It’s not just politicians who are out of touch with people. The men and women who are supposed to be journalists are equally out of touch. I sometimes wonder if some of our media celebs have ever interacted with tiny tots at any school. One thing I can tell you for sure is that these little kids do not like sermons. It’s the same reason why little kids don’t like going to church or to a ceremony at a temple. They simply can’t stand all the mumbo-jumbo being hurled at them. So what makes TV celebs like Barkha Dutt or Rajdeep Sardesai or Arnab Goswami believe that people want sermons from them? On Sunday, November 27, on another edition of ‘We the people’ on NDTV Barkha played the pontificator. All over a slap! The question? “Are we changing from the argumentative Indian to the intolerant Indian?” All because someone named Harvinder Singh slapped Union minister Sharad Pawar. Moralising over the issue she had some good-thinking panellists. Everybody condemns the violent act of the slap. Not enough! So Barkha, in the later part of the programme, throws in a foreigner, writer William Dalrymple, to weigh his mind on it. A day prior some other channel ran a montage of all the famous slaps from Indian movies, including the famous scene of Dr.Dang (Anupam Kher), and called it ‘Ab Tak Thappad'.
The usual sermon contains sound pieces of advice like argue your case (Barkha’s own words), negotiate, discuss, speak up, have civilised debate. Did I leave out any? Okay, now I am reminded by a friend with whom I argue often that if civilised debates could solve everything we wouldn’t have wars at all. Imagine, the Navy Seals land at that Abottabad mansion and the commander says to Osama Bin Laden: “Sir, we are here to capture you and bring you to trial for all your crimes, would you please step out and get into our vehicle?” If love, compassion are emotions that are valued, so is anger. At some point tolerating the intolerant is equally a crime. So the question is should we keep on tolerating our intolerant politicians and media celebs? Alright! So how does the ordinary man communicate, discuss, debate or argue anything with the politicians. One would have to go to the very extreme step of Anna Hazares of the world to do that. And even that doesn’t guarantee you could get a dialogue if you were Irom Sharmila. A swami died fasting in protest of the pollution of Ganga. Did they care? There’s no shortage of examples of the voices of the common man being ignored. So why is slapping Sharad Pawar raising so much debate? I am quite positive that Pawar would have learned a lot more from that single slap than he has from all the dialogues and discussions he’s ever had. Is a slap all that violent? In a way yes, it is act of anger and violence but more than that it’s an act of humiliation. If it comes to a choice I am also sure most people would prefer their ass spanked than being slapped on the cheek.
So are we becoming intolerant? Let’s see, we have criminals in the parliament, we have journalists involved in bribes and crimes, we have scams of gigantic proportions, we have corruption at every level of governance, we even have a tainted judiciary, we have a corrupt news media and paid news. There you go, the common man is supposed to tolerate all that. Has anyone been killed yet for all this? Except for Sadiq Batcha of the 2G scam supposedly a suicide there have been no mass scale violence or killings against all of this. And then the politicians find unanimity in parliament to condemn the slapping and sympathise with Pawar. A slap on one of us is a slap on all of us. That is the message they clearly sent. What about politicians frequently slapping people and even senior govt officers? We’ve never seen anyone apologising or going to jail. Barkha’s colleague, Sonia Singh, has a husband called RPN Singh a Congress member, who was seen kicking and beating up a protester at the Phulpur rally of Rahul Gandhi on November 14. I wonder if she would carry a similar programme about him. If acts of violence were a measure then almost every political party in this country would have to be declared terrorist organisations. The number of times they have called bandhs, indulged in violence, damaged public property, causing deaths of ordinary people is now hard to list even. For all the frequent invoking of 'Gandhi', Sharad Pawar didn't exactly turn the other cheek. Instead, his party went on an orgy of violence which he neither stopped nor condemned. Take that!
I guess it all started with Muntazer Al-Zaidi throwing his shoes at GW Bush in 2008 as his farewell salute. The shoes didn’t hit Bush, but the humiliation was admired throughout the Arab world and also in parts of India. The Arab world wanted to preserve his shoes in a museum but the American army destroyed those. But wait, forget the Arabs and the peaceful Egyptians and Iraqis. Who paid the greatest tribute to Muntazer? Our very own Mullah Mahesh Bhatt. He and his group organised a play called ‘The last salute” as a tribute to the shoe-thrower. On 14th May, stars attended the event. Did the media find it necessary to condemn the play? So why so worked up over Harvinder Singh, who is now in jail. I may sound unkind but I do wonder how Barkha Dutt and the media would have reacted if Narendra Modi were to be slapped instead of Sharad Pawar. Your guess is as good as mine.
I read somewhere that former PM Morarji Desai and his cabinet colleagues when taking up office made a statement to the effect “if we fail in our promises feel free to wring our ears”. Politicians do make statements like that. I wonder if wringing the ears of politicians would be a more acceptable punishment for politicians and the media mullahs. Mind you, wringing someone’s ears in public can be as humiliating as a slap.
People are mad as hell over various issues, especially those that directly affect their daily lives. The trend of uncivilised behaviour has been brought about not by ordinary citizens but by uncivilised, uncouth politicians fuelled by an outrageously insensitive media. What you are about to see is a video of a media man himself. Being sacked from his job Howard Beale is to slotted to go on air for a last time. Frustrated with his own life, society, politicians and everything, he lets out a rant that has since come to be known as the “Howard Beale moment”. Every single day the common man feels this moment, every single day the media plays out this moment in defence of politicians and their wayward behaviour. (The transcript of the video is pasted alongside the video)
“I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
(Howard Beale is a character from the movie ‘NETWORK’ (1976) about the skullduggery in the media. For his performance, Peter Finch who played Beale won an Oscar posthumously.)
"I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" That is precisely the message Harvinder Singh and others are sending to our politicians. A summary of public reactions in support of Harvinder is listed by India Today that should be an eye opener. That is precisely the message this blog sends to our media in a much more polite and civilised manner. Is the media listening? If the media, for a change, ranted against the politicians things would not come to such a pass. Well, who knows, this might be a wake-up slap that might save nine!