Nowadays, social media is flooded with ideological discussions. Neo-literates, who do not even know computers, are commenting on national issues through their smartphones. There is an equal forum: rich and poor, academician and uneducated, male-female-transgender – anybody can comment on anybody. It is a paradox. And all this is happening on a network created by a visionary called Time Berners Lee, who never sought copyright over his invention of www protocol. But the present discussions are happening over corporate behemoths such as Facebook and Twitter! To cap this paradox, all left-leaning, anti-capitalistic people have been using Facebook without any hesitation. This is a never heard of fusion of capitalism-socialism-nationalism and what not.
I, too, have been posting content which the left-leaning users term as rightist, nationalist and so on. I have no qualms about this. Usually, I do not cross the border of my comfort zone, as trolling has become a universal phenomenon. I tried to comment on a post, which I term as leftist, and was trolled as expected.
The problem is very simple: you criticise individuals than their ideas. This is becoming more and more evident. Take the instance of demonetisation. Is the RSS-BJP allowing the prime minister to become a dictator? Can he actually take decisions single-handedly on all issues of importance? Then what happens to the very purpose of collective decision making? Does the RSS-BJP think that choosing Atal Behari Vajpayee as the PM in the earlier NDA government was a mistake? Will this ideological setup bury its own fight against India’s dark chapter of Emergency and write its own?
All these questions made me to think about the leftists I respect even though I have never met some of them. But their public postures and personal values made me respect them.
My oldest memory is of a teacher who taught me English in my first PU at Hoovina Hadagali. He was a Keralite who always came to the classes punctually and left the campus without interacting with his colleagues. Once, I went to his home. The teacher invited me with a broad smile. His wife, too, sat with us. Since I was under the spell of another leftist lecturer, I asked him why he was not active in student politics. He told me that he and his wife were extreme leftists for many years. But the whole ideology had been corrupted by some people and hence they could not stay there any longer. “I still am a leftist in my heart. But I never do organisational politics now. I am retired. Leftist ideals are good only when you practise them individually,” he said. I began admiring him for his candid remarks.
The other lecturer who influenced me a lot was a hardcore leftist. His knowledge of history, literature was vast. When another student declared that I was ready to shift over from ‘right to left’, this lecturer did not agree. He said: “Let him take the decision on his own. I am not forcing anything now,” he said. I respect the lecturer even now for his personal stance. Of course, I did not join that student organisation.
Later, as years went by, I spent my days at various places in Karnataka. Of late, I came in contact with RS Rajaram, the man behind Navakarnataka Publications Pvt Ltd. Navakarnataka was earlier known for its left-leaning publications, but later shifted to more contemporary content such as science, literature, art, humanities and other popular topics. That Navakarnataka itself turned into a private company speaks of his acceptance of a democratic setup of publication units. (I do not know why he did not consider cooperative model, which is the best alternative for capitalistic company models). Anyway, I had more interactions with him for the last six years. I was bowled over by his management skills, friendly nature, dedication towards producing in-depth titles and so on. Recently, he announced his retirement from his posts through an email. The best part of our relationship was the clinching of a deal with respect to Kannada Online Jnanakosha Project launched by the then BJP government in Karnataka. He supported the idea and accepted to lend a hand in an important work: a definitional dictionary of science and technology terms. Ideology never came in between us, when both of us were negotiating for a movement towards open knowledge.
The other left-leaning person I love a lot is Radhakrishnan, founder of River Valley Technologies, which serves the global market of technical journal design and layout. When I found him on the internet, I wrote a blog post. After a few years, I met him in his sprawling campus at the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. Suffering from a rare disease (peroneal muscular atrophy), he rose from rubble to create his own team of designers, who were drawn from nearby villages. He has employed more than 120 women graduates after rigorous training in a relatively less popular journal design tool Tex. (You can read these details here: http://bit.ly/2dAFIrT and http://mitramaadhyama.co.in/archives/2217). He is an active leftist ideologue and an advocate of the Free Software Movement. His commitment towards societal welfare is unmatchable.
By quoting these instances, I am trying to impress upon a single point: let us not disrespect or reject individuals just for the reason that they belong to some other ideological viewpoints. It is advantageous as we can always have a healthy dialogue on several issues of social importance. We may disagree with ideology, but let us not kill people for going against our ideology. It is hard to say this, as many extreme leftist organisations are openly committed to violent struggles. I am the first person to condemn such movements. But that does not deter me in respecting those who follow the law of the land and yet have different opinions.
But let me clear on this: I respect only those who actually show the way by being a model for themselves.