Friday, December 5, 2008

Mumbai protests: Vision of peace? Or vituperation on vinyl?

At the best of times, I hate forwarded email by supposedly "concerned" people who have often not even Googled whatever the fuck they're forwarding. Nor do they particularly care about whether it has an effect, or what kind of effect it has. Nor will they follow up -- it's a one-off, directionless, trajectory-less endorsement of some fleeting sentiment. Such mouse-clicking "slacktivism" (isn't that an absolutely delightful epithet for when the vision-less, feckless Indian middle class believes it's "doing" something!) does serious harm when it peddles notions of revenge and hate. Here's a response to an uncle of mine, long-time Mumbai resident who now divides his year between Oceania and North America:

I can understand that people's feelings run strong at a time like this. I know what it feels like to be so frightened and helpless, because I was in the middle of it all. I was at work in ____, across from CST station and behind Cama Hospital, and between the BMC (where the attackers lobbed a grenade) and the lane next to Anjuman-e-Islam school (which they took to escape to Metro). We saw the attacks with our own eyes, outside our office windows. The terrorists fired at our building... and tried to enter it (as our security camera footage shows). And I was more fortunate than ____ [my cousin], who couldn't leave the Oberoi for two days.

Even so, I oppose the sentiments in some of the photos you forwarded. I don't think anything good is achieved by using vulgar language (the obscene pun on the Kerala CM's name), spontaneous calls for revenge (grabbing AK-47s, attacking Pakistan), and using womanhood as an insult (giving someone bangles??? I believe a woman is a human being, not an insult to masculinity).

I am also skeptical of "reform movements" that are spawned overnight with poorly thought out vision, and that may vanish within a week. In fact, people who have made solid difference in making politicians more accountable started doing so long before a terrorist attack, and they did it at the risk of their lives, too (Satyendra Dubey is no more). The true leaders and nationalists who deserve our attention are people like Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey and Arvind Kejriwal, and those who support them. Why not give their organizations a donation, if you feel strongly about reforming India?

With all due respect, I request that you kindly not forward me such photos or messages. I hope you will understand.

Below are some of the pix attached to my uncle's email, sent from Oceania. As of now, the URL is parked with GoDaddy and contains only random links like all parked domains.

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