe misconstrued thinking or the problem of not thinking at all. It hasgradually shaped ethnocentrism where people treat their identity as superiorand start judging other identities by treating their own as the perfectstandard. There are scores of fake videos, older and irrelevant videos uploadedto fuel anger in society for a particular community thus shaping social mediaas a hate media which affects youth from all sides. These are deliberateefforts and must be well regulated by government and individuals themselves tobattle untruth and misinformation.
Liquid Modernity and Fear
We are living in a liquid modernity – the term coined bysociologist Zygmunt Bauman in 1990s that has shaped our constant flux ofidentities and has left us rootless and unpredictable. Today's youth areimpulsive as their identities keep changing from time to time. Therefore tounderstand the present we should go to back the past. Amid the pandemic covid19today, we have to realise the mess we created on our planet, our environment,animal and plant life, forest cover, water bodies and aquatic life. We havetaken different priorities altogether. It is now a plastic world-as plastic isscattered everywhere, it is produced and produced without any idea of its end.We are now the beings of the plastic world where we see lesser and lesserhumanity and more and more plastic everywhere. Also as a solution to all ourself made crises we came up with NGOs and their activism mostly for the sake ofactivism, the andolan culture that virtually changes nothing (as state hardlyresponds) but has easily became a semi-government (rozgar) sector. The currentmess we are in is the outcome of damage of our own mindless creations. Our owninventions for modernity have backfired on modernity itself. There is a farreaching change what German Sociologist Ulrich Beck calls reflexivemodernisation. Covid19 is the best example.
The liquid modernity has shaped what Baumann calls liquidfear as every interaction and relationship has turned more fragile rather thanhumans taking control of their lives. But media has become an uncontrollablesocial force that is dividing both the social and the natural world today.Baumann proves right today as Covid19 pandemic like hate in society has provedour no control on the situation around, we can't escape it but have to live itby engaging with it only. The fact remains that even in the pandemic it isBeck's risk at the bottom that rewards the top-Ulrich Beck's Risk theory (BorisJohnson recovering and migrant labourers beaten for even trying to go home).Similarly youth's media usage is not in their control now; the media controlsthem in turn (the PUBG mania).
Living in the Dark Dystopian Society
Everything around seems unpleasant right from media tofamily relations to workplace culture to friendship and kinship, changedneighbourhood ethos, to hateful religious interpretations, sectarian hatred,faulty modern schooling, poor research, terrific university system, etc,. Thereality is now only the illusion of the ignorant as the whole all is wellapproach is purely misconstrued. The normal life we live now or our minute to minutecommentaries on social media is actually our escape mechanism from the mundanewhat we perceive is our socially considered obligation and may be our new foundstatus symbol. The visual imagery of this celebrated uselessness is actuallyour disillusionment about our identity.
The way societal structures of power operate and determinethe norms of social conduct and routine denied access (longing for 4G) reflectupon our fragility and insignificance. Our suffocated, helpless and embarrassed selvesamid the professional incompetence and financial insecurity boost furthervulnerability and uncertainty. Also completely ignoring the importance ofemotional well-being of youth by the state, there exists a misconstrued imageof them being radicalized, violent, not so law abiding, jihadis, etc,which has been normalised by media over the years and gets hardly noticed now.Only the family somehow plays a crucial role and helps in shaping theself-perception amid the socially created dangerous and incongruent socialrealities but the choked and muzzled voices of youth yearn to see the redressalof the various nuances of structural violence prevalent in the society. Youthcannot be just reduced to the embers of conflict or resistance but state'sholistic effort must be to forge integrity and build a kind of society that weneeds today-a youth centric society.
(Dr Adfer Rashid Shah is a George Greenia Research Fellow, Sociologist and Associate Editor at Eurasia Review. He works with SNCWS, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.).