Saturday, March 27, 2010

33. Who is fooling whom?

Gone are the days when preparations for April Fool's Day would be well orchestrated. From simple jokes to elaborate hoaxes, friends and relatives would remain on toes for being the intended beneficiaries! Whatever the prank, the trickster would usually end by yelling to his victim, `April Fool'. Saddam Hussein was at the receiving end of one such cruel joke, April Fool was the code name of the double agent who played a role in his downfall.

April Fool has remained in popular imagination ever since calendar was reformed in France in 1564. Those who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st had jokes played on them. Even films were themed on it: 1964 Saira Banu-Biswajeet starrer April Fool had a song to signify the day. But playing pranks on April Fools Day now seem passé.

Hasn't making fool become a national pass time instead? Government is fooling its citizens; ministers are fooling their portfolios; elected representatives are fooling the democracy; judges are fooling the law; teachers are fooling the books; market is fooling the consumers; actors are fooling the medium; and news is fooling its readers. Closer home, the vegetable vendor fools the housewife; the autorickshaw fools the passenger; the policeman fools the hawker; the employer fools the employee; and the doctor fools the patient. The list goes on...!

Once in a fool's paradise who bothers for April Fools Day!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

32. Watch who is into the act!

Did you notice that we have plenty of it and yet it keeps coming? Since our attitude towards it is more benign, the television and the internet keeps serving it endlessly. Ladies and gentlemen, it is called bullshit that the dictionary defines as non-sense or some foolish exaggerated talk. Play your memory back by couple of hours or if possible by a few days and you realise how much of it you have savoured recently.

From contested nominations to the upper house to acrimonious debates in the lower house, from dubious cine awards to outrageous political utterances, bullshit has been on offer all the way from Mumbai to Lucknow and beyond. The media-market nexus almost always chooses a glib ignoramus over an expert to further the concept of bullshit. No wonder, some newspapers and television channels could be respectfully re-named Bullshit Times and Bullshit TV in that order.

Be it the dubious case of glacier melting or exquisite piece of monetized garland, or be it the curious case of an artist's nationality or an idiot-box marriage of a politician's offspring, bullshitters are earning iconic status with their nonsensical persistence. The realms of advertising and of public relations, and that of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit as unmitigated that they can serve among the indisputable paradigms of our times.

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit may have deeper sources, which not only restrict any reliable access to an objective reality but do reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. Though most people pretend confidence in their ability to recognize bullshit, they lack collective courage to unmask the bullshitters. Shockingly, neither has the subject been deliberated upon nor been put to sustained inquiry.

Aren't we becoming a bullshit nation?

(This write-up has been inspired by On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt, Princeton University Press, Oxford, 63 pages, US$ 9.95)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

31. A case for two prime ministers

Unlike Gandhi and Nehru, the leaders of the present generation are rarely seen amongst the rural poor. And whenever they do, it is no less than a breaking news. The entire media, both print and electronic, goes esctatic on their unique feat. Hailed as a shrewd poliical move, it seems a rare favour returned to the poor by the powers-that-be.The trend has indeed caught on with political leaders of all hues, keeping (safe) distance from those who return them to power is more of a norm than exception. The apparent dichotomy of India vs Bharat is getting real.

The physics of distance is getting redefined. Neither kilometers nor hours, distance has become a measure of power. More the distance, higher the power. Once in power, the distance switch gets activated by default. It is a colonial legacy that has seemingly lived on, taking pride in representing the urban elite at the cost of ignoring the rural poor. Deficit democracy is clearly at work where the head of the government has little time to travel to the countryside to hear the pains and anguish of the rural poor. Did you notice that our current Prime Minister and his predecessor have hardly been to a village, as if the 60 per cent of the population doesn't exist?

Don't the rural poor deserve a second Prime Minister to represent their case? Ek se bhale do!