Friday, 7 December 2012

Three Wise Monkeys + 1

There is a myth that has been going around for about 6½ decades in our country, which we tend to present to foreigners to earn brownie points as well as to deceive ourselves.  I do it all the time. This self-deception can be explained in terms of cognitive dissonance, which is used to describe the feeling of discomfort stemming from holding conflicting beliefs and trying to adjust those beliefs to reality.  

India is a secular, democratic country with freedom of thought, expression, blah, blah. This is the myth which has been drummed into us by our textbooks and our government over the years. The sentence has a few extra words. Let’s try to take those out. India is a secular, free, democratic country with freedom of thought, expression, blah, blah. Now that is more like it. India is a country, blah, blah. This is a fact and I hope no group would be offended by it.

Still, we have to be careful. So I’ll take the blah, blahs out too. India is a country, blah, blah. I’m happy with that, and hopefully nobody will like me on his/her buttbook bedspread, or friend me or tweet or chirp me or crap on me. I don’t want to see horrible things like what happened to those two girls or the cartoonist in Mumbai, the guys in Calcutta, the professor in Muvattupuzha, etc., happening to me. 

Cognitive dissonance – You have freedom of speech, but you can’t criticize anything and in some cases not even comment on it as an impartial outsider. If you do, you get #$%@ed. This is especially true in the case of religious and caste-based groups, groups with narrow parochial interests, politicians and officials. Surprisingly, or should I say unsurprisingly, the left is also intolerant of criticisms as author Paul Zacharia found out in Kerala. I initially thought he was being irresponsible by not filing a case against those thugs, but later on I could understand why he did that. The threat of physical violence is always there and your fame may not be enough to protect you.

So, I think it will be wise to act kinda like the three wise monkeys – see nothing, hear nothing, and speak nothing. I added a fourth monkey. Smell nothing. You can’t forget that. The stink!