Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jottings on 28th November 2015 ( Voices of Intolerance)

I am surprised, and to an extent puzzled at the inordinate amount of time, fury and words that many of us has been spending on chastising Amir Khan ( an actor) who all of us know, happened to make a remark during a felicitation speech/interview on the state of intolerance existing in India. Well, here I am writing about it too. Now, There are two ways of looking at this vituperative outpouring in all forms of media. Either we have nothing better to do, run out of options and find it entertaining to display our patriotic fervor on print; or, this one scares me even more - we are really serious about an Actor's stray comment on his perception of things. As a country, we are stuck up with Actors and Actresses. That is the brutal fact all of us have to face. Not only do we idolize them, but chose to place them on a pedestal that will put the paganism of Romans to shame. While I understand that if one is a public figure whose words affect national polity, social and individual rights - then It is our sovereign duty in a democracy country to argue and rationalize about it; but if such words come from an actor, whose only ticket to fame is his brilliance as an artist, and whose words make no visible impact or meaningful effect on anything that affects our daily lives, then I guess, there is no point spending so much of time on him. The fault lies within us. That we chose to give so much importance to an actor's words, taking to heart his personal opinion on a question posed to him; demanding that he and his family leave this country, organize protests at his doorstep, writing advance elegies for him - only goes to show the paucity of character and lack of maturity required in us to be a part of largest democracy in the world.
As a democracy, we must be prepared for dissent. Its part of the package. If we dont, we are slipping down the slippery slope of totalitarianism. A huge word to use, probably premature as well, but the last six months has bought out some ominous signs that point to a state of affairs becoming increasing intolerant of diversity. Not a good sign for a country that aspires to outgrow its label of a "developing country". In the US, we have had at least two actors (I know of) who occupied the highest State and national offices respectively. We had a publisher of an adult magazine stand for Presidency. Even today, We hear Donald trump making damaging insinuations and comments form every podium he ascends. A healthy dissent is a true barometer of enlightened democracy.
The fact that Amir Khan is a Muslim, and his views represents the views of the entire Muslim community is the undercurrent of this unfortunate outbursts. You may disagree with me, but when I read all the posts, denunciations and aspersions cast on this subject , this is the feeling I get. I wouldn't want to comment on the political nature of this fiasco, it is not within the ambit of my study, but it seems to me, the country is splitting across its seams ever so slightly in the last couple of years.
And more importantly, let us leave Actors to do what they do best. - which is Acting. An Al Pacino's or a De Niro's personal views on America's social policy will not leave the slightest ripple on fabric of American life. But their performance in a movie will be written about, criticized in reams and reams of paper. Rightly so!!. As a country, we got to quickly divest ourselves of their fanatical obsession with Cinema as a factor in our daily lives. The objectivity required to separate the Man from his role is the touch stone of democracy. Alexis de Tocqueville, the man who gave voice to the notion of democracy, writes in his treatise of democracy “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” So let us leave Actors to do their quality job of acting, and not be captivated (in a convoluted sense) of what they say in public on public matters. It really does not matter. A healthy debate, if needed, can be had - but to shout from the top of one's roofs that a man who dissents should be sent packing from the country along with his family smacks of immaturity, childishness and does not befit the stature of a civilization that has known democracy even before western society even conceived a word for it..
Again, I wish to conclude this short rumination by emphasizing that verbal dissent is important for a nascent state. Nearly 70 years into independence, its time we channelize our energies into building a state where each man does his job, where one is free to express views, where can one stand completely opposed to an ideology yet be a meaningful and respected citizen, where one does not confuse roles played, where we give each man due respect in their field of activity and not graft them into positions they are competent to hold, where we learn to heal and grow organically instead of further cauterizing the already painful burn of partition. This is the synopsis of Tagore's great poem, which every child is made to learn by rote without ever imparting its true meaning..
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls...
Its time meanings start becoming more relevant and not empty rhetoric..
God bless...
yours in mortality,
Bala

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