"We live in a society where joint families are normal, and our communities are close-knit. We are closer to our families' communities than our wester counterparts, and this is why we start taking everything personally. We are somewhat hypocritical as a society. On the one hand, we believe that everyone has their "Freedom of Expression" and they can express their views freely, but on the other hand, we take offense if their views do not align with our beliefs."
Pratham Bajaj attempts to look at the reasons behind Indians getting offended easily and often.
It is commonly said that "You can't make everyone happy," but there is no boundary for offending someone. India as a society is a heaven for people who like to offend and those who take offense.
Now the question is, what can offend us? And the answer is anything; the possibilities are immense. Anything from the scale of physical abuse to a joke can offend us. By definition, getting offended means feeling angry, hurt or upset by something said or done. Our society, since its establishment, has been very divided and hierarchical, and we get uncomfortable when someone tries to penetrate the imaginary bubbles in our minds. It is challenging for us to see someone not agreeing with us or not believing in what we believe. We live in a society where joint families are normal, and our communities are close-knit. We are closer to our families' communities than our wester counterparts, and this is why we start taking everything personally. We are somewhat hypocritical as a society. On the one hand, we believe that everyone has their "Freedom of Expression" and they can express their views freely, but on the other hand, we take offense if their views do not align with our beliefs.
You may find a seat in Delhi Metro in rush hours, but you won't find a time when someone is not getting canceled on Social Media. This habit of us Indians getting offended easily has created a new wave of Cancel Culture in India. Every day you can see the Twitter trending list in India, you will find a hashtag starting with Boycott or Cancel someone or something. With the increasing trend of ideological polarization in the Indian context, the subject of offense has changed drastically. We get offended not based on what is being said but on who the speaker is. We are a country of over 1.3 billion people. Every fraction of the society, however small they may be in the context of the Indian population, consists of many participants if they are counted in terms of absolute numbers. We have a habit of taking offense at a community level, and in this regard, we are pretty united. In recent times we have seen established brands getting boycotted over an advertisement made by them. A well-established entrepreneur says something about C.A.s on national television in the context of running a business, and the whole community of C.A.s takes offense. And the problem is not just that people are taking offense; the problem is their response to being offended. You can not crack a joke on anything in these times as someone will take offense, and chances are it would be at a community level. This may have unwillingly increased the level of intolerance among individuals without them knowing about it. The urge to take offense on matters that can easily be ignored has reduced the level of tolerance in the minds of individuals.
Indians are passionate about what we like, be it cinema, sports, art, artist, brands, and most importantly, politicians and political parties. We find it hard to believe that someone does not like our favorite player, and we feel there is a need to acknowledge it publicly and make it clear to them that our favorite player is the best. The intensity increases when it comes to politics. When we see someone having opposite views, there is an inherent urge to challenge them and make them believe what we stand for is absolute. We are very rigid in this aspect and find it hard to change. There is a constant atmosphere of clash of ideologies, and there is a lack of willingness to be ready for changes. And it has turned into a business; Individuals are hiring agencies to troll others or counter the trolling campaign against them.
It's not like the increasing use of the internet has started the wave of getting offended. As a society, we got offended by the name of a film and an IPL franchise not retaining a local ageing star player. With the emergence of social media, the instances have increased. Every fraction of society now has access to a medium for expressing themself in public and representing themself to the whole world. We find it challenging to take jokes at their face value and, in the process, get offended by the same. With the emergence of new-age social media, people find it easy to make their point and stand for what they believe in with the comfort of being at their home and enjoying the benefits of anonymity under a username. They express, argue, and in the process, they offend and get offended.
Another reason we Indians get offended easily is our way of life. As per the U.N. World Happiness Report released in 2021, India ranked 139 among 149 countries that participated in the reported survey. Average Indians are not happy with their lives, and there is a sense of inner frustration that often comes out in taking offense on minor issues that may have been ignored otherwise. Our economy is not at its best, and the divide between different parts of societies has increased.
It can be said that Indians get offended easily and often, but the thing here is we as a society need to introspect how we can overcome the shortcomings we are facing and be open to changes. Sometimes what we perceive as taking offense is a person trying to defend.
We need not agree with everyone on everything, but that does not mean that we are unwilling to engage in a dialogue. A healthy discussion is how democracy thrives, and ours being the largest in the world, needs to be a bit more understanding and inclusive because of the diversity we have in our country.