Monday, December 12, 2005

Give peace a chance

I've a feeling my blog's going to turn into a site where I do little more than rave and rant and bemoan the state of the world. Oh well, I guess I'd better make the most of this time while my friends are still indulgent enough to read my ramblings - and comment!

Anyway, like many Beatles/Lennon fans, I watched the 8 December programmes Star Plus aired to commemorate John Lennon's death anniversary. While watching the first segment, 'Give Peace a Song', which was basically about the week-long bed-in that John and Yoko had done way back in 1971 to protest against the wars and violence plaguing the world and call for peace, and where the rousing 'Give Peace a Chance' was recorded, I couldn't stop thinking - how come this (hundreds of people coming together with one socially aware celebrity to record a song for peace, a song that went on to become the anthem for everyone calling for an end to war across the world) doesn't happen any more?

'You know what surprises me?' one of the people who'd been part of the recording said while being interviewed for this programme, 'the fact that this song is still as relevant now as it was 35 years ago, when John wrote it. ' I think this fact isn't just surprising, it's profoundly disturbing. Wars and violence have become endemic all over the world - they're just another way for people to make money and get powerful at the expense of less privileged sections of humanity - and no one cares enough to organise protests any more. Oh, I know there are protests all over - there are marches, demonstrations, rallies - but they don't seem to have any effect, do they? Is there anyone like John Lennon around anymore, someone who would protest social evil by simply staying in bed for a week? And if there was someone, would she/he have the same charisma and appeal that John had, to be able to fearlessly proclaim your views and influence thousands of people? I got goosebumps watching all those people - regular people, most of them - sitting around John and Yoko, singing 'All we are saying, give peace a chance' as if that was what they were always meant to do, as if their lives depended on it - and maybe they did. And later, outside the White House, thousands more protesting the Vietnam War joined Pete Seeger in singing the same song. Just that one line said so much more than a hundred speeches ever could.

Yoko and Sean had brought out this new, updated version of 'Give Peace a Chance' after 11 September along with a whole lot of other singers. But somehow, the sight of these celebrities clapping and stamping to the rhythm of 'Give Peace a Chance' on this technologically well-crafted video just did not have the same power that the sight of ordinary people taking to the streets, wearing their beliefs like an armour and singing as if all their voices raised together in a single song could make all the difference did. Violence, civil wars and every possible social ill afflicts every country in the world today. The world's most powerful superpower starts a war in another country for no good reason and is aided and abetted by other European powers - and half the people of the world no longer come forward to ask them to give peace a chance. Why? Have we become that selfish and insular, that uncaring? Surely not?

I was thinking of what John would say if he were to pay the world a visit now and see just how badly we need to give peace a chance. How would he feel to see that his protests, his messages of peace had come to naught? The continuing relevance of his song will bring him no solace, I'm sure.

Monday, December 05, 2005

What is wrong with the media?

A few nights back, I happened to catch the late night snippets that Aaj Tak (one of the news channels on television for those who've never watched it). This is not a channel I usually watch, and I caught even this bit purely by accident. But what I saw appalled me, and I thought I should write about it and share it with all my friends and family who read my blog.

To begin with, the way this channel chooses to present these news snippets is pretty awful. Sensationalising the traumatic events taking place in the lives of ordinary, often impoverished, sections of India's population, what Aaj Tak aims to do is not so much garner sympathy and support as appeal to the voyuer in people, and thus increase their TRP. Anyway, this story, which the commentator related with evident relish, was about this woman from an obviously lower-middle class (according to India's class system) background. She and her husband had divorced, but had fallen in love all over again and later remarried ('bilkul filmo ki tarah', 'just like in the movies'). Only, she didn't stop seeing the man/men she had been involved with in the interim period, and one day, after an altercation with her husband, she got her lovers to beat him up. Which they did, only so thoroughly that they killed him, and that too, before their son, who's barely 4 years old. The mother then dumped the child with her in-laws and decamped with the lovers, after telling people that her husband as away on work (or something to that effect).

And now I come to the horrifying part. This small, obviously traumatised child, who'd seen his father murdered in a particularly brutal way before his eyes, was the one who had informed his grandparents of the incident, who in turn had reported the matter to the police, thus setting in motion the whole chain of events that followed. Our media, in the form of Aaj Tak, did not just report the matter with great relish, they actually brought the child before the camera and made him recount the whole grisly incident in great detail, prompting him most helpfully and asking further questions whenever he faltered. A child of barely four was made to relive the horror of his father's murder for an uncaring, soulless news channel whose primary responsibility is to their ratings.

I know it's naive in these days to presume that the media has any social responsibility or even a heart. But surely this was carrying it too far? I know, too, that this is not an isolated incident. The grandparents of the little boy could obviously be browbeaten into submission - perhaps they were told that placing their vulnerable grandchild before the camera could help bring their son justice - but is there nothing anyone can or will do? In western nations the media would never have been allowed anywhere near the child. There are child support centres who would have immdiately come into play. Is there no one who could step in in our country to prevent the media - or individuals, for that matter - from pursuing their selfish agendas with such impunity?