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Zodiac Memes Can’t Save Us From the Dangerous Influence of Astrology in India – The Swaddle

You wouldn’t must scour the web for too lengthy to come back throughout memes about earth or wind indicators and the form of month they’re having, how they behave in numerous conditions, and the way they might react to, say, a minor inconvenience or a significant disaster. 

The place newspaper columns and magazines as soon as carried related ideas, tips, and recommendation, the phenomenon has now moved on-line and develop into a significant GenZ subculture. However in India, younger folks taking to it — whether or not sarcastically or not — replicates a generational sample that’s problematic at finest, harmful at worst. 

The web’s “pop” astrology and memes are devoid of contextualization or nuance. Byte-sized with its personal nomenclature, guidelines, and interior circle jokes, it’s in every single place whether or not one believes in it or not. Certainly, it arguably has little or no to do with perception. The thought is to not take it too significantly. However this makes it sound benign and rootless when it isn’t. Consequently, it dangers normalizing a rhetoric that many in India have been making an attempt laborious to battle. 


“Astrology has created a lot chaos in my prolonged household, comparable to getting 19 year-olds married to 33 year-olds,” says Aparna, 23. Her expertise just isn’t distinctive; many ladies reported feeling pressurized to get married at a sure age, to a sure particular person, with none regard for his or her precise needs, as a consequence of an astrologer’s verdict. “They’ve been forcing marriage upon me and astrology is one thing they take a look at each single day,” says Aksheyaa, 24.

Right here is the place memes in regards to the “compatibility” of varied indicators are inclined to undermine the true life prices of taking astrology significantly. 

Leaving the elemental logic at play unchallenged, even passively mainstreaming it via humor, irony, or superficial curiosity, signifies that younger folks could also be much less prone to consolidate efforts in direction of difficult the extra regressive manifestations of astrology that have an effect on their friends.

There’s admittedly a distinction between non secular astrology offline, and the extra decontextualized, “secular” astrology from the memes on-line. The place the previous intersects with ritualism to affect future outcomes, the latter is extra within the realm of spirituality and understanding extra about folks’s personalities. However there’s a level the place the 2 meet. 

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Millennials and Meme Tradition Have Reclaimed Astrology

The cultural associations of astrology in India have deep roots in faith and caste, with its stranglehold over many households suffocating many younger folks. However there are some rising corners of the web the place these associations begin to creep into the astrology that appeals to younger folks on-line, the type the place its hippie, “love and peace” vibes really feel liberating within the context of accelerating violence and battle in society.

An influencer who goes by the username “Wandering Kamya” is a living proof how misleading this may be. Her feed is stuffed with mystical imagery, her outfits crying free spiritedness with a contact of non secular asceticism, her mannerisms, gestures, and phrases fastidiously managed to appear and feel like they arrive from profound interior information that solely she has unlocked. Astrology is simply one of many many non secular issues she espouses, however there may be an undercurrent of reactionary romanticization of India’s “historic” and “misplaced” tradition — by which she means Hinduism. And thru the language of indigenity and decolonization, Kamya “reclaims” the non secular connotations related to astrology and asserts these roots very strongly. 

That is on-line, however there are additionally famend lecturers who espouse related issues offline. The scholar Meera Nanda factors to this very phenomenon and calls it “reactionary modernism.”

In different phrases, the road that separates how astrology is mentioned on-line, and the way it’s practised offline, can and does blur. The query then turns into this: do folks maintain some form of social duty for participating with astrology of any form?

In line with Mukta Dabholkar,  a rationalist and organizer of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmolan Samiti (MANS), the reply is sure — as a result of surrendering to beliefs that don’t have their foundation in tangible info could be harmful for a society. 

She speaks to the growing prevalence of the concept that “selection” is the be-all and end-all of autonomy, with out questioning the which means or penalties of any of the alternatives we make. Certainly, a lot has been stated and written about how millennials and Gen Z discover consolation in astrology as a coping mechanism for coping with the realities of the world. Fairly than accommodating trustworthy conversations about the best way to grapple with the stress between psychological well being and astrology, nonetheless, web discourse appears to be pervaded with a way of normalization via humor and self-aware, ironic distancing. 

What Dabholkar says additionally resonates in a context a lot bigger than she lets on. Her father is Narendra Dabholkar, the famed anti-superstition activist who challenged many an astrologer in his day. His work led as much as one fateful day in 2013, when a gaggle of unknown assailants killed him for doing simply that. This additionally speaks to the large dissonance between the issues we take without any consideration on-line and what occurs offline. 


In explaining why “on-line” astrology just isn’t innocent, Dabholkar tells me how the present crop of millennials will not be the primary of their form to have this type of indifferent, nearly ironic perception in astrology. In each era, there have been folks with liberal mindsets, who held beliefs within the extra “polished” types of astrology — ones that don’t entail outright irrationality like black magic, human or animal sacrifice — however those who sit comfortably with their worldviews as life-style decisions like selecting a job, a home, a companion, or a pastime, she explains. There’s a sure class element to what sort of astrology is deemed “acceptable,” and what form is regarded down upon as irrational and cheesy. 

The affect of Western astrology, which the extra privileged of younger Indians entry and have interaction with, is arguably this era’s model of refined, socially acceptable astrology, simply as vastu was to Hindu majority predecessors. It comes freed from the bags of faith and dogma, and there’s a sure polished, hippie aura round it that makes it interesting as a way of life selection with out feeling the necessity to consider its social and political repercussions — there don’t look like any. This has arguably morphed into an web subculture of its personal, which makes its recognition one thing that we’ve got not but reckoned with on a broader scale, each on a private or a political degree. 

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Why Do Individuals Nonetheless Imagine In Astrology?

However Dabholkar advocates for not separating this perception from politics and society, no matter how private one would possibly suppose their beliefs are. What she says resonates in a digital context: there’s a cause why the seemingly apolitical, impartial form of astrology is getting used as a entrance for one thing extra sinister by the likes of Wandering Kamya. Astrology has the proper quantity of mystique and historic timelessness to be malleable to any form of framing — typically, it finally ends up serving as a automobile to glorify a regressive previous, expound on the futurism of the Vedas, and propagate different reactionary non secular concepts in a manner that’s palatable to younger folks. 

This has deep and pressing implications for politics.

“The crux of progressive considering lies within the truth of questioning, and it additionally lies in accepting the info, even if you happen to really feel uncomfortable accepting them. Being dispassionate about info is essential for progressive politics,” Dabholkar says. “ Calling spade a spade is essential.” 


There’s extra to why it could be price urgently re-examining our fixation with the seemingly decontextualized model of astrology we see on-line. “Astrology is an exploitative construction that earnings off of individuals’s paranoia and worry. It’s a very harmful superstition,” says Sanal Edamaruku, President of Indian Rationalist Affiliation and pal of Narendra Dabholkar’s. Edamaruku at present resides in Finland as a consequence of threats to his life in India, a results of his work in difficult superstitions together with astrology. 

For Dabholkar and Edamaruku, it seems, leaving room for ambiguity, doubt, and surrendering to purported forces outdoors of oneself can consequently depart room for being passive residents in a nation in turmoil. They acknowledge that in a society in flux, individuals are sure to seek for solutions or a vocabulary to make sense of what’s occurring. However for 2 individuals who have had a lot stake within the recreation, they stand as examples for a way liberating it may be to remain rooted to info. 

Whereas it could actually, and has soothed people throughout occasions of societal transformation, Dabholkar warns that we must be being attentive to what it does even among the many area of interest group of younger folks on-line. It may be harmful on a private degree too, she says — since ascribing circumstances to one thing exterior, whether or not in jest or not, entails undermining the significance of individuals having company over their lives. The implications are there for all to see, and Dabholkar’s and Edamaruku’s lives stand testomony to this. 

With burgeoning state help for astrology too, it could be remiss to not ask questions on who stands to achieve from astrology’s growing acceptance as “cool”, humorous, and even “woke”, within the larger image. Its progressive veneer on-line arguably permits such developments to slide below the radar, however its potential in answering an period of existential unease can’t be denied. 

Certainly, there aren’t any simple solutions. Dabholkar summarizes her method to the battle by quoting her father: “For eradicating blind religion, we have to meet folks with kindness quite than anger, and deal with them with love as an alternative of sarcasm.” When all is alleged and finished, the spirit of dialogue and inquiry — frequent to most progressives — may serve to unite those that one way or the other discover themselves on reverse sides of the identical room. 

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