It is the prerogative of the rich, elite, the intellectuals to criticize. Not us, commoners who toil in the sun for a living. It is a luxury that the poor women and men cannot afford. It is for those who have time to sip their tea, observe world happenings either on their tablet or their big TV screen and then not just break into an impromptu debate with whichever company is available, but to also pen it down, post it on FB, get it inked in the Editorial columns of popular daily’s. I often feel envious when I make such observations,no, not criticisms but observations. That it is a privilege among the many privileges of the rich. I wish I was the one privileged; privileged so I can make a sharp critique of those who are rich. Well.
Coming back to understanding the privilege of criticising, well, firstly to be able to criticize something, one must know enough about the subject matter. And secondly,more importantly one must be aware that he or she knows enough and therefore an opinion independent and valid can be made. The working class/ the poor/ the subaltern unfortunately do not catch up on late night news on BBC or follow twitter. So their worry and information about the outside world is very , seriously limited. In the vague chance that this matter is somehow relevant to them and that they have rich experience and wisdom therein in the subject matter, they still don’t know or aren’t aware that they have this knowledge or that one can assert its validity. The Rich, if you have noticed, are always confident. Their attitude is one of entitlement. Even with their half or no knowledge, they are pompous enough to speak with whatever they think they know and criticize.
Such a criticism doesnot limit itself to any scope. One, if you belong to the right social categories, can criticize everything from food to philosophy, fashion to foreign cultures. They have a say on everything. And they will have their say, because they are the liberated, freedom loving people; they have done what they have done and accumulated enough wealth to stand tall and challenge the political clout of others to offend them.
You see them aloud in cafes, in the long queues of the cinema hall, in the panel of the Newschannel Primetime shows, everywhere. They don’t shy away from anything. Because they are intellectual, they can say what they want to say.
On the other hand, one must pay keen attention to the behaviour of individuals from subaltern communities. Like my father, my uncle who is a farmer, my mother in law. They don’t speak very much. They are literate. They do read the papers. They have lived lives in all its vibrancy and gathered wisdom through these experiences. Yet they do not have so many opinions. Now, one can ask is this because they don’t know enough about the world or may be its a limitation of language. Perhaps both. Like I said, both the access and the language has always been so hegemonised by the elite intellectuals that even the wisest of the tribe would not (and they will ’empathize’ and tell you this) be good enough to criticize.
These people who work for a living, who have seen hardships, who have realised that the world is not black or white but grey have long before understood and accepted the complexity and the sophistication of life. They welcome their everydays with awe, wonder and hope rather than scepticism, sarcasm and criticism.
I believe, since we do not have access to that language of criticism, because let’s admit it we haven’t had any real power in our hands to claim such authority over matters, we go by life in simpler logic than others. If we really have a problem with something, if there is a problem of any nature, then we trust that it will be easily identifiable, be easy to articulate in our own limited native vocabulary. If you went through an experience with no apparent unpleasantness, then there was probably nothing to worry about, that this was fine.
It’s like this conversation over breakfast buffet that took place during my friend’s nephew’s naming ceremony. The ceremony was taking place in a temple. We (my partner and I) had reached earlier than the others and hence were invited to have breakfast. Simple, yummy south indian breakfast. As we began eating, my friend’s dad came around to greet us. We finished exchanging niceties. Looking to end the conversation and allowing him to move towards the other guests, I remarked saying it was a very nice breakfast. It indeed was. Lots of ghee on ravi idli and fresh chutney. My friend, his daughter, who was sitting beside me, immediately remarked saying the food was bad. She even threw the piece of idli aside on her plate to demostrate what she was saying. Wow, I thought. Why, it was so nice actually?! What blew me off was the snide response we got from her dad. He said “I’m glad you have such high standards!” He was grinning with (perhaps) pride when he said that.
I was disgusted. I thought it was audacious to have found fault in that food. May be the brahminical privileges of having had lot -more-than-enough food to eat was the culprit. Having come from family that had seen its share of poverty, I was brought upto be grateful for every meal I got, for every meal that someone else prepared for me. So I say , to criticize is a privilege. I do not have it. Some do.Daily Prompt: Criticize