(apologies for cross posting on Commons Law and Reader List)
As we know well by now from the freedom loving sentiments (that are expressed loudly and frequently) by all sections of the guardians of social order in India, (that is Bharat, that is Hindustan), the real reason why certain insignificant documentary independent and student films, contemporary art exhibitions in university campuses and performances are banned, and their heinous perpetrators arrested has to do with the general populations right to sleep undisturbed each night and not to see anything other than cricket matches, news about cricket matches, election analyses, kaun banega crorepati, Abhishek Bacchan’s wedding, and yoga on TV.
Why should anyone in their right mind want to see, read, listen to or even think about anything else?
Consider the folly that some students in Kottayam have recently contemplated, making a film on of all things ‘Homosexuality’ .
Both of these moves have been met with swift and timely responses. The offending students in Kerala have been expelled by the Christian educational institutition where they were enrolled, and the offending art student in Vadodara, one Chandramohanm has been arrested by the local police at the urging of Hindutva minded citizens.
There are only two things we need to learn from incidents of this nature. The first is as follows –
Actually, all that people need to do is to insist that only the self appointed guardians of public morality (of all stripes and shades) have the right to appear in any broadcast, exhibition, film or other forms of mediated communication. We need every channel to broadcast morally cleansed reality TV all the time. How else will this nation boldly venture where none other has gone before – into that heaven of bliss and freedom known as ennui for the billions.
If, for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we only had priests, hindu holy men, muslim divines, chistian priests, dalit messiahs, communist apparatchiks, gandhian crusaders, and secular activists, politicians, moral crusaders and do gooders of every stripe and persuasion on TV, in public fora, on web sites – acting as artists, as film directors, VJs, crooners and even as item number specialists or porn stars then all our cultural problems would be solved. Think of how fetching Dr. Praveen Togadia would look in a leather thong.
Our national cultural life would then be like an undending and refined Republic Day pageant, full of approtiately attired folk dancers, uplifting martial music and tasteful tableaux of ancient heritage, combined with images of modern progress and development. That would be a fitting expression of the very soft power of an awakening and shining India.
The public would also, by this strategy, get its fill of salacious and erotic content, (rss pracharaks would be filmed having more sex with every gender and form of life, inheritors of the BJP legacy would be seen snorting cocaine, Christian evangelists would be seen in the throes of real estate speculation and Muslim holy men would be seen imbibing their favourite form of spiritual succor in the form of halal scotch and the secular guardians of public morality would be doing what they do best – making money for the cause by setting up yet another special exploitative zone).
The guardians of public morality would themselves guarantee that the salacious and sleazy content offered to the public would be 100 percent patriotic, in keeping with Indian tradition and un-subversive as it would be produced by people like themselves (whose motives are above and beyond question).
This experiment has been briefly and successfully undertaken in neigbouring countries like Afghanistan, where, the supervision of the entire matrix of communication by the ‘Committee for the Suprresion of VIce and the Promotion of Virtue” during the brief Taliban interregnum did not result in any loss of cultural content, or lack of entertainment, for the general public. It just ensured that the Talibs had the authority to purvey the right kind of high minded and halal sleaze. Hey, no one can quite tell whether what you have behind a full burqa is full frontal nudity or not, right. So all you need to do is to dress everyone up in full burqas to ensure that everyone’s erotic imagination runs riot. Similarly, if the guardians of public morality were to erect permanent visual barriers in front of medieval Hindu temples, the general population could speculate at leisure (and to a hitherto unimagined pornographic excess) as to the actual content of the obscured sculptural friezes. I would heartily welcome this measure as a form of highly evolved and consciousness altering Yoga for the mind.
I propose that we all arrange for noisy demonstrations and organize lengthy electronic petitions to demand that the entire reins of communication and expression in India be handed over to a truly secular and representative board of guardians of public morality which would include – representatives of every religion (minority, majority or micro-minority), every political party recognized by the election commission of India, the cricket control board, the motion picture association of India and at least 4 morally upright page 3 celebrities, two selfless activists from public life, three television anchors, two sahitya academi winning authors who are unknown and therefore un-controversial, and five art critics and curators. I also propose that this committee be headed (for purposes of spiritual and ethical direction) in rotation, by one of the Shankaracharyas who is not accused of attempt to murder and the at least one member of any Waqf board anyewhere in the country who is also not a history sheeter.
The second thing we need to learn is as follows – (and this emerges naturally from the contours of the first suggestion outlined above in this proposal).
The successful realization of the demand that the field of cultural life and activity be entirely taken over by the current guardians of public morality woul allow the rest of us to be finally freed from the pursuit of culture so that we can get down to other serious business. Like thinking more precisely about how to illuminate a few guardians of public morality from below with the help of the right kind of chemicals. I always knew that if those of us who practice culture right now, stopped doing it, and started practising inorganic chemistry instead, the entire political field would be much more interesting, and perhaps, incendiary. That is why I can now understand the wisdom that my elders had when they used to advise me to study science and not arts after my 10th board examinations. I regret that I did not listen to their advice.
I have not so far come across any right thinking guardian of public morality calling for bans on textbooks of inorganic chemistry. And as far as I understand, that is where one can learn about things like Cyclo-trimethylene-trinitramine, (popularly called Cyclonite, Hexogen, or somewhat loosely -as- ‘Research Department (composition)X’) – a substance first offered to the public for its medical and healing properties by the German chemist called Hans Henning in the 1890s and later developed for a variety of uses.
[To know more about this substance – see the appropriate Wikipedia entry]
It is my view, (and I would like to see this debated, so that my arguments can be sharpened and refined by being made subject to rigorous criticism) that the selective, precise and well timed use of the knowledge gleaned from textbooks of inorganic chemistry can be a far more effective means of artistic, literary and cultural criticism than anything that anyone can learn in any art or media school or university deparment of literature, theatre or film studies.
When, and if, the successful takeover of culture by the guardians of public morality in India has been undertaken, it will be time to re-enter the field of public cultural criticism and activity, well armed by the healing properties of Hexogen.