Recently I got a mail from one my podcast listeners and we were discussing this article. It's an exchange that happened over a few emails. Since he wasn't too comfortable with I publishing his side of the conversation, I publish parts of mine. I hope it still makes sense.
Whenever I talk to some of my politically active friends here, a question would pop out occassionally: why are almost all political critiques we get to see in mainstream media partisan? The immediate answer would be, “corporation!” “Corporation is the root all existing malice,” we would complain. And it is true to a great extent.Disclaimer: The email(s) has been modified from its original form. Yes, I confess, I am just too lazy to type anything original for a post. I also apologize for saying a few things that seem very pretentious.
But ironically, it’s worse in India’s case. The mainstream has not been completely corporatized yet - we still have little factions doing their share of damage. But sadly, their damage isn’t constructive either. Of course, I’m referring to the likes of Nakkiran. It’s amazing how all the mainstream and pseudo-mainstream media in India get a chance to paint themselves as “revolutionaries.” “ADMK adakkumurai – aalum katchi araajagamm” said Sun TV; “DMK arasin adhikara dhusprayogam,” says Jaya TV. Needless to say, Nakkiran was built on this mode of publicity. Every six months you’ll see one of its offices ransacked by someone, and that someone will have “strong connections” to a ‘big shot’. (Is this a scenario lifted directly from ‘Oomai Viligal’ or am I just connecting stars in space?)
“Victims” who “survive victimization” without “fear” become “revolutionaries.” The untold rule (thaaraga mandhiram) that the “victims will always say the truth” has become the running platform for everyone. Everybody wants to be “victimized” just so that their “truths” are heard. But when there are too many “victims” and too many “truths” opposing each other – victimization loses sensitivity, truth its value. I think that’s what has happened in TN.
The popular notion that “if you want to know the truth watch both Jaya TV and Sun TV” is completely false. While they do a lot of mudslinging, there is a lot that neither of them would say. There’s a lot of collective connivance on their part (kootu kalavaanithanam).
About my podcasts: my friend once asked if I was not afraid to say things like “Muslims and Christians are idiots” in voice (I said the same thing about Hindus as well, but he didn’t think it was dangerous enough). I said “I am, kind of”.
I have always had mixed feelings about my podcasts. While I often welcome people to be vocally expressive (because I know there are people who are a thousand times more eloquent in Tamil), and urge them to do podcasts, I’ve also feared that I might be in an ugly mess if they get too popular. Seriously, I don’t want my podcasts to become popular beyond a point (whether it has the material-worth is a different issue).
Even though I live in Canada, my parents are in Madras. I have to land in Madras at some point. I’m not as popular or rich as Rushdie. I cannot escape a ‘fatwa.’ Heck, a prank-call will rattle my parents and ruin their sleep (and in turn mine). I can only hope that there aren’t any “Jihadis” listening to what I say.
I often stress the dangers involved in expressing our opinions “freely” in a state (as in the ‘State’) where even the ‘powerful’ are easily targeted – literally, with stones and petrol bombs. To make matters worse you have a judicial system that is astonishingly ‘conservative’ and condescending to those with ‘liberal’ views. I don’t know; sometimes all this seems far-fetched, but then again it’s India – “impossible is nothing.” So it’s no surprise that people don’t want to take chances for what is mostly a thankless effort.
Radical views are just too dangerous for an Indian in India. He/she is safe as long as his/her views are within the academic and ‘intellectual’ circles. One has to increase his/her ‘self-worth’ before his/her views are exposed to the common, belligerent, and often violent, Indian. Periyar is an example for this. His views on feminism and sex came about well after he had established himself on the “paarpaniya aadhikkam” rhetoric. Most of his followers were just tolerating his criticisms on “Tamil culture”, gender equality, marriage etc. So it’s not a surprise that people like Thiruma' don't turn to those views of his, today.