One of the nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards in the best actor category was Bryan Cranston for playing the titular character in the movie “Trumbo”. I happened to watch the movie recently, and I must admit it was one of the most nervous viewings of any film for me for I unconsciously identified a part of me with the protagonist – minus his wit and charm. The self-respecting ones who often find themselves engaged in a private or public discussion defending the values of common human sense have all legitimate reasons to be nervous when they are countered with unrelenting abuses, mindless name-calling, and what not.
But it does not just stop in nervousness. Of late this has metamorphosed into utter desperation when leaders who have defied common human sense and defiled minimum human dignity have been successful in winning their way up to high democratic offices. We have seen people who have hit the rock bottom of indecency being patronized in social media and outside it by leaders from the highest echelons, thus giving them enough ammunition to spit their venom with all impunity. To this end, you need only look at the India of 2017.
Coming to a more recent happening, people with some modicum of sense witnessed with all despair how blatantly the Supreme Court judgement on banning the sales of firecrackers in Delhi was portrayed as an attack on Hinduism itself. On social media, we saw images of a local leader, belonging to a virulent section of our political class, distributing crackers to kids on the eve of Diwali. Thus went by another Diwali making the National Capital just a bit more uninhabitable.
This part of our social and political existence is what I like to call a state of desperation of common sense. The ever-increasing pervasiveness of these senseless goings-on threatens and simultaneously damages our social fabric, constitutional democracy, and even our environment.
So what is there in the movie “Trumbo”? Set in the post-World War II USA, the movie brings on screen the lives and times of the talented Dalton Trumbo and his group of nine other screenwriters, the Hollywood Ten. They were accused of communist propaganda in their films – thus being “un-American”, “traitors” etc – one surest way to victimization for merely having a worldview different from the powers-that-be. And the consequences included unending hardships that Trumbo, his family and friends had to endure, that included blacklisting, prison terms, taunts, and attacks of delusional patriots and the inevitable physical and mental trauma that it brought along.
As they reeled under the evil, the victims’ integrity did not remain intact. Trumbo acknowledged, “…no one who survived evil came through untouched by it” as a reference to how he let the evil call the shots in his family life. This is a lesson on why any right thinking person should not let the senseless domineer their conduct in public or private lives, as it only ends up empowering the dictates of the senseless further.
Any kind of ideological denominations having any say in our socio-political lives must not veer into the darkness of complete lack of sense. Neither should it patronize any such voice. Such voices must not be given a semblance of legitimacy if we have to ensure a manageable functioning of our political democracy, having a consensus on minimum decency at least. If we fail here, then we all end up becoming victims only, under the cloud of an evil spell that does not discriminate as to who it shrouds.
To paraphrase Trumbo, the time of evil, as it inevitably passes beyond the control of mere individuals, has no heroes or villains – there are only victims in the grander scheme of the day.