Independence

Ishaan: Aaj tak koi bhi faisla mera apna nahin tha. Kuch faisle mujhe virasat mein mile. Kuch kartavya ke naam pe liye gaye. Aur baki mere mahol ne kar diye. Aaj tak koi bhi faisla sahi ya galat ka farak dekh ke nahin kiya gaya. Mere mahol ne jo mujhe diya main leta gaya, jo mujhse maanga main deta gaya. Suman, tumse milne ke baad mujhe ehsaas hua ki is daayre ke bahar bhi kuch hai.

Suman: Ishaan, tumhare saamne do hi raaste hain. Sachai chupao, ek khuni ko azaad phirne do aur apne dost se wafadaar raho. Ya sach ka saath do. Sachai ko saamne la kar us khuni ko uski saza dilao. Aur insaniyat ke naate jo hamaara farz banta hai, use poora karo. Ishaan, mere liye ye farz, apne kisi bhi niji faisle ya shapath se bahut bada hai.

— From the Hindi movie Thakshak by Govind Nihalani

Translation:

Ishaan: “Not a single decision so far has been mine. Some decisions, I inherited. Some were made in the name of duty. And the rest were made by my circumstances. Not a single decision was made by considering whether it was right or wrong. Whatever my circumstances gave me, I accepted. Whatever they demanded from me, I submitted. Suman, after meeting you, I realized that there is something beyond this.”

Suman: “Ishaan, you have only two roads ahead of you. Hide the truth, let a murderer roam free, and remain loyal to your friend. Or, support the truth. Bring the truth into the open and punish that murderer. And fulfil the duty that is ours through our humanity. Ishaan, for me this duty is much bigger than any personal decision or promise.”

This is one of the very rare moments when – briefly and inconsistently, in a raw, sense of life form – Hindi Cinema comes close to a proper understanding of morality. And then immediately afterwards it returns to the tired old cliches of duty to humanity and sacrifice of personal values.

Interesting observations from my attempt at translation.

“Sach ka saath do” : “Support the truth”. That’s the best I can think of. Not something one says in English.

Is there a word in Hindi/Urdu that means obligation as against duty. “Kartavya” and “farz” both mean duty. Or is the difference not expressible in Hindi?

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Sach Ka Saamna (Facing the truth)

Today’s supplement to the Times Of India carries a column by Vinita Nangia on the controversial TV show ‘Sach Ka Saamna’. Ironically the lesson Nangia draws from the show (as do many others) is

Facing the truth isn’t all that easy and some truths are best left unsaid. Each one of us has a dark side that is best left hidden from others; revealing our dark secrets can do nothing but cause harm to loved ones. As a young lady puts it succinctly, “There’re skeletons in every cupboard, and we shouldn’t rattle them!” Another adds, “Is there really anyone out there who doesn’t have a dark deed festering somewhere in his heart?”

This is bound to destroy a lot of relationships… simply because more questions will be asked… and more truths served up on a platter! Thankfully, we all have a choice — stop watching or at least stop trying to lift the veils of illusion; believe me, it is sure to backfire miserably…
(Emphasis mine)

I should note that I haven’t watched the show yet, nor do I intend to do so. I have no interest in the private lives of random strangers. But the concept of the show (from what I have read of it) is fascinating in the context of today’s culture. This is obvious from the attention the show has got. It is worth analyzing the issues that the show raises.

The show is about facing the truth about one’s emotions and actions and whether these are consistent with one’s consciously or implictly held value system. An emotion is an automatic reaction. It is determined by one’s values. If one’s emotions are not consistent with one’s values, it means that one’s value system is not consistent with itself. In any situation where one’s value system clashes with itself, there is bound to be conflict. It is not surprising that people act badly when they are in conflict. What the show reveals is that its participants and audience – judging by their reaction – are very often in conflict about a lot of very important aspects of their lives. And worse, that this conflict is usually brushed under the carpet by repressing one’s emotions or by indulging them stealthily.

By bringing this conflict into the open, the show has disturbed a lot of people. That is good. It is good that people are concerned about the truth. But the concern will not be of much use if it does not lead one to question its cause – the inconsistencies in one’s value system. But that is not what Nangia (or any other article writer that I have read) wants to do. They all want to brush the truth, the conflict and the show itself under the carpet. Some even want to legislate the show out of existence. All of them want to preserve their existing relationships even at the cost of the truth. They think that conflict is inevitable. There is a grain of truth to that. Man is not born with a value system. He has to create it for himself. And not being infallible, it is likely that he will make mistakes. So some amount of conflict is inevitable when those mistakes manifest themselves. But the mistakes can and should be corrected. And that requires facing the truth. Conflict certainly does not have to be perpetual. For most people, it is perpetual because they have never made the effort to explicitly create a value system or even to question the one they happen to absorb from the culture. Their method of dealing with conflict is to pretend that it does not exist. When someone exposes this pretense, they want to pretend that the exposure does not exist either.

There isn’t anything wrong about not revealing the entire truth to everyone. Honesty is not an unconditional virtue. It is merely a recognition of the fact that wishing something does not make it so, that reality cannot be changed by refusing to recognize it. It is a virue when one is dealing with rational people. There is no reason to reveal the entire truth to random strangers when one does not know whether they are rational or not. But when one is dealing with people one claims to value, there can be no excuse for dishonesty. If a relationship is weakened by the truth, it cannot be valuable in the first place. Anyone who advocates hiding the truth from one’s loved ones is doing himself, his ‘loved ones’ and everyone else a great disservice.

More on propaganda

Via this piece at True Sailing Is Dead, I came across this post:

 The curious case of 200 nearly identical MSM headlines

The following headlines have appeared in newspapers within the last 24 hours. This is not an inclusive list.

• Third of Illinoisans went without health insurance in last 2 years: Sun-Times
• Report: 2.5M in Michigan lacked health insurance: Chicago Tribune
• Study: 29% of Ohioans have gone without health insurance: BizJournals
• Report: More NJ residents lacking health insurance: Forbes
• Study: Many Kansans are uninsured: BizJournals
• Report tallies uninsured in Hawaii: KPUA AM 670
• Study: 1 in 3 Alabamians have no insurance: BizJournals
• 1 out of 4 NH residents lacked health insurance within last two years: WBZ
• 1 out of 3 Coloradans lacked insurance in past two years: Denver Post
• Nearly 1 in 3 Idahoans lack health insurance, study says: Idaho Statesman
• One in four nonelderly Minnesotans has been without health insurance, study shows: Twin Cities
• 1 in 3 are uninsured in Georgia, study says: Augusta Chronicle
• 1.3 million Louisiana residents uninsured: Independent
• Millions in N.C. lack health plan: Winston-Salem Journal
• Uninsured are mostly working: Sun-Herald
• Nearly one-third of Wyoming residents went without health insurance in past two years: Wyoming Tribune
• Report finds health insurance lacking in W.Va.: Charleston Gazette
• Nearly 1/3 Of Kentuckians Uninsured Says Report: WFPL Radio
• REPORT: 254K Rhode Islanders Uninsured at Some Point from 2007-2008: ABC 6
(links dropped)

The post goes on to claim

Data from the Census Bureau debunks the lie continually promoted by the mainstream media of the legendary 47 million uninsured Americans:
• 9.5 million people are illegal aliens
• 8.3 million uninsured people are those who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and choose not to purchase insurance
• 8.7 million uninsured people are those who make over $75,000 a year and choose not to purchase insurance

Clearly the 200 headlines are propaganda in the sense I wrote about a few days back. And probably also in the sense of being misinformation specially designed to push an agenda (I do not have the energy to try to verify the figures). Putting aside the truth of the figures and my disagreement with the goal – nationalization of healthcare – this propaganda is intended to achieve, how does one judge the propaganda? Al (of True Sailing is Dead) writes

These papers did not randomly all come to the same conclusion on the same day. This “news” was obviously released into the mainstream to coincide with (surprise!) President Obama’s push for Universal Healthcare. Not saying it’s good or bad, just that it’s going on, and as a news consumer you can either accept that the “news” you read is the result of good old fashioned journalistic integrity or you can say “wait a minute” and realize that you’re being played by a national propaganda machine.

It’s propaganda, and it’s not a suitable purpose for any news publication to pursue. Yet it’s done constantly. Incessantly. Pervasively. And you don’t even know it.
Or maybe you do know it. Maybe you do.
Do you?

The proper purpose of a news organization is to publish news and perhaps to provide commentary on it. But what constitutes news? A working definition could be: an event that is seen as significant. But that raises questions like significant to whom? By  what standard? (Also read Burgess Laughlin’s post on bias) It is clear that the world view of the person(s) determining whether or not to highlight a particular event will determine what constitutes news. And since a news organization can only publish so many items at a time, it will have to prioritize, i.e, it may not publish a news item as soon as it occurs but at a time of its choosing. Getting back to the specific concrete at hand, what Al seems bothered about is the fact that a number of media organizations decided to publish findings in a concerted manner in an attempt to influence people. This could be called strategy or it could be called propaganda (negative moral judgement in the common usage of the word). Calling it stategy acknowledges the fact that people can and should form worldviews, can and should look for moral significance in events, can and should try to act in a manner that they judge to be in their best interests. Calling it propaganda (in the usual negative sense) implies a desire that the people in media should never form moral judgements or atleast that they should not allow their moral judgements to influence their decisions about whether and when to publish certain items and whether to coordinate with others in doing so. But this is an impossibility. Men necessarily act in accordance with their moral judgements and just because someone is in the media, does not mean that he can (or should) act like a robot. This desire is analogous to wanting a physical body to behave without inertia. Here it is mental inertia.

It might seem that I am making too much of a minor semantic difference. But, behind the negative connotation associated with the word propaganda is a major flawed idea that manifests itself in other ways too. It is the idea that the pursuit of truth or knowledge, the forming of judgements, objectivity etc are ends in themselves. They are not. They are means to live ones’ life. If they are seen as ends, then the pursuit of one’s life is seen as an impediment, something that might make the pursuit of truth less pure by tainting it with a purpose. It is the idea that leads to other ideas like “Media should be free from commercial influences”, “Science should be free from the bounds of practicality of its applications”, “The mystic who spends his life waiting for a revelation is on a higher plane than a person who lives a normal life.” (There might be others that I have not identified).

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