Sunday, November 25, 2012

PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED


As I type out yet another blog post I just hope that I can hit the “publish” button! I had written two posts which are just lying among the documents section in my computer.  I suppose you can guess what those posts may have been about considering the doubts I have about their publication.

The last one week has brought to light at least two unpleasant reports about  violation of the basic rights of an individual to express themselves. Though blogs have not yet been targeted, I as a blogger am deeply perturbed.

The blog world is one where common people like you and me can find room for expression. But now with these happenings, I am not sure that people want to write about what they feel. For example, I do not know who reads this blog-some of you comment regularly on what I write.  I also visit some of your blogs and comment on them. I have formed some impressions about some of your views based on the regularity of your visits here. While I may not always agree with what you say, I respect you for your views just as  you do mine – this  is the world of freedom.

Into this world of freedom it seems has now crept in a mind full of fear. Yes, I am turning Tagore around- (please forgive me Gurudev)I am unable to stifle my feelings as a citizen and as a human being. I cannot believe I live in the world’s biggest democracy!

I remember about ten years ago I had attended an international conference where a friend from one of our neighboring countries made  very carefully worded remarks about the prevailing condition in her country. She told me during lunch that as a civil society member she was under surveillance and had to be careful about what she spoke in public forums. I was amazed that such fears existed and I thanked my lucky stars that I lived in this country where people can speak fearlessly! Now when I say "fearless" , I am not saying that we just speak rashly during official meetings – far from it! We represent an organization or a country as a delegate and need to be prudent about what we say. However when we express ourselves as individuals I think it is alright to be frank-particularly if it is a personal blog or a social networking site where we do not represent any organization or a country!

But not any more!  For the first time I find myself  exercising  caution as  I  word and reword  even simple face book posts. I am glad that I have “unfriended”  some people who may have used this opportunity to get back at me for my “liberal” views. I have also been told by some friends who have lived in other countries about things like “ultra surf” ( whatever is it? Sounds like a detergent to me). I think maybe I should be like the other narcissists and just post pictures of myself in differently colored saris!

It is not that freedom of expression is completely curtailed. We still have strong articles written in newspapers about the happenings in the country.  The point is that these are written by well known journalists who have the backing of their newspapers behind them should something happen- and folks nothing really happens to them. It is  Unknown Indians like you and me who are at risk. We have another life which cannot be jeopardized  by this. I remember warning a couple of  blogger friends to be careful about what they post. One of them is a young girl  who had been quite outspoken about what she had written. I pray for her personal safety and   I just hope I don’t see her name in the newspaper for the wrong reasons !

It is not that the cyber world has suddenly become unsafe. As a woman I have received personal comments from people who visit this blog-comments that I have had to delete simply because they were so inappropriate and sometimes obnoxious. Some people commenting on this  blog have followed me into face book and tried to send me friend requests which I have squashed. I have taken all of this in my stride as I consider this to be one  of the hazards of writing.

But what I am feeling now is something completely new because I do not know who is “out there”.  I thought a lot about this and finally I decided that I should not let my fear get the better of me. I am not hurting anybody or abusing any politician. I am only voicing my fears about the unknown. So am I going to be targeted for something as simple as this? I hope not… but nothing will surprise me anymore!

Arthur Wellesley , the Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said “Publish and be damned” to his mistress Hariette Wilson when she threatened to publish his letters in her memoirs. Unfortunately, this quote has taken on a rather literal meaning today!

11 comments:

SG said...

Very well written. If you take a deeper look at this, the kind of situation you were trying to express happens only in those countries where individual hero worship is prevalent. In Tamil Nadu, you cannot even address a leader by his/her name.

Look at the USA. The President is made fun of every day in TV by many stand up comedians. Everybody has a good laugh and move on. Even the President appreciates and laughs.

Want to tell you an incident. I told some guys that the movie Gandhi is not a good one in my opinion. They took it as I was insulting Mr. Gandhi himself. All I said the movie was not a good movie.

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste.....
Ah things are just weird all around. Sometimes people cry for freedom of speech but don't observe the right for others to experience the same.

You keep doing you, you are the captain of your own ship and as such have the right to govern it as you see fit.

stay blessed.
rhapsody

Cloud Nine said...

Ah...suffering the same predicament. Though being anonymous gives us some protection, the same quality gives the people out there the right to trample hospitals and book innocents in dubious cases. I find this censorship stifling- freedom of speech is the only right we exercise without much ado here. Take extra caution in social networking sites, think hundred times before you like something or better still, bring out those bhaghalpuris sarees:P Lets have a photo shoot;)))

anilkurup said...

Well, I would suggest play chess.
You know what I mean. There are ways to circumvent and find the way about this Orwellian labyrinth that is being desperately hauled upon the society and thought. So go ahead, if we cannot speak our soul, we rather are comfortable dead. How far I will go with that dictum? I hope till breath ceases.
What is so comforting is that when free thought is threatened, it is time to rejoice because there are people out there who are frightened about being naked. (I agree with your opinion on the inappropriate and profane content that is sometimes used by perverted minds).
Coincidentally this post was read by me on the same day I noticed a very, very good friend of mine (a blogger) who has ticked on the comment moderation on his blog. Apparently, I may have been the reason for his Orwellian depths. I was a bit too candid with him on his blog posts. And my fear that he was increasingly becoming irritable and intolerant to any opinion that is opposite to his has become true.
He may be unfortunately the specimen of the intolerance that we see in the larger context. A hundred s of similar notion is what gets to stifle free thought and opinion as we saw recently in the public world out there.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ SG you are right- we do not realize that leaders are also human and vulnerable to human faults.

@ Anil don't take inclusion of comments moderation so personally! Yes, we all have our views some like it and some don't. You may just decide not to visit this person's blog. But I agree with your idea that suppression of public opinion is an indication that these opinions do matter.!

At Cloudnine, I like the idea of a photoshoot. Let us get out those Bhagalpuris, Benarasis, Sambhalpuris and what not... Who knows we may receive a marriage proposal even at our age -ha! ha!

Jack said...

Meera,

I am fully with you on this. I feel that their arrest was manipulated by persons with vested interest. How did they know about clinic of her uncle? Truth may never come out.

Take care

Christopher said...

Fortunately, we have a constitution which guarantees freedom of expression so emphatically that it will be difficult to gag people. The intolerance of a segment of our society to anyone who differs from their opinion is more worrying than a misuse of the IT Act, which is now under review and possible amendment. So keep writing and speaking your mind out - as you normally do.

Rahul Bhatia said...

Meera the freedom of expression has to be judiciously used based on one's standing and support systems:)

Insignia said...

I think most of us share this feeling. Its with caution you need to comment, opine and state facts. Curbing the so called right to expression.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Christopher there is a post that I have called " tolering intolerence" but I am yet to post it

At Jack and Insignia, I see your point Let stay quiet and safe. All of us seem to be worried.!

Yes Rahul, some people get away with saying anything and others for "liking" something.

B Pradeep Nair said...

This is a problem of the nascent medium that we are now experiencing. It's been around ever since Web 2.0 came about around 10 years back, when we all could publish and broadcast to the world at large, whatever and whenever we wanted, with no checks whatsoever.

There's no harm in being a bit cautious. Because we are putting up information in the public domain. We are very careful even in private medium -- when we interact with another person, or groups of people. So, it's only natural that we have to be more careful in the public medium.

My latest blog post discusses this very same theme.

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