Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beating the Censors with the Moral Yardstick

We Indians have become thin – skinned to an alarming degree and so given to taking offense at the drop of a cuss word that it has become the norm for citizens to go to war on social networking platforms every time somebody cracks a joke or gives compelling evidence to the fact that every one of us is as opinionated and judgemental as everyone else. When comedians embrace controversy with provocative material on the sacred cows of sport and playback singing to ensure that their underwhelming video goes viral and gets the attention it does not deserve, we are flooded by an outpouring of outrage that far more serious issues seldom get.
            Worse, since it has become common for runaway emotions and misguided passion to rule the roost in place of cool logic and common sense, the censors and moral police have taken the upper hand. As a result, decrees have been passed that trample on freedom of speech, artistic expression, and the right to tweet our peevish dissatisfaction while making tasteless jokes. Shockingly, despite the fact that India is a democracy, books are burnt, films are banned and Sunny Leone gets the free publicity she built her career on thanks to incendiary posters and press conferences.
While so much energy is expended on so much triviality, pressing problems persist and plague this proud nation which has still not managed to tackle the problem of providing the basic necessities for a vast majority of its populace. There are so many without food, clothing shelter, education or even a decent loo and yet we are far more preoccupied with nonsense, ours and others both. Surely this is not what our freedom fighters fought and died for?
Perhaps it is time to put an end to the endless chin – wagging, finger pointing and a collective tendency to froth at the mouth every time something mildly provocative starts trending on twitter. In short, unproductive and ultimately self – destructive habits including intolerance and strident censorship need to be put to rest in order to facilitate a conducive climate that fosters development, nation building and better understanding between the diverse factions that make up India. Nobody likes it when big brother gets carried away with his voyeuristic, tyrannical tendencies and starts rapping on knuckles to force political correctness down unwilling throats.

In order to stop dictatorial directives in its tracks, it behoves us to take up the role of moral watchdog and limit it entirely to our own selves. Nobody likes to be told their shit stinks but conversely everybody labours under the delusion that their shit don’t stink. Now more than ever, it is necessary to clean up our own act in order to mature into responsible citizens who can exercise every one of their rights while being sensitive and sensible enough to do so without stomping on toes and encroaching on somebody else’s rights. 
This column was published in The New Indian Express.

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