Wednesday, October 31, 2007

reminder to myself

Apart from that rather cynical note I put up the other day, I haven't really reacted to Tehelka's November 3 issue ( I hesitate to use words and phrases like' expose' or 'the story of our times' because of the ways in which they are used and overused.)

There are several reasons for this:

1. We've known for five years now what happened in Gujarat. There's no way to ask the 'why now' question without losing all nuance (this is a more important point that anyone realises from the way I've said it; because some arguments get appropriated by people one is emphatically not in sympathy with, one usually stops asking them.) A more important question would be 'what now' but no one seems to be willing to answer that.

2. While we do need to be reminded time and again about atrocities that happen everywhere, in the hope that we will be induced to not repeat them, surely the way in which we respond must change with time? If we reacted the first time, in the aftermath, with horror, what should our reaction be after five years? Anger at the way in which nothing has been done? A cold, factual approach that outlines what has, actually been done so far and strategise what one ought to do next? Or a fresh round of horror that seems suspiciously like whipping ourselves up so that we know we can feel the pain of others?

3. My own, very personal view is increasingly despairing. I don't believe that we can change other peoples' minds with our words. Yes, such stories are important; the films that have been made after Gujarat are important; but see what they've all achieved. The people who see/read and understand the scale on which things happened are powerless and continue to be so. If we ever had the moral strength to force action on the basis of what is right, we seem to have forfeited it a long time ago.

I was going to say, it's best under the circumstances, to shut up. I was going to say, the sooner we all destroy ourselves the better it will be.

Then this morning, I visited a blog I read with great interest and link to frequently. On bloglines you don't get to see all the things on a blog's sidebar; this morning, I saw this quote by Wim Wenders that Jim has up on the side, and I changed my mind:

The most political decision you make is where you direct people's eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political. . . . And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show her, every day, that there can be no change
I did believe that (I secretly still do, I think). The only thing is, because it's so easy to believe, it becomes inherently suspicious. I'd like to question why I think nothing can change people, when obviously so much has, in the past. Why do we, today, want to find everyone's ulterior motive?

I'm often reminded of Rashomon when I ask such questions. After a screening of the film once, in the discussion that followed, we were asked which version of the story we thought was the true one. It was clearly a trick question, because the most important point about the film is that truth is a matter of perspective. But one girl was emphatic in her assertion that Mifune's version was the true one. She thought that it rang true, this story of corruption and deception. This is how people are, she said - gullible, duplicitous and vile.

It's an unfortunately seductive view to take of the world because so much supports it. It's harder to recall the other people and events that demonstrate that not everything in the world is like this.

This is why I'd like to raise my voice now and say that whatever one can do - sign petitions, watch the elections with groups that are present, write in places where people will read and discuss these things - one should do. And think how much worse things might have been if people hadn't been doing precisely these things through every such event in our histories.

Other such posts: Mumbai Mon Amour, The Dishonesty of Parzania, Beginning with the protest and ending with the loo.


Banno said...

reminder to all of us. easy to give into a cynical despair. but shouldn't.

dipali said...

The despair is a creeping paralysis.
How does one overcome it?
How do I change this world that I see?
By microscopic bits that seem possible to me.

This post was heart wrenching. I still remember feeling ill for several days after the Staines' murder,sick of my fellowmen, and sick of my helplessness. The number of monsters seems to be increasing exponentially.

Sheetal said...

Gandhi, saying, 'What you do is of little significance; but it is very important that you do it.'
I think so.

Space Bar said...

BAnno, Dipali, Sheetal: Yes indeed. Which is why I needed to remind myself.

Anonymous said...

thanks. in times like this, every "tinka" helps. and this is a plank.