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Why The Epidemic Of Superstition Is Worth Fighting | Tanmay Jyothis

Friday 4 June 2021

by Tanmay Jyothis*

Baba Ramdev on May 21st, 2021 has openly attacked modern medicine. This is not an isolated event. We have seen during the pandemic, not from ordinary folk, but from sitting members of the parliament, claims that outrage science, reason, and common sense. Pragya Thakur, MP (BJP), has claimed her regular drinking of cow urine is the reason she has not (yet) contracted the coronavirus. Cow urine drinking ’parties’ were organized by the Hindu Mahasabha in the infancy of the pandemic in March 2020. People have bathed in cow dung as prevention and/or cure of the virus and many other ailments. The miraculous excreta of one species of mammal knows no foe it cannot beat.

This way of thought is in direct violation of one of the fundamental duties enlisted in the Constitution (Article 51 A), which states ’It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism, and spirit of enquiry’. A mockery has been made of this one. Not one word from the top leaders of the government to combat this epidemic of superstition. Why? Because they have made a superb ally out of it. The superstitious are a big part of their vote bank. It can be said the ones in power are sinister-minded charlatans but they seem to be victims of unreason themselves. Perhaps they are both. It is worth noting that while the second wave of the pandemic was brewing, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was busy discussing publicly in an event with Baba Ramdev the efficacy of ’Coronil’. The Haryana Government has decided to distribute 100,000 kits of Coronil to covid patients for free, which they shall axiomatically have to buy from Patanjali. The government is providing ’medicines’, so the people cannot complain, and Patanjali makes money, a win-win situation. I shall add the money is Tax Payer’s money.

Claims of the miraculous powers of cow dung and urine are an embarrassment to the country, and to oppose it publicly and vocally would be our only redemption. Of course, the superstitious and deluded are entitled to their freedom of speech, and are free to say whatever they want, but are not we? If they are entitled to run their rhetoric of bullshit (literally), and advocate for the traditionalist ’old and true ways’, why must we be quiet and accepting of their dogma? And to give due credit, several people have expressed their outrage. However, curiously enough, they are often met with opposition, not from the hardcore unscientific minded right, but from sections of the educated middle class, who have casually dismissed the threat of further mainstreaming of superstitious thought and seem to take more issue with the ’big fuss’ around it. Some mean no ill, and simply don’t want to deal with the headache of countering such ridiculous idiocies. Others in the name of ’respecting culture and tradition’ not only bat an eye to superstition and misinformation but will actively defend its cause. Some call themselves centrists and claim allegiance to neither side of the political aisle. And a subset of this brand of centrist turns a blind eye to one side of the political aisle and an overly critical one to the other.

To the ones that mean no ill and simply want to live their lives, I see no vice in being calm and collected, to reason privately what is right and what is wrong, of what can and cannot stand. I see no vice in ’living and letting people live’. They are all virtues. A society filled with such kind would be utopian. So why must I and people like me always take issue with certain things? Why must we be a bother and an inconvenience to the dogmatists? Why not let people live their lives the way they want if they mean no harm or trouble to anyone else? I’ll tell you why.

Because silence is consent. To be accepting of the mainstreaming of such dogma would be to yield power to the dogmatists and charlatans. It would be to give them a monopoly over future narratives. It would be to throw our hands in the air and declare ourselves to be at their mercy. I, for one, cannot stand for that, and neither should you. The progress mankind has made over the past few centuries has not come easy. The progress that has come with the enlightenment and the scientific revolution is one that has to be cherished and not abandoned. We cannot allow the reversal of this progress. To do so would be to set for ourselves and the future generations of this country a dim future.

’If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth’ —Carl Sagan.

*(Author: Tanmay Jyothis, is a Class 12 Student at Gitanjali Senior School, Hyderabad and is Interested in sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues)

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