The Dystopian Future of the Youth
In 1961, a psychologist named Albert Bandura, carried out an experiment examining the change in children’s behaviour when exposed to violence and aggression. With a base provided by B.F. Skinner, Bandura had put forward the social learning theory, according to which children learn by imitating behaviours they see in their environment. These can be the behaviours of peers, adults like parents and teachers, and even what they see on TV.
To prove his theory, Bandura carried out the Bobo Doll experiment which was actually a series of experiments under a collective name. The most notable of these was the study of children’s behaviour after they witnessed an adult act aggressively towards a doll-like toy that would always return to its original upright position after being knocked down. The participants were thirty-six boys and thirty-six girls each from Stanford University nursery school. Out of the total seventy-two, twenty-four were exposed to an aggressive model, i.e., where they were shown an adult hitting, punching, and verbally abusing a Bobo doll. Also, each child was exposed individually so as not to be influenced by other children. Twenty four were exposed to a non-aggressive model, where the adult played with other toys and completely ignored the doll. The rest formed a control group.
The results showed that the children exposed to the aggressive model showed more violent tendencies than the ones who weren’t exposed to it. Boys and girls showed physical aggression 38.2 times and 12.7 times respectively. Bandura also discovered that children exhibited verbal aggression as well, which was 17 times by the boys and 15.7 by the girls.
While on the subject of human tendencies, thought processes, and actions, there’s always been a pattern throughout the history of people rising up in rebellion in objection to certain ideas which they were opposed to. We’re all aware of the newly born protests against CAA and NRC. They were a manifestation of democracy in its absolute form. They represented dissent, the power to stand against what is perceived as wrong, the same power that the constitution has bestowed upon the citizens of India.
Alas, that might have been the last time many citizens stood together for a cause because the children of the near future won’t understand terms such as secularism, nationalism, democracy and the strength in diversity. These values will be as good as dead. Indeed, it is a spectre of the world George Orwell imagined – A place where inhabitants’ minds are wiped of any free thought, where words are taken out of circulation so that the concept itself ceases to exist, where historical records and facts are twisted to suit the minds of the oppressors. Events like the riots that took place in North East Delhi a few months back won’t be shockingly painful anymore, they will be normalised the same inhumane way as rape has been in this era of said modernity and consent, like something that happens every now and then inevitably.
While rationalisation of the annual curriculum seems only fair in these trying times, the choice of chapters for deletion by the CBSE seems oddly speculative, even after the clarification that it’s a one-year measure because a lot can happen in a year. Chapters like Secularism, Citizenship, Nationalism, Democracy and Diversity, Gender, Religion and Caste are as essential for a young, semi-educated mind as the future of the nation is. Because these minds are the future. The fact that the future will reside at the darker side of the moon, unbeknownst of the fundamental values inscribed in our constitution is in itself, jarringly haunting. Our constitution makers intended to accommodate even the most diverse of social groups such as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, they weren’t hesitant to offer aid to various linguistic and religious minorities, women – who had not enjoyed equal rights in the past, and even some remote communities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who had had little contact with modern civilisation, among many others. Students would not only be deprived of knowledge about these values but also crucial information like the criteria for getting the Indian citizenship, and thus against their better judgement, would fail to notice how it has regressed in the recent past. Earlier a person could be granted citizenship through birth, descent, naturalisation, registration or inclusion of territory. However, there have been modifications in these provisions as of lately, since the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed. The current Indian nationality law largely follows jus sanguinis (citizenship by descent) as opposed to jus soli (citizenship by right of birth within the territory).
Instead of learning to live with one another in peace and harmony, it will be normal for people to discriminate against those whom they believe to be ‘outsiders’. Nationalism simply means love and devotion for your country, without it turning into blind worship. One can be loyal to their motherland and question its working at the same time. But in the coming years, nationalism will remain diminished to jingoistic practices like patronizing the army, being indifferent to fellow nationals, and mob lynchings. Anyone who dares to say anything apart from the ordinary will be labelled ‘anti-national’ in a heartbeat. In short, our country’s wings would be clipped off from all sides except the right.
Even the gentleman who wrote the national anthem himself was critical of this said patriotism. ‘To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.’, he said. He had warned Gandhiji, with whom he was frequently at opposing sides, that there was a thin line that divided nationalism and xenophobia.
Sometimes, hatred for the other increases to such an extent that people even start demanding a separate country for their community. This is what the class 11 textbook on Political Theory says about communalism. ‘In its extreme form communalism leads to the belief that people belonging to different religions cannot live as equal citizens within one nation. Either one of them has to dominate the rest or they have to form different nations.’ Our country is known as a secular country, but to what extent? Is a secular country supposed to be one where minorities constantly live in fear for their lives? The notion that secularism is anti-religious, minoritistic or a western import is in contrast to what it was meant to be, an aid to those in need. Our constitution makers gave no special status to any one religion, neither did they wrongly favour minorities, moreover they even crafted a form of secularism distinctive from the one followed in the west to suit our needs best because it didn’t follow mutual exclusion of religion from state and gave the state the power to intervene when things went berserk. It was a collective effort to make every citizen feel safe and included. But now, with not many informed enough to question, our state will be turned into a theocratic one with saffron weighing down the other two colours. Because it won’t stand for courage anymore, its essence will be changed altogether.
Now that the school curriculum will no longer have these chapters, children’s minds will be filled with the poison of hate, with nothing to counter its effects. Imagine how ridiculous the idea of cooperation would seem to those who would have seen or heard of India striking against Pakistan in times of combat. But the fact remains that India has collaborated with each of its neighbours in dire times. The Kashmir that our leaders claim to have victoriously freed from Pakistani clutches, sobs silently, as the outer world became inaccessible to it, even before Coronavirus entered the scene. Our crown was welded in blood and moulded into iron chains and what’s actually ridiculous is that our wielded political history would find a way to justify this ruthless taming as well, as an act of glory, perhaps. No one will demand rehabilitation of the long exiled Kashmiri Pundits and just wage war in their names, for the lack of a better sentiment. Kashmir will be reduced to an object, a trophy that we ‘won’, but sadly it couldn’t ‘win’ our empathy from us. And now, the recent decision to add information about the scrapping of article 370 further proves that our history is on the threshold of being tampered so that no one knows what actually happened. The portion that talked about the reasons why Jammu and Kashmir had a special status in the first place has been deleted. The revised portion says that the article was the cause of a lot of violence and deaths, justifying the abrogation of the article, and ignoring the devastation the state went through after this so called righteous act which was taken without proper consent. Reducing chapters and introducing just the ones that would help instil its narrow propaganda in the minds of people sounds very convenient. In the same set of events, while the government has shrewdly tried to extinguish any spark of inquisition left amongst students, it also seems to be trying to bury the retrospection of its own reckless decisions such as, demonetisation; of which our current leaders only speak as frequently as they do about the Gujarat riots of 2002, yet another mishap that would now be made to escape the eyes of young spectators. An economic amnesty that was initially implemented to draw out black money from illegally operating businesses, the likes of which stay unknown still. In an unprecedented consequence, eighty per cent of small businesses took a blow from demonetisation. The MSMEs or Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises were adversely hit by this policy, and it should come as no surprise to anyone since these are largely fuelled by liquid assets or cash. But the government refused to acknowledge its mistake, and the people have to pay the price by living with the repercussions, as they always do.
In this way, the haves continues to overpower the have nots. The possibility of this vast mass of diversity ever being peacefully accommodated will soon be reduced- with all its sumptuous history and heritage -to a dream that doesn’t want to come true; as was evident in Prayaag Akbar’s remarkable work, ‘Leila’ where, in a dystopian reality, the country is broken and segregated by walls, caste, religion and class under the rule of a sectarian government where children are trained rather than educated.
This reality isn’t very far away. Because children tend to imbibe whatever they are taught from an early age. And if they are taught not to question right from the beginning, the long term effects are going to be disastrous.
Given the findings of the Bobo Doll experiment, we can only imagine what the future is going to be like with children exposed to the vile and hateful side of things left and right. The coming generation of citizens will be a generation of insensitive, ignorant machines who just do what they are told to do with their heads down and never raise their voices against injustice and wrongdoing. It will be an army of naive and gullible citizens who wouldn’t even be blamed for this mindlessness because we never taught them how to question. We will be the culprits for repressing their curiosity.
Nobody in their right mind wants war. But given the circumstances, and what is inevitable, it is more than a possibility that the unrest in the country might grow. Which is why we need to realise that taking everything with a pinch of salt is way better than blind faith. Because absolute belief ruins individual thought. Just to be clear, we are not catastrophizing. These changes will happen not all at once but sequentially. Our country’s wings would be clipped off from all sides except the right, and rightist would you have to be to live outside the cage, with dignity.
We can ill afford to ignore these little signs under the pretext of being supportive of the government. The most effective form of support is criticism. We must be cautious and be vigilant at all times. We need to savour the freedom we still have and build on the values of fraternity and unity. If we don’t learn how to coexist in harmony now, our lives will be filled with unwarranted fears and our streets with fictitious boundaries. To quote Faiz Ahmad Faiz from the class 10 Political Science textbook:
Hum toh thehre ajnabee (We remain strangers)
Kitni mulaqaton ke baad (Even after so many meetings)
Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge (Blood stains remain)
Kitni barsaaton ke baad (Even after so many rains)
Khushi Maheswari and Tanya Kainaat.
The authors have passed class 12 CBSE examination this year.
Cover photo by Evlakhov Valeriy/ Shutterstock
Written By- Khushi Maheshwari and Tanya Kainaat
The authors have passed class 12 CBSE examination this year.