After a long and hard deliberation, last January, I finally decided to scale back drastically on my activism work on Facebook and to forget about being a “public figure” on the said social media platform.
By that time, it had already been several months since I had stopped my almost year-and-a-half experimentation on twitter (see image below and click here to read my Facebook post about it).
The passion — and sense of urgency — with which I had run my social media campaigns on, and written about, the plight of migrant workers, gender equality, casteism, social justice, the plight of the marginalized etc.; the relentless manner in which I had questioned our warped social, economic, and political structures and systems; the unapologetic and direct manner in which I questioned — and exposed — many of our archaic cultural, traditional, and religious beliefs and practices…in other words, essentially holding up a mirror — was not helping me, to begin with. I had been doing all that believing that doing so would help me deal with some of my own personal issues I was struggling with following my traumatic experience of incarceration in Qatar.
Furthermore, I was disheartened to discover that I wasn’t really building power and community in Nepal as I had hoped I would either. Far from it.
My social media activism and writings were, among other things, antagonizing Nepali friends, and possibly other Nepalis too.
Some of those very friends, especially those with limited educational backgrounds, for different reasons, didn’t even understand what I was doing and why. One reason for their lack of understanding was simply their severely limited English language skills and another was a different value system.
Those who appeared to have been antagonized, had also complained about the content of my blogs and my social media posts both in person, on social media, and behind my back.
Some of them appeared to have distanced themselves from me for other reasons. Among the reasons were, as far as I gathered, their issue with my being so vocal about thorny social issues faced by the people in the country — notably by marginalized in the country whether as young students or otherwise — that most don’t want to be reminded of, forget about discussing them openly etc.
Hardly any Nepali friend living in Nepal had publicly shown — on social media or elsewhere — support for what I was doing, forget about consistently amplifying my messages, ideas, opinions, observations, solutions etc. Even after five years in the country, I cannot name even half a dozen Nepali friends who I can say has extended that kind of support consistently throughout the time I have engaged in those activities.
So, last January I started the process of culling friends from Facebook, making my profile considerably more private, and making my posts visible only to friends etc.
Four months later, after I had culled over eleven hundred friends, including many Nepalis, I was reminded of why I had done that.
In an exchange — under a post of mine — I discovered yet another secondary school classmate who had harbored issues with what I had shared on the social media.
The first classmate who had taken issues with my Facebook posts, I had come across within just five months of returning to Nepal from Qatar. In discussions on Facebook, both in public and private, he had displayed an inability to make logical arguments, resorting instead to labeling, name-calling and attacking the messenger (me) instead of the message, as it were. In a private exchange, very angry, he called me an idiot, among other things.
The recent exchanges with the other classmate started quite innocently enough. He commented under a post in which I had shared a video of a road safety practice in the US. But not much different from how the first classmate ended our exchanges, this also ended with him angry at me, which was totally unexpected.
An international friend and I had an exchange over the importance of the school bus safety practice.
The classmate started the exchange with just an innocuous opinion.
Except, traffic is an issue for Nepali children as I pointed out at the end of my comment (reproduced below). He in turn responded saying that he was “taking an exception” to a phrasing of mine in the status update.
I responded to the argument about the difference between traffic safety rules protecting children and gun laws. I also pointed out how the response of many Nepalis is to say “we can’t do it” when really the issue is we won’t do it.
In his response to that, he shared the REAL issue he has had with my posts: “[W]hat comes across louder is a criticism of Nepal and Nepalis more than the problem that you are trying to highlight.” He does concede that the problem may lie in his inability “to take in what you are trying to convey.”
So, in response, I pointed out that he revealed the real issue, and told him what I have done with my activism and work on education, and why. In addition to that, I countered the bland statements he made, statements that many others in privileged positions, both Nepali and foreign, have made about marginalized Nepalis.
And then, he reveals the other issue he has had with my posts: “I have often seen you highlight the privileged bauns [sic] and Chhetris.” It did NOT escape me that he does add “for the most part is true.”
I countered by stating why I do write a lot about them and added that I had written a great deal about many of the other issues we face in Nepal. I also questioned the fallacy-ridden equivalence argument he made.
(The same fallacy-ridden equivalence argument is what the drafters of the 2015 constitution used when they lumped poor hill high caste Hindus with the other historically and traditionally marginalized groups in the country.)
Recognizing the insinuation in “rather than resent the cards that I was dealt with in life,” namely that I am resenting mine, I questioned him about it too.
To expand on the context of my birth to contrast it to his…. Birth as a Bhote, in Nepal, means birth into a much lower caste (compared to his birth into a high caste). Growing up in Nepal, that meant, firstly, living with a pejorative and demeaning ethnicity designation — it has a number of negative connotations. Secondly, doing what one could as a people and as an individual so as NOT be recognized as one and be discriminated. Some of the things we did — including embracing Hindu cultural practices and beliefs etc. — basically amounted to denying our ethnic and cultural heritages.
Of course, he however, would NOT have suffered in the same way, and to the same extent, because of his high caste birth. That is NOT to say that he might NOT have suffered at all. To reiterate, he would NOT have suffered BECAUSE of his birth as a hill high caste Hindu.
So, when he describes his childhood struggles, intimating that he also suffered as much as I did, the logical fallacy he has made here is the equivalence fallacy.
Another classmate chipped in.
Realizing that he is likely wrong in saying that I “often” post about high caste Hindus, I challenged him to provide evidence.
And then I responded to the other classmate’s comment.
He didn’t respond to my questions. And, when he didn’t give any evidence to back-up his assertion that I “often” highlight the hill high castes, I went ahead and analyzed my Facebook posts, my blogs, and shared the results.
And then I rounded off those three comments by pointing out an issue I have faced a lot in discussions with Nepalis, namely, that they make emotive and fallacy-ridden arguments instead of evidence-based logical ones.
This, however, is NOT the first time he has made fallacy-ridden arguments. He also made them under another Facebook post of mine in which I had shared the blog post Why Do Nepali Men Struggle to Admit Their Mistake AND Apologize? He had, for instance, questioned me if that meant that I believed or knew that non-Nepali men didn’t struggle with that. Anticipating Nepalis just like him who have a tendency to counter arguments with whataboutism routinely, I had preemptively addressed that in the blog itself.
Another (false) conclusion he drew, and engaged with me over it, was that I must, therefore, believe Nepali women do NOT struggle with that. That, of course, is NOT a conclusion you can draw from the blog post. #BlackLivesMatter does NOT mean white lives don’t, for instance!
Anyway, he responded to the above comments of mine by making some snide remarks intended to mock me. Strangely enough, he also changed what he had originally said about me “often” highlighting Bahuns and Chhettris to me highlighting Bahuns and Chhettris “more often than” him.
It was clear that he was ticked off a little at the very least. It was very likely that what I said had angered him as well because, towards the end he shared a drastic decision he had made: “I will not be commenting on any of your posts going forward.”
If either one of us was supposed to have gotten ticked off at the other or to have been angered by the other person, it should have been me. But no, it was him, which, to me, is not only baffling but also telling.
It seemed, while his making baseless, and therefore false, claim about something I supposedly had been doing on the social media should be acceptable to us both (and maybe to even others?), my proving them so with evidence, at least to him, is NOT acceptable! Baffling to say the least!
One does wonder if the explanation for that is how he, unconsciously, sees himself relative to me based on our castes and/or how he unconsciously views the likes of me. Could that be privilege in action? Maybe?
Earlier I mentioned how his reaction was totally unexpected. The reason is that, in the past, he has lauded my measured approach to engaging with people who have displayed anger towards me. I don’t think I said anything that could or should invoke anger in him in this exchange. But it appeared to have.
Incidentally, a month-and-a-half after this exchange, he broke his promise to not comment on any of my posts. Also incidentally, I responded to neither his final comment in this exchange nor to his promise-breaking comment.
But most importantly, having suffered as gravely as I have when I was incarcerated on false charges in Qatar, having experienced the depths of despair, unless you have suffered immensely too, you’ll struggle to understand why people like me view and live life the way we do, and, crucially, do the things we do and in the manner we do them.
In one of my long comments in this exchange, I spelled out two of the very important and personal reasons behind everything I have been doing, even sharing links to blog posts where I have elaborated on them. I very much doubt he knows or understands (or cares given the hint of disdain in his last comment?) much about the trauma I suffer from and the consequences of that, notably, the rage and the pain I carry.
More importantly though, I hope he never does come to understand them because, if at some point in the future he does, then that would mean that he has suffered immensely as well.
As I have stated elsewhere, I would NEVER wish on anyone the kind of experience I have had in Qatar.
Anyway, let alone acknowledge any of my confession of the rage and pain I suffer from, by his own admission in his final comment (the first highlighted bit), he read only 25% of my comments. There’s nothing I can say or do to help someone like him to even get to a point of beginning to see and understand a little where someone with my kind of experiences is coming from. (Interestingly, a while ago, sensing — based on some statements he had made on social media — that he might be suffering from some issues he faced as a student at St. Xavier’s, I reached out to him privately.)
And, sadly, others have been flippant and insensitive as well. That’s partly why I have drastically culled my friends, made my profile more private, and drastically reduced my social media engagements as well as my social media “campaigns.” I have decided I have to attend to my personal issues.
It’s also partly for the same reason that, four months ago, I quit my job, and have NOT started one as yet.
What do you think?