How many of you have barked in your lives? If you haven’t ever. Try it now. Bow Wow. Good.
Now imagine one time you came off sounding (to a dog) like you need to get your act together, for you sounded like a sheep trying to talk pig. Not just that, the word spread in the dog community that bark they heard from you on that day was a menace to dogs in general, and decided to hunt you down. Relentlessly. They get all the stray dogs in town, get the domesticated ones to break their leash and come after you. All because that day when you barked, it sounded like a sheep-ish pig snorting.
You could try to leave, but world over, canines are incensed that a person who barked like a pig is allowed to live at all. There are dogs in every part of the world, and no matter where you turn, you are besieged by angry dogs.
They do not know whether you are a person who loves dogs in general or not so much. They have no idea whether you are for or against animal cruelty, or if you care about the environment, whether you are friendly, loyal, caring or warm. From that moment on, there is a canine war against you – for you have been singled out.
You try telling them that you really do things well in life. You run, mew, walk, sing, read, say “Down boy!” with aplomb, walk-like-a-penguin, spend time with your friends, family and other animals, are loyal, forgiving, funny, easy, curious; but that bark that insulted dogs removed every other aspect of your personality.
This to me, is what the mutating self-righteous internet-user base has become. We all watched with horror about how the world went after the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, we know what happened to Foy.
Was this how the world always was, or have your tolerance levels waned, I asked myself as I sat quietly with a notepad in my hand admiring the view of the lake before me and idly jotting down bits and pieces of conversation I heard as people ran, jogged or walked around the lake. There were so many seemingly innocuous statements I overheard that could cause a storm when taken out of context. Like this one for instance:
It all comes down to what your mother has fed you over the years.
This simple sentence could go viral within minutes in a hundred different dimensions.
Feminist groups going: Why should moms be held responsible for the feeding?
Indignant moms going: The mother always knows best!
Disgruntled fathers going: Hey! We know a thing or two about nutrition too!
Young folks going: Please! Stop. We know how to feed ourselves.
But what this misses is context, tone of voice, reaction of those involved, an explanation. This is what I overheard from a family of three walking together briskly. That sentence could have been advice doled to the teenaged-son on good nutrition and exercise, or an offhand compliment to the mother in that family, or the father’s own story about how he associated certain memories with what he ate at his mother’s kitchen, or the line from the latest Hindi movie they watched.
It was not always like this. Somehow, with shorter message contents competing for our attention, our attention spans seem to be becoming directly proportional to our tolerance and our ability to assume the best in people.
Maybe next time we stop and make an effort to think that maybe not all is as bad as it sounds. (Well….except in Donald Trump’s case in which case, you may quack before you bark.)