Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nothing Worth Saying is Inoffensive to Everyone

Johann Hari responds to the riots, outcry, and the hysteria in Kolkata around his earlier article:  Stand up for the Right to Criticise Religion.

The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech:
[. . .] You do not have a right to be ring-fenced from offence. Every day, I am offended – not least by ancient religious texts filled with hate-speech. But I am glad, because I know that the price of taking offence is that I can give it too, if that is where the facts lead me. But again, the protestors propose a lop-sided world. They do not propose to stop voicing their own heinously offensive views about women's rights or homosexuality, but we have to shut up and take it – or we are the ones being "insulting".

It's also worth going through the arguments of the Western defenders of these protestors, because they too aren't going away. Already I have had e-mails and bloggers saying I was "asking for it" by writing a "needlessly provocative" article. When there is a disagreement and one side uses violence, it is a reassuring rhetorical stance to claim both sides are in the wrong, and you take a happy position somewhere in the middle. But is this true? I wrote an article defending human rights, and stating simple facts. Fanatics want to arrest or kill me for it. Is there equivalence here?

The argument that I was "asking for it" seems a little like saying a woman wearing a short skirt is "asking" to be raped. [. . .]

15 comments:

Dhanashree V Phatak said...

You write on almost about every topic....but one sizzling topic is missing in ur collection.......

mandar talvekar said...

:)
And that one would be . . .? I admit you have piqued my curiosity.

I hope you are not referring to the Oscars.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

yes.....u guessed it right....im talking about the oscars.....

mandar talvekar said...

Well, at least my guessing skills are not rusty yet. :)
The Oscars didn't whet my interest much -- about the only thing i was interested in was would A R Rahman get the Oscar and if Kate Winslet would finally win hers too. Both happened. Rahman's win felt a bit anti-climactic -- his other music has been so much better and he won the award for something that doesn't even come close to his best efforts and in such an underwhelming movie.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

well...there was one comment which i wrote and then i deleted it....i thought i wud be the only person to think like that.....but i guess u think on the same lines.......i wanted to post that comment....but...........

mandar talvekar said...

Go ahead and post it. Let's see what you have been thinking.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

actually i havent seen the movie...u know which one i am talking about!!!, but have heard about it from a friend....and being a literature student and have studied post-colonial literature..(i don't know whether i am correct or not)...but i always see these awards "O" from a post-colonial perspective....when movies like tare zameen par or shwaas were nominated wherein some amazing instances of India were projected.....nothing happened....and this movie............

mandar talvekar said...

Hmm . . . I see where you are coming from -- I guess a small part of the reason i am not enthused with its success could be that the movie is not totally an Indian effort.
But I am a bit skeptical about looking at the movie (or for that matter anything else) purely through post-colonial lenses. The perspective, i feel, becomes a convenient (and ofttimes, blinkered) way of looking at and critiquing anything by the "West" . When i said the movie was underwhelming, i only referred to it as a piece of art in itself. Even without bringing in the post-colonial angst of how it depicts Mumbai, and how the movie is made by a westerner for an audience that is (perhaps primarily) not Indian, etc, the movie, i feel, ain't that impressive.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

true.........i feel thik e let's not look into it thru a post-colonial pperspective....but then all the other movies like the ones i mentioned earlier were never even applauded..........why so??????

mandar talvekar said...

I am not sure if the movies you mentioned didn't receive any acclaim. You have to agree however that both the movies were too "Indian" in their sensibilities and presentation. I am not sure if Western audiences/critics really appreciate what shapes and influences our movies and how they are made. Slumdog Millionaire, while it includes Bollywood elements, is still fundamentally a movie of western sensibilities.
Of course, i could be wrong.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

no u r right may b........but i have a question? if those movies were too "indian" why do we need a western acclaim for that???????? tell me?????????? aren't our own "indian" acclaims enough??????????????

mandar talvekar said...

Your "a question" turned out to be 3 :)
There are no cut and dried (or black and white) answers - maybe you should pose these questions to the makers and promoters of these films. Perhaps we like "validation" from the west or perhaps (cynically) we know what an Oscar might do to careers and the marketability of a movie. Or perhaps it just happens to be the most popular award out there.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....perhaps :)

do u write anething in marathi...............

mandar talvekar said...

Nopes. Entirely a product of today's education system I am -- more comfortable with writing in English. And I guess, I speak what can be called the "Mumbaiyya" dialect of Marathi -- liberally sprinkled with English and Hindi words and with no ear for the pronunciations.

Dhanashree Phatak said...

oh...........i guess almost like any other marathi manus...i just asked coz im read a lovely marathi blog......very normal topic like everyday life and it was fantastic....this person writes amazingly well....of course like u.... :)