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Here is a thread I composed and posted to Twitter in September 2018. It went kind-of viral. I am rather fond of it myself because you don't often go viral for something you genuinely care about. And this I really care about. Here goes:

A large section of India's so-called educated middle-class is socially regressive and shows support for demagogues and opposes progressive values. People wonder why this is so.

I however, wonder why this is surprising. It's clear as day. It's all in our education system.

The other day, on a Whatsapp group, a software engineer - a school friend - shared a meme that pretty much said that rising petrol prices are okay because at least the BJP is saving us from Bangladeshis and Rohingyas and suchlike.

Before that, a doctor - another school friend and a trained psychiatrist - said that I had violated his freedom of expression by blocking him on Facebook. I had blocked him because even after multiple warnings, he had been spamming my comment threads with the defence of a rapist.

When I told him that freedom of expression is something that exists between him and the state and not between him and me, he didn't get it. He didn't understand that freedom of expression didn't mean he was free to spew vile bilge on other people's social profiles.

I want to try to explain this lack of understanding. And this is not just a lack of understanding. It's a full on denial, not just of facts, but of the ways of thinking that the humanities teach.

These boys were science students. They spent their school lives focusing on science and math and did reasonably well there. They targeted technical careers and got through. They worked towards building "stable" futures for themselves as defined by our middle-class sensibility.

They are products (and supporters) of a system that looks down upon the arts and the humanities. They devoted themselves to technical skills in a society where arts students were destined for failure. They studied math and physics and medicine and became doctors and engineers.

They made it. They won. Their families demanded large dowries for them because they had that much social capital on account of being doctors and engineers. They weren't failures like arts students.

And what did the arts kids do? They resigned themselves to "second rate" lives.

Lives that society had assigned to them. They studied history, sociology, political science, and economics. The broad view - the disciplines that form the foundations of human culture - were all that was left to the arts students.

Then, out of nowhere, the internet happened. It was the early 2000s and blogs and an infant social media universe came into being. It wasn't tech heavy. The arts students liked it. For the first time since school, they had a playground.

They had avenues to explore their subjects with a level of depth their schools had never provided and their colleges couldn't care less about. And because many of them couldn't afford a liberal arts education abroad (this is small town India), they made the best of the internet.

They studied, read, communicated with experts, and even began to use the web to publish their own work and find their voice. They started getting what had been denied to them by our education system - a sense of self worth, and even the right to consider themselves intelligent.

There was no roadmap for them to follow. So they taught themselves and went into journalism, advertising, writing, and law. They became web publishers. They started websites. They began to mould a kind of heaven from the hell that they had been condemned to.

Now, the science students - the ones who had been too good for the humanities once, want a piece of this pie. The public discourse pie. The place where much of the talk is about politics, economics, history, and media. Many of them find they can't. They lack the education for it.

And they JUST CAN'T DIGEST IT because their lives have been lives of educational privilege. They have always been the top rung of Indian society. They were brought up on the lie that they are better than everyone else. They have always been the ones destined for "success".

For the first time in their privileged lives, they find themselves having to contend with the fact that they might not actually be good at everything. On an average day, it is hard to get these people to shut up about their houses and their salaries and their houses.

On days when the talking point is politics or economics or some other matter that they threw away because only girls study arts, they are positively sick with FOMO. They feel left out.

So is it any surprise that our "educated" middle-class is raging against "media" and "intellectuals" and "experts" and "stars" and "writers" and "artists"?

Make no mistake. This is the cream of India's educational caste system fighting back against its lost privilege.

So it's not surprising at all that an alternate ecosystem has popped up to cater to the insecurities of the "science stream caste". It tells them they are victims. It feeds them sweet nothings from morning till night over WhatsApp.

Remember that the Right Wing was the first to start waging war on the tech and social media fronts. They started the first blogs and had the first IT cells. They were the ones with armies of software engineers.

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@vimoh
We Indians as a society look down on every job other than Doctors or Engineers. Though the level of being 'looked-down-upon' varies.

@vimoh
Unbelievable, the doctor never heard about the age old adage 'your freedom ends where my nose begins'.
That's FOE in individual space.

@vimoh it's a lovely thread. One I have sent to many people as a link.

@nuts2406 @vimoh I’ve done the same. Shared it on my school and college WhatsApp groups and on Twitter.

BTW, I’ve been a science and management student who became a journalist😜

That said, I have always held humanities students in very high esteem. There have been many occasions when I actually was very envious of them.

@vimoh I agree broadly with what you say. STEM professionals give little or no thought to humanities issues (of course there are exceptions). With their perception of enhanced self-worth over those who didn't do STEM, they cannot "get" the fact that they are uniformed or ignorant about social issues. When they get "beaten up" they default to visceral hatred of those who made them feel incompetent. I am an engineer, so I have some standing in saying so.

@vimoh it's also our lack of vetting of things and everyone who is elderly has to be deferred to and his/her wisdom taken as the divine word. And no culture of cross checking handed down biases. This goes across all cultures and religions.

@vimoh I read this thread 🧵on Twitter as well. It was indeed an astute observation. Being Science student myself, non-medical to be specific, I have observed this behaviour closely.

@vimoh I remember reading this when you had put it on Twitter and I liked it then. I was very happy to re-read the whole thing again. I can relate to every single word you wrote about. I remember what it meant to be scoffed at for choosing humanities over the sciences at the Intermediate level. I don't think anyone could have explained it better than the way you just did. This is something I care about a lot too. Have you written an article on it??? It would be easier to share on other platforms

@vimoh Can I share it on other platforms??? Only if you approve of course!!!

@sridhar85 Sure. Just as long as you don't charge money for it and link to the original. :)

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