The Bruised ‘Establishment Middle Male’: We Know Why You’re Angry
Men with average talent, with degrees in the humanities, and with middling jobs in threatened workplaces are going to be left behind in a race that is characterised by extraordinary changes.
No wonder the EMM is angry.
A noted motivational speaker once said that what comes out of you when you are angry is a good indication of what you are made of.
As I read about Ravish Kumar seeking the boycott of Republic TV, and asking the army to rise against the present government, or see radical Marxist Nilim Dutta calling me “cuck” while defending Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s despicable tweet about the survivors of the Kandahar hijack incident, and finally the garbage spewed by Scroll and Huff Post contributor Lindsay Pereira in the wake of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s demise, the one underlying pattern emerging again and again is the unbridled anger of the ‘establishment middle male’ (EMM) , alarming both in the sheer viciousness and vulgarity of the ideas expressed, and the amount of this hate published and abetted by a deeply entrenched establishment media.
But first, to help understand what I mean when I refer to the EMM, please refer to this excellent tweet from my friend Rahul Roushan. The EMM is well, duh, a male, English-educated, and belonging to the middle-upper and upper economic strata of the society (but not rich), with pronounced left leanings.
Your average EMM is almost never found outside the four large cities in India — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. When born in a Hindu family, an EMM is almost always convent school educated, deracinated, and contemptuous of Hindu practices, beliefs, and texts with a seeming missionary fervour.
The EMM claims the clever sounding but ultimately meaningless ‘spiritual not religious’ label to have his cultural cake and eat it too, keeping all of his ire and his venom aimed at Hindus and Hinduism, and keeping his wagging tongue and pouty lips closed about every other kind of pursuit of ‘god’, however vile, monopolistic, crude, manipulative, and violent that pursuit is.
An EMM usually works in industries where power and connections are the primary commodities: the English-language media, entertainment, advertising and marketing, foreign NGOs and administrative services are some of the natural habitats of this species.
It must, however, be noted that the EMM is almost never the mover and shaker of the establishment. As a writer, he is usually the work-horse, churning articles as per the master’s/mistress’s command. As a government servant, he is a middle level babu from the ‘kick-downstairs’ and ‘kiss-upstairs’ school.
Your average EMM will be often seen tweeting about a performance of Dastangoi rather than a blockbuster action film. The only time he talks about cricket is when he has to whine about how a billion people are addicted to this sport. He worries about water on the day of Holi, pollution during Diwali, and the unalienable right of human beings to eat other animals, especially the cow, for the rest of the year.
A staunch animal rights activist, the irony of mourning the death of Harambe the gorilla or the euthanised tiger in Maharashtra, while provocatively Instagramming pictures of dead, cooked goats and cows on certain days is completely lost on him.
Moral preaching, cleverly packaged as self-loathing, is the stock in trade for the EMM. When he says that as an Indian/upper caste/urban male he is ashamed, what he really means is that as an Indian/upper caste/urban male ‘you’ should be ashamed for not agreeing to and toeing his political ideology as well as his solutions to societal problems.
For him the exodus of 300,000 to 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 1980s did not happen, the 1993 bomb blasts were Hindus getting served their just desserts for the ‘barbaric’ destruction of the Babri Masjid, and the true victims of those blasts was Yakub Memon and Islam.
In spite of using terms like “fiercely pro-justice and anti-bigotry”, the EMM is usually an opinionated, stubborn jerk who will call you bigot/fanatic/fascist if you raise a question about the authenticity of the bizarre version of history he peddles.
To understand the source of the EMM’s unrelenting, all-consuming anger, we must take a step back and study him as a therapist would. As a noted mental health professional observes, of all the human sentiments, anger is probably the most judgemental. It is also moralistic, self-righteous, and repudiating. Contrary to what politicians manipulating their followers will have you believe, there is virtually no strength at the core of anger. On the other hand, anger itself can be seen as a result of being made to feel weak and powerless.
Even allowing for the fact that armchair psycho-analysis is an enterprise fraught with inaccuracies brought about by one’s confirmation biases, there should be no doubt that a large source of the anger exhibited by the EMM currently is a result of the loss of power his movement has been experiencing in the recent past.
In a highly democratised, post social media discourse, the EMM, who gave up his intellectual independence to conform to the party line, often faces ideological opponents, who didn’t have to surrender their independence. There is also no denying that the ability and power of the left-led think-tanks to influence policy or electoral results has been at its lowest. The establishment has been chafing since the 2014 election results in India — and has been on a losing streak that is sustained and long.
The fact that the ‘left-progressive-secular’ establishment is still able to wag the dog is a testament to their deep roots, but some weakening of the structure is inevitable. Unfortunately, as a foot solider the EMM has borne most of the brunt of this reversal. The pontification and self-righteousness that heretofore went unchallenged is suddenly being challenged vigorously, called out with wit and precision, and being summarily discredited, especially on social media, but also steadily on newly-established media channels.
To make matters even worse, in the Indian context, as Gayatri Jayaraman points out in this excellent article, we are also witnessing the ebbing of a system tide that derived strength primarily out of connecting powerful people with each other. And just like during the 2008 worldwide financial crisis, it is the entry and middle level guys that are impacted the most.
The Telegraph and The Hindustan Times have shut down several of their editions last year, DNA has shut down its Delhi edition even as rumours of large job cuts in their Mumbai team are already doing rounds, digital portals like The Wire and formerly cash-rich NGOs have been reduced to asking money from the masses, and regionally powerful media houses are feeling the heat, and their editors and provocateurs are being mocked and defrocked on social media.
The top bosses will find employment and will continue to be players in the establishment. The same cannot be said about the EMM. This economic anxiety and the loss of social standing must be making the lives of an EMM unbearable, making them itchy and irritated every day as they wake up to the new reality of a different India.
Even within the establishment itself, the phenomenon of intersectionality means that as a man without the connections to the top, an EMM is the most expendable of the lot. When a large part of your rhetoric is built upon the idea of different sections of the society continuously victimising and being victimised, there is not a whole lot of ideological manoeuvring space left for you when the knives come for you: the deracinated Hindu male is the first to have his legs cut off in this power game, for his power is basically derived from being a small part of the larger bandwagon — the whole train load of ‘minority’ interests in India. And in the left ideological space, an EMM is constantly being outflanked from those even further to his left, as even a cursory reading of twentieth century politics, worldwide, would show.
The “#MeToo” movement, climate change, and gender wage-gap concerns are some of the issues worldwide where we have seen the upstarts in the left unseating the incumbents by constantly adopting a more extreme position: in the US, we see the newly anointed, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is to the left of Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar further to the left of AOC, and anyone running for president from the Democratic Party will therefore have to not only embrace them but to assume a position closer to the brink of the cliff of left martyrdom.
Thus, the anti-Hindu default setting of the EMM is used cleverly by other ‘minority’ bandwagoners to outflank the EMM, and the poor guy can’t even complain for the fear of being called out a sexist pig.
The false binary of viewing Indian discourse in the Western right –left spectrum instead of (for want of a better term) left-non-left has not helped the case of the left in general or the EMM in particular. Let’s face it — what the left refers to as right or conservative in India is neither of the two.
That means many in the Indian non-left aren’t restricted by some of the rigid positions that say someone representing the American right would be. Abortion, gun ownership and gay rights are some of the prominent examples of this where the American left has built a support base due to the American right’s inherent opposition to them.
The fact that in the Indian context nearly all political parties are economically left-leaning has only tightened the noose since on high-emotion, mass appeal economic issues the Indian left doesn’t really have a lot of natural momentum given to them by their opponents.
For an American EMM staking a claim on women’s issues is easier because the American right is opposing abortion rights. In India, this issue has been settled since the 1970s. On gay rights too, nobody from the Indian non-left is bound by Victorian morality or edicts from a religious book.
Earlier, the left usually got around this problem by only choosing to highlight the fringe from the non-left as representative of the entire movement. With the advent of social media and the growth of new media platforms those positions and issues are being challenged every day, and that hasn’t helped the case of your average EMM.
Aided, and more often than not challenged by the evolving technologies, we are seeing extraordinary changes happening to the way we communicate, study, do business, and make and build careers.
Just as automation has made a number of jobs redundant, in the ideas space too, the advent of social media has pushed the opinion-maker and social influencer job from the domain of highly-paid, full-time, well-networked people to bright, articulate people with passion for a change.
And while I have no doubt that the mainstream media as a whole and their top faces in particular will adapt to this change and come out, bruised and battered, but still standing on two legs, the same can’t be said about men with average talent, with degrees in the humanities, and with middling jobs in threatened work places.
I understand why you are angry dear EMM, though I must warn you — it doesn’t get better!
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