Economy Feb 8, 2013
Let's get straight to the point. What on earth is this new beast on the block - the young, urban educated middle class - exactly? It is the media writers' latest muse.
Political writing is not fashionable if you fail to mention this class and its angst. Analyses everywhere would suggest that this class is angry and frustrated and it wants to change the system. It is aspirational, intelligent, irreverent, impatient and confident, and it brooks no nonsense. It is the future of the country.
Where do you find this beast? You find it on the streets every now and then, expressing outrage over one thing or the other, in candle-light rallies near big city landmarks and in front of television cameras, and of course, in the virtual universe. It lords over the online space, that vast lawless territory where nastiness is an essential tool of sustenance and survival. Here, it expresses itself without inhibition or fear or respect, always ready to spill blood - virtual blood - at the slightest provocation. This many would interpret as sign of self-assuredness.
It is believed to be progressive because it hates politicians, rejects institutions and vouches by individual freedom. It is interested in material wellbeing and is convinced that only a strong leader can ensure him that. It wants a new India, free from the old trappings, and it wants everything quick. That's why it would support someone like Narendra Modi blindly. It would also root for someone like Arvind Kejriwal.
At a superficial level, this is the perfect class to lead the country into the future. Scratch deeper, the ugly reality hits you in the face. It is more foolish than intelligent, more illiberal than democratic, more communal than secular and generally, despite the huge availability of information at the fingertip, is more ignorant than knowledgeable. This is a class that is impressionable and would be easily swayed by demagogues. This is also a class totally confused about the world beyond their immediate circle.
The online world is supposed to be inhabited almost wholly by the young educated urban middle class. It is reasonable to assume that people who have access to and are comfortable with computers, have knowledge of the internet and can express themselves in English are members of this class. Now, study the character of the huge commentariat, the mob that habitually reacts to every written word on websites.
Read any post on politics in general. What strikes you immediately is, this is a crowd that is highly communal in its mindset. Modi could be trying to relaunch himself as the messiah of development, but his large army of supporters understands him primarily as a Hindutva icon. The sense is articulated in the rampant Muslim and Christian bashing while praising the chief minister.
What do you make of the intellectual strength of this class? Well, go back to the comments again. These are in general hateful, venomous, abusive and intolerant of any unfriendly viewpoint. We have a toxic crowd out there. It does not believe in healthy debates, exchange of ideas and mutual respect. There's no sense of grace and dignity raising an issue. The good, reasonable voices invariably get drowned in the avalanche of hate. If this is what the young, educated urban India is all about, then God help the country.
This, many media commentators, would say is a restless class, seeking change. They are impatient because they are young. Point taken, but aren't they supposed to be educated too? Being educated is different from being a literate or a degree-holder. An MBA degree holder could be considered uneducated if he does not have intelligent understanding of the world around him and has no ability to interpret reality logically or constructively. These qualities were sorely missing during the recent protests in Delhi.
Had the leaders asked the youth to attack Parliament or any other institution they would have done it without question. The point is, the so called urban educated middle class is emotional and gullible. It is not mature and thus, could be easy prey to leaders with devious intentions.
There's another problem with this class. During Modi's visit to SRCC in New Delhi, students of the Left wing were staging protests against him. How can a student be indoctrinated to be Right wing or Left wing? Isn't it disappointing that students cannot think independently and have to subscribe to some ideology or the other? Where are the original ideas in the young?
If this is the class that is expected to take India to a glorious future, there's a lot to be apprehensive about.
More From Akshaya Mishra.