Anonymity helps the weak, but we must still kill it
In my column today (Save social media from itself, put an end to anonymity), I argue that anonymity in the virtual world — the one armour that hostiles on the Internet use to create trouble, chaos and even public disorder as we saw recently — must end. Blame it on technology, its falling cost, its abuse, but if we take a few steps within, the problem remains human.
Hiding behind anonymity, the vicious have successfully been able to get our sisters and brothers from the northeast regions to leave Karnataka and Mumbai in search of safety. In earlier cases, the same anonymity has allowed criminals banned from trading on stockmarkets to manipulate prices on stock exchanges. Go on some of the older posts on this blog and you’ll see the abuse against me: not a disagreement, not an argument, not a reasonable articulation — just plain abuse.
All this happens while sitting behind anonymous emails, anonymous Twitter handles and anonymous postings. I doubt if anyone of them has the courage to stand before me and repeat the same words. Behind anonymity, the hostiles think they’re free to post abuse, publish defamatory posts, and even try and mould public opinion. Like all ills, it is the hostiles that drive change through their excesses — from stronger airport security to business firewalls.
But apart from cowardice of the malevolent, there is a deeper reason why anonymity is needed. In the inner evolution of man, the planes of the being are segregated. As a result, someone with a strong mind may not be able to deliver the strength of that idea to those around him — he could be an introvert, shy or plain fearful.
Even in the highest citadels of social sciences research or on the cutting edge of technologies, it needs more than a strong mind to get an idea accepted by peers or the boss. You need a strong vital to push that idea through the wall of ignorance. A few millennia ago, a strong physical was enough. But the barbarian within us remains and expresses itself through the power of the vital force. Watch a politician speak or debate a point with an intellectual and you’ll see the force.
As man evolves, beyond the body, he does so in layers — not necessarily in the following order but around the same direction. Since Indian psychology is still to emerge from the confines of Western psychology, there is very little literature available. But a paper by Matthijs Cornelissen of the Indian Psychology Institute explores the idea with great depth.
In Types of knowledge and what they allow us to see, Cornelissen shows (in figure 6) the movement of knowledge. So, from the inner physical, through the three layers of vital (lower or svadhisthana; middle or manipura; higher or anahata), the four layers of the mind (expressive or vishuddha; thinking or ajna; spiritual or shasrara; higher; and illumined); to finally intuition and beyond.
It is entirely possible for the mind to be developed to an exceedingly high level of sophistication and complexity — an idea that Western psychologists term close to madness — and still be of little ‘utility’ to society because of a weak vital that can’t help express it to a wall of cynics. For such souls, social media is a god-sent. Sitting quietly behind a computer or a hand-held, they can comment, critique and question the world around them.
It would be a tragic to take this only tool of free expression away from them. But in the interests of a largely-barbaric civilisation or at least to tame the few barbarians in an increasingly-refined culture, you could consider the death of anonymity as a little tax that we pay to keep the monster of abuse at bay — until, that is, we move to the next stage of spiritual evolution.