By Anto Bhaskar:
In 1996, Edward Norton and Woody Harrelson acted in a movie called “The People vs. Larry Flynt“. This is a movie, I think, everyone needs to watch (though not with the whole family). This movie deals with the story of Larry Flynt, a coarse vile character who founded the “Hustler Magazine“. Now, during the 1980s, a case was filed against the magazine when they published a satirical, albeit, vulgar cartoon of a prominent religious figure.
The climax of the movie is the argument of this case in front of the American Supreme Court. I heartily recommend everyone to watch this scene.
The fundamental crux of the argument is “Can a magazine poke fun at a public figure? Is it within the public figure’s rights to ask the magazine to shut up, or is it within the magazine’s rights to ask the preacher not to read the book if it offends him?” This is a tantalising question and, I think, a much needed one.
There have been innumerable mentions of ‘sedition‘ and arrest warrants for the same in the recent years.
The argument that the movie presents is that trying to judge if a cartoon making fun of a figure is emotionally hurting to a said figure is legally impossible and a waste of time. The prime reason is what this argument boils down to, which ultimately is, personal taste. What is acceptable humour to one maybe unacceptable language to another. And it is impossible to judge taste.
Or rather, it should be impossible to judge taste. But, if we see what has been happening around us, we have been pandering to individual and communal tastes. How else do we explain the arrest of two youngsters who complained about a statewide ‘bandh’ called for, due to a politician’s demise, over a social networking website, a few years ago? Or the ban on beef which happens to be a favourite food for many?
What has happened is that we have been forcing everyone to accept our own tastes.
The rub here is to put oneself in the other person’s shoes, understand what someone else might feel about our own actions and be receptive to their opinion. Now, whether the criticism is deserved or whether the criticism is accepted depends on one’s own personal wish. However, what is unforgivable is refusing one’s right to criticise.
And that is what we have been becoming. A nation that is always ready to criticise, but never ready to accept criticism. Such a move cannot have happened overnight (so I am not even trying to blame an election, political party or some random overnight lightning storm/meteor crash for this change). We, as a people need to bring about this change, starting from small day-to-day daily acts of love and acceptance amongst our fellow people.