2016 is bidding adieu having gifted us ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year, thanks to the Oxford Dictionaries. Is the concept new, however? Haven’t emotions and personal beliefs been more influential in shaping our ‘truths’ than objective facts throughout history? Otherwise, why did religions and their gods continue to wield such power over us perennially? Nationalism, Jihadism, Trumpism, Modiism, and a whole range of isms would not have succeeded as they did if objective facts held sway over shaping of public opinions.
‘Post-truth’ is just a euphemism for falsehood, deception, chicanery and all the lies that have dominated politics and human affairs from time immemorial. There’s nothing new about it except that it’s a new word. Only the word is new, not the concept, not the implications.
Throughout history political leaders used various tricks to deceive their people. We have words like Machiavellian and Goebbelsian which came from real people who used inhuman strategies for suppressing if not eliminating whole sections of people. India has its own historical Chanakya. They were all masters of post-truths.
The electoral victory of Donald Trump and the triumphal march of Narendra Modi, along with Brexit and the imminent collapse of European Union as well as the ever-resounding missile attacks by god’s own warriors, indicate that 2017 is going to be hard for most people.
In India, we will soon have two idols dedicated to the religion of post-truth, both of which will cost the nation more than Rs 3000 crore each (441,260,829 USD). Both Shivaji and B R Ambedkar, whose statues are being installed in very prominent places, were historical figures, no doubt. But why these two and not any other? One is a symbol of the Hindutva ideology which Mr Modi is trying to impose on the nation and the other is a palliative balm for the Dalits and the oppressed sections that will continue to suffer many atrocities as they always did. The motive is the post-truth.
In a country where thousands of people go to bed hungry each day, thousands of children suffer from malnutrition, thousands keep migrating to cities in search of jobs, thousands don’t have drinking water, thousands of farmers commit suicide – in a country where people are still struggling to retain basic human dignity, statues costing thousands of crores of rupees are the post-truths.