Thoughts and other trivia...

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Finger

It’s always pointing, isn’t it? At the inept government, the inefficient police, the corrupt babu, the crazy traffic, the negligent doctor, the lousy system. There’s always someone else, or something else, to blame for whatever isn’t working.

At the peak of the protest movement against corruption in 2012, one of TOI’s lead stories was about a young Indian man who had flown down all the way from Hong Kong (or, Singapore) to show solidarity with Anna Hazare and the movement. A VP with a multinational bank, he said he never dared to jump the signal in Hong Kong because he knows he will be penalised. But, because the system doesn’t work here, he said he doesn’t care whether he jumps it in India. The system here, he said, sucks.

We jump signals because we know we can bribe the cop and get away with it but, of course, we never fail to complain against corruption; we stand by and watch a young girl and a young man lying by the side of the road, without any clothes and, very obviously, the victims of a violent crime and, yet, we do nothing to help or cover them up but we feel incensed if the police arrives a little late; we sign petitions to ban Honey Singh’s deeply offensive song but we refuse to acknowledge that the man is popular for a reason, not to mention the fact that thousands among us had booked expensive tickets to watch him sing that very song live on the eve of the new year; and, then there’s our favourite bugbear, the West, which we’re quick to blame for the erosion of our values and the loss of our culture. 

We litter the streets, we spit everywhere and we honk needlessly but it’s a rare person who’ll concede any wrongdoing. We look down on dark-skinned Africans and refer to them as kaalu and habshi, sometimes even to their faces. And, our attitude to fair-skinned foreigners is best explained in the words of a German friend, who said that just because she’s white, it seems there’s a stamp on her face that says, “Come, touch me, feel me, fleece me...” We’re deeply racist ourselves but we bristle with self-righteous indignation when Indians are attacked in Australia and elsewhere.

We’re constantly pointing fingers, sitting in judgement and apportioning blame. While we’ve started to ask, and rather stridently, for greater ‘accountability’ from politicians, and from those in public life, we don’t seem willing to want to apply the same standard to ourselves. 

The Anna Hazare-led protest movement against corruption and the current protests against violence against women have mobilised thousands of angry people around the country to take to the streets and to demand change. But, what’s most interesting about both is that, again, they’re built on the premise that the problem and the solution, both, are on the outside. We forget that for someone to take a bribe, it takes someone to offer one. Or, that rising violence against women is a by-product of our attitude towards women rather than inadequate laws. Personal culpability is not on the agenda of either movement. 

So, what is it with us and the finger? Long ago, a friend, who was very fond of quotable quotes at the time, sent one to me in a letter. When we point fingers, she said, we must remember that three of our own are pointing back at us.

Is it just that we’re living in denial? Is it just plain hypocrisy? Or, as a sociologist said in another context in a film I made recently, is it all part of the glorious paradoxes of life that one has to be able to sustain contradictory ideas? 

Also, we need to quickly address why it is that our hearts beat faster for the Jessica Lals, the Priyadarshini Mattoos, the Nitish Kataras, the Ayushi Talwars and why the Nitharis of this world, the crimes against the locals in Kashmir and in the North-East and the atrocities in tribal areas soon become the blips in our memories they are today. Because this feeling of unrest that seems to be festering inside us at the moment could, potentially, have very serious ramifications.

BE THE CHANGE, says a friend’s Gmail status even as I write this. We’ve rediscovered Mahatma Gandhi’s brilliant exhortation but, clearly, we don’t seem to grasp what he meant. We’d rather change the world first.


Anonymous Sanjana said...

I don't know what to say. You won't believe how many times I drafted out a post about this. It's still all there. I won't publish it. I don't see the point in me saying anything about it. I've said enough on FB, as you know.


8:27 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Oh, I've done the same...written and deleted posts about this many times. And, the thing is, I can never write in a focused or coherent manner about this. There are just so many problems and there's just so much that is wrong that each time I started to write, it seemed like i was going off on a tangent, to some other issue although, in fact, each of these things is interlinked.

The only point in saying anything about this, or anything else, is that, at last, you get it out of your system. But, yeah, I know, it's all very frustrating.

6:07 pm  
Blogger backpacker said...

Hey, really nice. Like Sanjana, I've felt each of these things before, and not put them down. Thanks for this - also, this was very very coherent and clear!

2:16 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Backpacker! Long time :-)

Yeah, I can imagine. The sheer enormity of it all and just how deep we're in it is too tiring to write about.

7:53 pm  

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