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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Not only do I disagree with you, I deny you the right to your opinion

My creative director called me yesterday to discuss a special episode for Gandhi Jayanti.  “Okay, how about something along the lines of Munnabhai and our protagonists discovering the importance of Mahatma Gandhi?” You can’t go wrong with that, I thought cocking a secret snook at S&P (Standards and Procedures is the censor board equivalent for television).

“Rediscovering. We don’t want it to appear that college kids don’t know who Mahatma Gandhi is,” she interjected in alarm. I know her rather well so I could figure out what was going on in her head. In her mind she was already seeing S&P yanking her top rated show off air, on account of a careless slip by a writer. Not to mention hundreds of khadi-clad protesters picketing and destroying her newly refurbished set.  

Which brings me to the subject of this column. Freedom of expression…er, lack of it actually. Everywhere (mostly everywhere) in the world now there are large clauses in constitutions that assure us of our right to free speech. And now, more than ever, we are on tenterhooks about what we say. We are so paranoid that we accept the risk of incoherent communication just so we can be sure that we don’t offend anyone.

It started with the substitution of man with person as a suffix, e.g., chairperson instead of chairman. No one disputed that. The list then went on to include terms like challenged to connotate disability or disadvantage of any kind, viz., vertically challenged instead of short. That was a stretch but we still went ahead with it.

But the latest list released by the British Sociological Association is just too much. According to the directive issued by them, students are banned from using terms like old masters and seminal on the grounds that they are sexist. Instead, the suggested term when referring to, well, masters is ‘classic artists’. Also making it to the illustrious list are words like immigrants, developing nations and black on account of being racist!

By failing to stick to the list you run the risk of being sued. But that’s for other countries. We, in India have our own way of dealing with subject matter we don’t like. Mob violence. Or should I say collective active demonstration of disagreement to be politically correct. See what I mean about incoherence? Don’t like Amitabh Bachchan’s views? No problem. Vandalise the theatre showing his latest film. That’ll show him. Decided that the scarves covering the faces of the blasts accused are decidedly Palestinian? Never mind. Make a noise, create some brouhaha in the media and maybe, just maybe, torch a police station or two? It is an effective deterrent. We were steering clear of anything even remotely disrespectful to Mahatma Gandhi, weren’t we?

As I mulled such and other deep thoughts, my creative director broke into my thoughts. “Are you available for a brainstorming session this weekend?”

“That’s offensive to people with epilepsy. The politically correct term is ideate,” I replied absently. Help!

You can read the article in the current (Nov) issue of Grazia.

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