Friday, February 6, 2015

Let's Talk.

Author's note: While you read this, if you find anything offensive to you, or something that would touch a nerve to a political outfit, a religious entity, a spiritual guru, or anyone who is only looking to take offense in something, please pass me the email addresses of the people who I should forward this to, to get this censored, and I will remove the objectionable content. LOL, just kidding. I'm not taking back my words.

Just over 2 months back, on 24th November, 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment (popular for producing franchises like Spiderman, Men In Black and the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, among others), an American subsidiary of the Japanese media conglomerate Sony, was hacked. For those who don't know, hacking is a process by which a malicious person/group take down an account and/or website for reasons only they find logical. In short, they are internet bullies. Subsequently, it was found out that the hack was performed by hackers from North Korea. What followed was a siege and frequent release of confidential documents and rips of movies, stored on Sony's servers, which the hackers had gained access to during the hack. The hackers held Sony hostage until it gave in to their demand. The demand being to stop the release of a comedy movie by the name of 'The Interview'.

'The Interview' is the story of a US TV talk show host traveling to North Korea, to interview the supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, and killing him. While it is funny and stupid, it also shows the 'supreme leader' in an entertaining fashion. What followed was Sony giving in to the hackers' demand, and pulling out the movie, just before the weekend it was supposed to released. Then, Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, took stage and expressed his anger towards Sony giving in to the hackers' demands, because this, restricted freedom of speech. Soon thereafter, Sony decided to release the movie on 25th December, 2014, and it gathered huge crowds.

Let's turn to our country, now. On 28th January, 2015, a stand-up comedy group AIB uploaded a video titled 'AIB Knockout' to YouTube. It was a 'roast' of Indian movie stars Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. A roast is a comedy show where an individual (or in this case, a set of individuals) are the subject of one-liners and jokes, to amuse a bigger audience. It is good-natured insults (yes, there's irony there, I know). It is satire, in the modern forms. This video from AIB consisted of various stars, big and small, hurling abuses, expletives and sexual innuendos, to each other, all, in front of a crowd of consenting adults, by consenting adults, towards (guess what) consenting adults.

In the hours following the release, it became a spectacle and everyone was talking about it. It wasn't unexpected because in a country like ours, it doesn't take much to stir up a controversy, and that, this video had all the ingredients for, ever since the beginning. Since, the video has been taken down, and much has been said and done about the same, from political groups to religious leaders taking swings towards the comic group.

While, the leader of the free world backs a company for producing a vulgar comedy movie about another leader, a comic show, put up for and by consenting adults, is subject to anger and hatred, while all arms of the Government stay quiet.

I started blogging in the second half of 2009. Soon after that I joined Twitter, where I express my opinions which aren't worthy of, or have enough content for a blogpost. Since then, it's been a constant struggle fighting against the hooligans. I have been a subject to name-calling, been accused of representing a particular political outfit, abused, ridiculed, called a Pakistani, a paid agent, among other things. While none of it was surprising (considering the amount of hatred existing in this noble society of ours), it was hurtful.

For a country whose countrymen pride themselves for being secular, being told that I can't debate about the beliefs of a religion, or challenge the preachings of a spiritual guru, or question the policies of a political leader, feels wrong. For a country which puts 'Right to speech' as a fundamental right, how maniacal is it, that the moment you express your opinion that doesn't please a particular sector of the society, you're bombarded with death threats? If there's 'Freedom of choice' for people to issue such threats, why isn't there freedom for me, as a content creator, to express my opinions freely, without the purview of a regulatory body?

I understand that there is a responsibility among the people who create such content to be fair to themselves about their opinion, and not instigate any sort of an altercation. But, when what we (I, and other creators) do is to initiate a conversation, and be the mediums of change, why should we be kept quiet because a certain community doesn't approve of their beliefs being put under the microscope and maybe even, shoved aside by proof and scientific backing? To appease a few, should the progress of the society, on the whole, be held back?

I hope not, because if yes, we aren't going anywhere different than what the state of North Korea today is, or Germany's was, under Adolf Hitler. Even China today, for that matter.

China's internet has few websites that can be accessed. You cannot use Google Search or other Google services in China (and thus they can't read this blog, either). You can't use Twitter or Facebook. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, North Korea doesn't have internet access for the public. Compare with that, USA, a country where free speech is not only encouraged, but also appreciated.

While neither of these models may be appropriate for a diverse country like ours, surely, the fascist policies that threaten the talents of this country, the ideologies of the people and outfits that try to contain it to protect their own interests, need to be uprooted and thrown away.

It is painful to see India only become more and more restrictive, on a daily basis, and see the number of things you can't say or do, increase, instead of decrease. It is sad that any human dialogue can't end without linkages to, or being accused of being opposed to, political or religious entities. It is disappointing that for a country with most of its population being in the age group of 20-35, the very same, are subject to restrictive and in some cases, orthodox philosophies, instead of letting them choose their own path to grow based on educated choices.

And, this, I'm certain, is only the beginning. The puck goes only one way from here. This is the start of something new, and big. It either goes in the direction of those ruckus-mongers who make us succumb to the fear they create in our minds; or it goes in the direction of a more open, viable, and accepting society.

In hope.

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