Popularity: conflict of interest

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.

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.
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.


Durga said...

haha periya ivaru.
"Seriously, I don’t want my pod casts to become popular beyond a point" aa?
appdiya? :o
yen da chumma nadikira? u and i know that u want your pod casts to be as famous as Vijay T Rajendrar and his movies. “therrrty yearsssss of sukccess and moruu!”

"I can only hope that there aren’t any “Jihadis” listening to what I say"

no worries mate! With my Warrior Goddess skills you shall not fear!
I'll flick my boomerang and knock 'em all out. Maybe even share my cyanide pills.
I'm with ya bro. All the way (nearly)!

sowmya said...

Ithellam sari...innum first day dharna ku anz pannave illa...why..why....whyy...

Dharna..2nd day...

The Individualist said...

Yeah, I understand what you mean. Even though all these discussions are very safe when confined within the 'circle', one fears its effects when exposed to the 'outside' world.
At least, like you say, until one attains a level where one has the 'power' to remain immune from the various reflective attacks.

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

Thought provoking post!

tharsica said...

Interesting post suresh...YOU DID IT AGAIN!!!
I guess being a little scared/umcomfortable will always be there when you express your opinions freely to "who knows who"

Suresh said...

@ Durga - Cyanide kuppi? enakku unna theriyave theriyadhu.

@Somya - The best way to deal with dharna is to pretend like you are not aware of it :p

@ Sudhir - yeah man!

@ Ponnarasi - Thanks (nalla peru: golden queen!)

@Tharsica - Thanks.

Priya said...

{One has to increase his/her ‘self-worth’ before his/her views are exposed to the common, belligerent, and often violent, Indian.} How true your last paragraph is! This is a really good post.

You have been daring in expressing your views freely. That is why so many people hate you and like you.
But there is nothing you can do over spilt milk da!:)

The Individualist said...

Hi da. A link that I enjoyed. Thought you might too. Desperately wanted to show the article to someone else too and nod and feel the comfort of saying, 'Finally, someone who talks some sense.' :D

The Individualist said...

That's the link. Failed to add the '.htm' at the end.

Suresh said...

@ Sudhir - I read the article. Other's comments apart, what does he expect anyway? What is he mean by zero tolerance? Fire him and leave him out for good? (or anyone for that matter?).
While he is quick to point out that most of the articles have said nothing about how Amla reacted to the whole thing, he himself is no different. He hasn't said anything about what Dean Jones said after this incident. No mention of his apology whatsoever.

"I'm gone. It was a silly and completely insensitive thing to say and, obviously, it was never supposed to be heard over the air," Jones said.

"I am truly sorry to have caused offense to anybody and the last thing I intended was to be disrespectful."

Jones told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday that he'd waited "four or five seconds" after the dismissal before making the "stupid, ridiculous off-the-wall comment that unfortunately was picked up in the background."

"There was only one country in the world that didn't take the ad break live and that was South Africa," he said. "It was picked up by a few viewers.

"I wanted to make a full blown apology to Hashim Amla and the South African team so I wrote out a full page apology expressing my sincerest apology to all involved."


"I got hold of Hashim Amla and I spoke to him for a certain amount of time. I gave him my sincerest apologies and he was gracious enough to accept it," Jones said at Melbourne Airport.

The writer's side of the argument is quite skewed too. He's making farfetched comparisons and gives mild qualifications. Calling a black man a nigger and a Muslim a terrorist are not the same. As I often quote, calling a Brahmin "dei iyer" and calling a Dalit "dei paraya" are not the same.

Wouldn't he have joked like that to Ramiz? Who knows? Would this guy be writing so much had Ramiz been there with him and laughed at the remark?
Actually I call one of my grad colleagues as "hey terrorist, bombed some place today?" He is from Turkey. He finds it awfully funny. It's supposed to subvert what the American (and many Western) state has been doing. If this guy listens to that conversation, would he call me a racist and my friend a spineless sell out?

And as a matter of fact, I address my Ghanaian room-mate as "wassup mah nigga?" It's a subversion of the derogatory meaning the word has been deemed historically. Black-feminism or brown-feminism don't want to be PC in certain issues. They would rather subvert the terms.

And I think the word 'terrorist' needs to be subverted extensively. A terrorist is an unconventional soldier. One cannot even go with the traditional reasoning that "terrorists employ 'inhumane' methods, they take out innocent lives, they're misguided" etc. You can apply all these criteria for most of the American soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere. The word should lose its Western-influenced negative meaning, at least contextually and subjectively.

Of course, I don't think Jones had any of these radical politically reformist intention when he blurted those words. But if you want to be critical, be critical, especially when you almost make it a self-proclamation.

And probably none of this applies to Dean Jones because he was 'working'. You are expected to maintain certain decorum when you are doing a job like that. And he obviously crossed the line there. For that, the incident and himself have been given apt 'coverage.' Whatever the intended outcome was. Now, does the writer want to make an example out of him by making Jones unemployable for life?

I can say "In the name of being critical the writer is in a way playing along the western agenda to demean 'terrorism' universally." idheppudi irukku? :p

PS. I've just pointed certain things from the other side, just for the sake of argument.

The Individualist said...

[i]"In the name of being critical the writer is in a way playing along the western agenda to demean 'terrorism' universally."[/i]
Why do you think I pasted that link out here? :p
Well, what I enjoyed though in what he wrote, was the way he derided the shallow responses of people like Peter Roebuck.. of whom I must admit I am not the greatest fan. And I had shown interest in the entire article owing to me not having known the responses that Dean later uttererd (that you pointed out) and well, from the comments that the author chose to respond to, it appeared to me that nobody had paid any attention to it at all and worse, most people sounded supportive of what he said. And I can understand you saying something like it to your friend, who you know, would be comfortable with it.
You say that the violent methods used by a terrorist need not be given undue importance when considering the term because American armies employ the same elsewhere. Now, isn't this barbaric violence exactly what we are against? In my opinion, a terrorist is someone who not only employs violence for a reason he/she decides as just but also, doesn't care about the civilians killed in the same. I think it grossly violates and insults the most basic right of humanity. The right to live.
And as for Dean Jones, I admit I haven't read his replies. I should have, but I haven't. If he had indeed responded with those apologies, of course, it's needless to continue to taunt him.
Personally, I like him as a commentator. I, somehow, like most 'English' commentators. Other people like 'Ranatunga blah blah Ranjit Fernando blah Sivaramakrishnan' all sound so apathetic and boring. Exceptions are always, of course, there in people like Manjrekar and a few others.
But of course,

Prasad Venkataramana said...

I'm still in India and I share some of the 'nyayamana kovangal' with the rest of the Indians; and, just like the rest, my hands, mouth and ass are shut tight because of the muscle power flaunted by the police and political parties. I agree that I can't make a post that is intellectually dishonest and at the same time can't write something brutally honest that might invite too much attention. That's one of the reasons I channel my writing energy towards movies.

P.S: I have a lot more to say, probably later. The post seems a little disjointed.

Suresh said...

History tells us that terrorists value human life just as much as much soldiers do. Meaning, they are both pretty bad at that. American Army's role in Vietnam, Indian Army's role in SL, Pakistan Army's role in Bangladesh (to name a few) are no better than any terrorist organization you can think of. In fact, the SL Army is worse than the LTTE (think about the rapes).

I agree, intention matters, but doesn't the outcome matter as well? That is, the Americans weren't probably aiming middle-schools, but their bombs did hit schools, and hundreds did/do die every year. Why shouldn't they be called terrorists? Just because they say they didn't mean to do it? I mean, what the hell kind of answer is that? Collateral damage is just convenient excuse for all these people. I had discussed this in one of my podcasts.

Do I then support the Islamic terrorists who bomb Indian cities? No. Of course not. But it's somewhat irrelevant. Because, I don't want to see our cities bombed by anyone (the Americans, the Pakis, the Islamists whoever). Opposing terrorism is different from giving it a universal attribute (good or bad).
To repeat, terrorism should be understood contextually and subjectively.

About humans having a right to live: It's quite debatable too. Humans have the right just as much as a new born buffalo calf does in the African plains. Sure, because we live in a 'civilized' society the biological, evolutionary probability of life and death cannot be applied to humans. But the "right" to live is actually privilege given to us by the kind of society we live in. That "right" will be devoid once you cross certain boundaries drawn by the society (ex: when you try to talk too much about Muslims :p).
Basically, the "right" to exist should be taken with its situatedness.

Yeah, I like native speakers too (no surprise there). Harsha Bogle and even Gavaskar are easy on the ears. Shastri is just to nasally for me. Matha ella dogs'um dhandam (Majrekar sariyana mayirandi, he's the Ramiz Raja of India).

@ Prasad

Yeah, one has to maintain real anonymity if he/she is in India. I don't know, I don't think it's that hard really. Unless you open up and say this is where you're from you can actually have people puzzled. Then again, being anonymous might prevent you from narrating personal experiences in great detail.

Yeah, the post is basically a collage of paragraphs from the emails that I sent. That's why it's disjointed.

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