Truth the victim as facts vie for our attention
In the end, we have to stitch it all together to have a complete perspective.
No doubt, history will describe this period as the age of radicals. The political reality and public discourse of many countries suggest that we are active nodes of radical views that we are all too keen to share. Make no mistake, even a self-confessed liberal like me can be equally radical in my views. Most of the mainstream newspapers and TV news channels in countries like the US, UK and India dispense news through their rigid worldview. So, when a big shift happens, it's difficult to make sense of the situation.
Ever since the Indian government discontinued the special status of Kashmir and reorganised the state, so much has been written in favour of and against the move. It appears that there are mainly two types of views shared online - those that are applauding the new status of Kashmir, and those that are trashing it. Each time I see a post on Kashmir, I am entirely convinced by the position put forth by either party. The vastly polarised opinions on Kashmir is puzzling for someone like me who is no expert on Kashmir. I am like the spectator in a tennis match, with the head turning from side to side to follow the tennis ball that two radical players are taking a whack at.
Each time I read a blog, an article, a shared opinion, or a speech, I am a little bit more puzzled about the precise reality of Kashmir. One moment I am thinking that the Indian government has found the elixir for the Kashmir problem. At another, I get the impression that Kashmir has sunk into the dark ages, where nothing grows. It is quite possible that both sides got it wrong.
Part of the problem is because of the numbers game that media houses are forced to play. If page views determine the success of a blog or an article, then extreme and bizarre opinions are the ones getting those page views. Chances are that they are more likely to be shared. In the Darwinian world, it would mean that the most radical are likely to survive online.
But it is unsettling to read dramatically opposing views that seem so right. Are we living in a great big augmented reality space where reality is being augmented by the coloured views of those who report or share it? The iconic German writer Goethe once said, "Each one sees what he carries in his heart." Or are we the proverbial blind men who have a sense of one part of the elephant and mistake that for the entire animal?
Or is it possible to have multiple realities? After all we still don't know for sure how the dinosaurs disappeared from our planet. Did they gobble up all the vegetation with nothing left for the next meal? Or did a mighty meteorite crash on Earth to create a great big cloud of persistent winter that ended after the dinosaurs ended? Did they suffer a terrible epidemic? Did they just get into a self-destruct mode of 'dinocide' by not agreeing on the climate change agreement? Okay, I made up this last one, but you get the point. The dinosaurs possibly went extinct because of a mix of reasons.
If you asked physicists if multiple versions of the same reality exist, they would say, oh yeah. But not without giving you a crash course in quantum mechanics. Two persons observing a photon could come up with conflicting conclusions about the state of the photon. Yet, they could both be equally correct. This means that multiple and contradictory states can simultaneously exist. For this reason, scientists believe in the existence of multiple parallel universes that may or may not interact with one another. In the world of quantum mechanics, we may all be living in separate parallel universes. A physicist would explain the root cause of all the disagreements between separatists and unionists, between the majority and the minority through the quantum theory.
While it may sound bizarre, but in quantum mechanics, measurement results are not absolute truth but rather understood in relation to the observer. This is exactly what we need to consider when we read an opinion. Who is sharing the perspectives and in what context would he or she see the situation? In the case of the Kashmir developments, your experiences as a Kashmiri Muslim or a Kashmiri Pandit often determine your perspective.
Both sides are equally fact-based and convincing.
In the end, we have to stitch it all together to have a complete perspective. It is therefore important for us to read and understand everything, and to use our judgement to put the pieces of the puzzle together. We need to arrive at a synthesised view of the Kashmir problem. Many would assert that it is important to take a clear position on all matters. Indeed it is important but not without fully understanding the complexities of the past and the present. Today, extreme voices are drowning out the more middle of the road, the more nuanced views. The truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle.
- Shalini Verma is the CEO of PIVOT technologies