The A-Z Of Becoming Literate. In A Mad, Crazy World.
If we don’t have the right tools to understand something, we won't be able to truly discuss it.
Bias. Polarisation. Information overload. And a vexing question: how can we, as a people, cope with all the multiplicity of narratives about everything in our role as citizens?
Here at Media Buddhi, I’ve been cooking up a new project that attempts to answer that question.
The new project and why
The new project is an A-Z of words and phrases that we all need to know in order to negotiate the world of public debate, WhatsApp Groups, and private dining rooms. Like punching up, gaslighting, whataboutery, and liberal bias.
If we don’t have the tools to truly discuss something, we’ll keep going around in circles, shouting at or misunderstanding each other, or quietly fuming inside. But if we do learn the vocabulary of our times, our discussions will be richer and more nuanced.
It’s only when a phenomenon has been identified, described, admitted and named that we can talk about what it with ease.
For example, the author Rebecca Solnit (a frequent presence here) writes that the term sexual harassment wasn’t even a recognised phenomenon until the 1980s.
Solnit is referring here to the Anita Hill case and the sexual harassment she faced at work. The person she accused, Clarence Thomas,
pressured her to date him. When she declined, she said, “He would not accept my explanation as being valid,” as though no were not itself valid.
It’s worth remembering that feminists had only recently articulated the concept and coined the term sexual harassment, and that only in 1986…had the Supreme Court recognized such behaviour in the workplace was a violation of the law.
Just like sexual harassment, another phenomenon that is still being debated (instead of being settled) seems to be marital rape. How many such words and phrases are out there for us to learn and understand, simply so that we will be able to talk honestly about the issues they represent?
Speaking of which, how should this project be named? Muscle-building for citizenship is kind of accurate but horrible as a name. Political akshara (alphabet) has a ring to it but political can make us think this project is about party politics and elections, which it is not. Here are some other names I’ve been tossing around in my mind:
A-Z of Media Buddhi
A-Z of Politics Buddhi
Or maybe it could be as simple as Media Buddhi A-Z.
A name that is descriptive and has resonance would obviously make this project stand out. But I’ve only got the above for now and I need your help. (More on this below)
Format & frequency
Each week, I will tackle two words. For each word, I’ll make a 60-second video on it from a park in New Delhi. Here’s the one I did, for example, on Stories vs Facts (Twitter video here and Instagram video here) at Jahanpanah City Forest. Here’s one I did on our right to clean information (Twitter video here, Instagram video here) at Lodhi Gardens.
These videos will be published on BOOM’s YouTube channel and Instagram accounts. And also on Twitter.
Every week, I’ll also publish a video + text version here and on BOOM’s website. The text version will have additions/alternations if needed (more on this in the last section).
The A-Z (provisional)
Here’s the starting list of 113 words for Media Buddhi A-Z. I won’t explain why I’ve included them in this piece (that will come in the videos), but they all have something to do with our informational landscape.
Algorithm and Algorithm bias
Bakwas (or bullshit)
Changing your mind
Decolonise your minds
Extreme speech (or hate speech)
Humour (or jokes)
Joke (or humour)
Khan Market people
Manhood and masculinity
Mental health (or Sanity)
Process as punishment
Punching up or punching down
Q for queer
Q for questions
Let’s do this together!
Of course I’ve missed dozens of words. Or maybe hundreds. But I can’t do it on my own. I need your help. If you have any thoughts at all, please write below in the comments section or reply to this email or find me on Twitter.
Help me name this thing. Otherwise, it is going to be MediaBuddhi A-Z.
What (obvious and not-so-obvious) words have I missed? For example, I put in the word mansplaining just now, as I was typing up this piece. Which A-Z wouldn’t have mansplaining in it?!
What words should be here that are used commonly in other Indian languages? I have included bakwas and bhakt but there are so many out there.
Watch the videos and call out my mistakes. 60-second videos do not make for depth. I will clearly miss out on nuances but the idea behind the length of these videos is that these ideas, even the ones that seem complicated, are really quite simple. I will publish your reactions to the videos in this space. Let’s build this knowledge bank together!