Difficult to understand words from news, politics and society

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Difficult to understand words from news, politics and society

If you are a regular consumer of news, there are a lot of words that people keep using especially on social media – nationalist, feminist, racist, etc. You may have heard of these words, but do you know what these actually mean?

In this post, we will look at some of the most popular ‘-isms’ doing rounds these days. The idea is to better understand the meaning and usage so that you can use it in the correct manner. unlike news channel panelists or social media revolutionaries.

A more important reason is as an aspirant you must be clear with these terms. You may find these words in RC passages that you are preparing for CAT or any other MBA exam. (long-shot but possible) Also, these are things that are good to know from a general test prep strategy. After all, you don’t want to be wrong in the GD or Interview or the essay that you write, do you?

Another reason is that you will find a lot of people using these words incorrectly (in writing or while speaking) – Such a mistake will be costly because as someone who will be part of management tomorrow, you must at least be familiar with these terms. So let’s start:

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

Technically, from a political science perspective, state and nation are two different things. A state is the institution of the government whereas a nation is a community of people, typically bound by ethnicity, religion, or shared belief systems. A nation could technically mean a group of people who share something in common So it is possible to be a non-patriot nationalist or a non-nationalist patriot.

But we are not here for technical political science right? So in simpler terms – patriotism is support of state and nationalism is the support of a nation. Often these are one and the same and hence the confusion.

Some people say Nationalism is an extreme form of Patriotism while some people say the idea of Patriotism is more rational and progressive than that of Nationalism.

American journalist Sydney J. Harris wrote “The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war”

Feminism and Sexism

Again, one of the most confused sets of words. Sexism, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “the unfair treatment of people because of their gender.” On the contrary, feminism is defined by “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

In a way, both are opposite of each other. I hate to simplify, but yes, being a feminist is a good thing but not the same with being sexist. You can be feminist if you hate the fact that many girls sold into child marriages worldwide. You can be a feminist if you are concerned that a large proportion of the illiterate population is female.

You probably know this already, but did you know that you are also a feminist if you’re concerned about the incorrect media portrayal of men when men are often depicted as dominating, abusive and not caring?

A feminist thinks about equal opportunities for people. It’s about taking gender out of the equation. When someone says things like “Men don’t cry” or “Women belong in the kitchen” they’re being sexist. And when someone says “A man is not a “girl” when he cries or wears pink” that person is a feminist.

Racism and Casteism

Societies get divided along some lines as time passes. We have segregations based on what language we speak or which part of the country we belong to or even our political affiliations.

In India, we have casteism. I don’t think I have to explain what it is – you probably already know what it is, right? India’s caste system traditionally used occupation to discriminate. So a trader’s son cannot become a priest (talk of career choices back then – totally non-existent I guess) or a potter’s daughter cannot marry a merchant etc.

Racism is based on race (duh!) and it works in the same way as casteism (i.e. there is discrimination and prejudice associated with the race of the person instead of the caste)

Also, it could be said is somewhat more prevalent internationally and not so much in India. When we talk about race, we mean segregations like Asians, African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, Native American Indians, Arabs, Jews etc. So when the discrimination is against a fellow Indian based on his or her state or language it is NOT racism, but it could be casteism and/or regionalism (we have quite a few of both you see)

Also, Sometimes, it is the north-south thing – this can be considered racism, because of the fact that technically North India is considered to be dominated by people from Indo-Aryan race and south India is mainly a Dravidian race. But mostly, when between Indians, the discrimination is around states, languages, and cultures and NOT strictly racism.

But when the Indian goes to UK or US or Australia and becomes a victim of hate crimes, it is racism. Mind you, it is not that we are not racist. The crimes against African origin folks staying in India is racism and also the crimes against our own countrymen from North-East

Freedom of Speech and Sedition

You may have heard of cartoonist and artists put behind bars under sedition charges. Then there is one section of the media talking about Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression. The problem is in mainstream media and politics, these concepts are so misunderstood that their usage is often wrong and goes uncorrected.

We will not do a deep-dive but just understand the basics. Let’s start with sedition. This law was included in the IPC by the British way before independence to take care of revolting Indians.

In simple terms, sedition is any act of revolt against the government. A criticism of the government will not be sedition, but if something you do can cause imminent violence, it is sedition. This definition is pretty vague and subject to interpretations and hence the confusion around its usage.

So all you need to remember is – as per the law if something causes or can cause violence for sure, it is sedition and the problem with this idea is that it is subject to interpretations.

Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words (spoken or written) pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one’s idea through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as gesture, signs etc.

But it also means you can say what you want ONLY IF it does not fit into the legal restrictions that the law states. So if you criticise someone, well you have the right to free speech, but if the security of the state, law and order, friendly relations with neighbouring countries, decency or morality are at stake, your freedom of speech will not be protected by law.

Again, what you need to remember here is – if someone files a defamation suit against you, it is not an attack on your freedom of expression. It is not absolute and guaranteed. If you say nasty things, you will be in trouble, Period.

This also means you are free to criticise the government or institutions or in fact say anything as long as it does not come under the defined restrictions. But then, as we discussed previously, it all comes down to interpretations and how good your lawyers are in court.

You can also see: What ‘V for Vendetta’ can teach you about vocab for CAT, IIFT, XAT and other exams

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