Enough is Enough of this Whataboutry

An argument that we may call whataboutry has reached a nauseating peak on prime time television in our country. Of course It does not rule just our television. We can also find it being put forth in our legislative assemblies and parliament. We can see how BJP is hiding behind the cover what about the seventy year rule of Congress? Those who openly back the lynch mobsters ask what about the crimes of the Muslims on the holy cow? Some bigots mask their bigotry by posing what about the soldiers at the borders? Others say what about Pakistan? More recently, someone, posing as wisdom figure in Goa over the web has been asking what about the inquisition? Others are asking what about fish? This whataboutry is ruing India in the 21st century. Hence, the logic of whataboutry needs to be addressed urgently. This logic of whataboutry is a form of logical error or fallacy that only assists us to deflect the real issues at hand. We have enough of this whirlwind of whataboutries from the ruling benches and their masters. It is an ideal escape route without responsibility for the Government and its cronies. The sad thing is that a significant section of our media is also trapped into a whataboutry argument trying to make a difference that makes no difference. Clearly, the overdose of whataboutry is coming back to haunt the users of this fallacious argument. The mask is falling and we can recognize the deception. Indeed, the whataboutry is about to be taken to the laundry. We as people have reached a point of no return that says enough is enough but our political leaders and media anchors shamelessly continue to trumpet their whataboutries to a disgusting point of boredom. Yet some of us are still seduced by it.

We do need to deploy a kind of no nonsense attitude to this bombardment of whataboutries from the right wing and their right lining megaphones in the media. We have the duty to bell the cat that is destroying our sense of rectitude in our society. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by whataboutries that are blowing from all directions. This bizarre and unbelievably deceptive argument cannot be allowed to seduce us. But we cannot deny the intoxicating and blinding power of whataboutries. It reminds me of a truant student who simply asked a single nagging question to his teachers all the time. He merely interrupted the teachers by asking: ‘how can you say that’. The teacher then spent the rest of his class explaining how he can say what he had said. Now the truant student posed the same question again and the poor teacher was forced to come up with his explanation. One can fool any teacher with this disruptive and interruptive question. Similarly, the whataboutries that we face today are making of us fools. They have a numbing effect on our mind and some among us even fail to see or notice it. This means our seduction is complete and we have to quickly do something about it.

Our plight seems to be described by the puzzle of squirrel by William James. William James an American pragmatist philosopher poses an intriguing puzzle: ‘some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find everyone engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was squirrel-a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of the tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being is imagined to stand. The human witness tries to get the sight to the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction and always keeps the tree between himself and the man so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: does the man go around the squirrel or not?’ The squirrel seems to be always ahead of the man who is only following it without being able to see it. Someone might say when one is following the squirrel one is practically going around it. Something similar can be happening with the whataboutries that encircle us. Are we missing the squirrel/ real issues by going around the whataboutries? The man went around the tree and missed the squirrel. Maybe we too are only going around the whataboutaries and reality that they help to hide remains out of our reach.

To untangle ourselves from the trap of whataboutries, we may have to examine what we uncritically or mindlessly receive as information and knowledge. Most of the whataboutries attempt to deflect attention from real issues by a strategy of escaping the dilemma through it hornes. But by it over use it has become a farce and is no longer working. We need to catch our dilemma by its horns and show the baseless escape mechanism used by the proponent of whataboutry. This will open for us the real issues facing our nation and we shall understand the gimmick played at us through this senseless whataboutry. We may be enabled to view a counter whataboutry in the horizon of the whataboutry of the ruling benches. This may lead some among us to counter whataboutry with their own critical whataboutry. Some may ask what about the rising prices? Others may include in this counter mode the question: what about the price of petroleum? Still others may ask what about jobs?, what about 15 lks?, what about black money? or what about violence of the gauraksaks? And the list can go on to include what about ache dhin? This only shows how the fake whataboutry is a cover over real questions that can be raised in the counter whataboutry mode. Indeed, the fake whataboutry employed to cover the real whataboutry fails and the government and its allies stand found out by the counter force produced by the over dose of their own making.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao