ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Fallacy of Anxiety


Arguably, some observers are likely to consider anxiety as not so favourite a vocabulary for comprehending the social and political responses and reactions of the people. This is perhaps because such a category does spring from the logic of structures that produce and shape political dynamics. It is true that anxiety, which is coupled with elements such as apprehension, suspicion, and fear, seeks to characterise the nature of consciousness that has a bearing on people’s responses and reactions. Thus, for understanding this nature, it is necessary to take into consideration the attitudinal functions that the category of anxiety performs. It could be argued that, generally speaking, anxiety is dysfunctional in one particular context and ineffective in another. It expresses itself with careful subtleness that one could find in the so-called “developmentalist consciousness” of the modernist elites with respect to the process of policymaking. Such elites, thus, find contradiction between caste and development, which is why they have developed a heightened anxiety over the demand for the caste-based census becoming an operational reality. The modernist elite’s scepticism regarding conducting the caste census involves an element of anxiety, in the sense that if this census is allowed, it would essentially perpetuate casteism and hence stall development. It is in this sense that such an anxiety is dysfunctional as it sees negativity in the caste census.

At the other end of the spectrum of anxiety, the tacit supporters of the caste system do suffer from anxiety on the grounds of how a public discussion of caste is likely to cause an embarrassment to those who accept the caste system, but for political reasons, find it risky to acknowledge it openly. The anxiety of caste hierarchy being discussed publicly could possibly explain why the current central government and those in the past have not been in favour of conducting the caste census. The anxiety of embarrassment is so acute that the defenders of casteism may not allow public talks even around B R Ambedkar and Jotirao Phule’s ideas that may not have a direct reference to the caste system. Such defenders who find “lifetime” value in the caste system as a mechanism to sustain social dominance are always anxious about the possibility of public institutions being made available for speakers who may talk against caste hierarchy. But in the social life of caste, there is no place for anxiety; hence, it is deemed ineffective.

It could thus be argued that the touchable castes do not seem to suffer from social anxiety because they are sure to know who is a soft target, and who therefore needs to be regularly tormented for the fulfilment of the desire for social domination. The Indian village, which offers such easy identification with close proximity in a spatial and social setting and where the social boundaries of caste are clearly marked out, in such a context, anxiety plays a very little role. In such a context, the scope for suspicion of the other is almost minimal.

In this regard, it is necessary to assess whether the element of anxiety heightened by the force of suspicion led the attacker from the right-wing organisation to ferociously attack the victim who was allegedly suffering from an unstable mental condition. The act of violence does not seem to be the result of suspicion about the religious identity of the latter. This is because suspicion does not instigate the attacker’s involvement in the sudden act done with ceaseless ferocity, which was evident in the brutal thrashing of an innocent victim. An element of suspicion coupled with doubt and scepticism, in fact, would lead to defer the sudden act of violence. The element of doubt and scepticism would lead a person to think before they attack. In this case, and in many other cases, of mob lynching or the violent attack on individuals, reasonable suspicion does not act as a restrainer. If suspicion was not at play, what is it that can explain the brutal attack on the mentally unstable person?

It is probably the accumulated anti-minority prejudiced mind with the prefixed image of the insignificant other—a person from the minority background—that is behind the recent violent act involving the local leaders with a right-wing background. The “enemy” image is firmly and, hence, pathologically fixed in the prejudiced mind—the mind that directs those hands to behave with utter indiscretion. As is evident from the fatal beating of a person, such an indiscrete act needs no sober and considered verification, which in the recent case of violence by a right-wing functionary from Madhya Pradesh was completely unwarranted. The prejudiced mind, thus, does not entertain other sober or reasonable means of verification. The right-wing attacker’s prejudiced mind and its resultant desperation is the manifestation of the mind that lacks reason.


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Updated On : 4th Jun, 2022
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