This is my reflection on the 12 Angry Men that is available on YouTube.
People make mistakes. They could be wrong!
This beautiful work made me wonder about how easy it is for popular opinion to get formed on specious grounds. Politics in India offers numerous examples to illustrate this. Many have argued that the Congress party, for instance, won a few times riding on public sympathy. Evidently, sympathy is not the most appropriate criterion for electing any government. Popular opinions also affected legal procedures, which is evident in the K.M. Nanavati case (1959), where the accused was pronounced not guilty by the jury — a decision that was eventually overturned by higher courts.
Furthermore, sometimes people tend to form opinions that are coloured by prejudice and bias. The work had included references to bias based upon race and economic background. Additionally, a strong personal bias was also evident. A trend that has been common in India since independence perhaps offers a good example, which is of angst towards the rich. Several of my favourite movies like Kala Pani (1958), and Pyaasa (1957) do paint the rich as evil. The view that reforms will make the rich richer and the poor poorer has plagued (and continues to do so) several Indian political reformers. The debate around the recent agricultural reforms offers the most recent example of this mindset of hostility towards the accumulation of wealth — blinded by historical bias, many farmers are unable to see the potential benefit offered by the reforms. Perhaps this is also why Gurcharan Das concluded, “Successful reformers spend more time selling reforms than doing them.”¹
Does this imply that public opinion is absolutely wrong, and all practices based on it, especially democratic politics, should be stopped? Not at all. However, it would be foolish for both, the public and the politician, to be unaware of the tendencies of public opinion and group psychology.