thuNews flashes of crimes against humanity are not a rare thing in the country or the world at large. Over the course of time, my senses have become numb to such a level that such news reports have stopped bothering me. I am now numb and immune to them. Almost all of my opinions that I express while debating or talking about such issues have become purely academic. Sometimes, I have a debate just for the sake of having one.
However, all of this changed recently when I came across two images which left a lasting imprint on my mind and revived the dead stimuli of empathy and sorrow. They broke something inside me, and I felt something after almost a decade. It was a strong sense of implosion that almost left me weak.
The first image is credited to Osman Sagirli. A BBC article mentioned that Osman Sagirli, a Turkish photojournalist, had clicked the image of a four-year-old girl Hudea, in Syria, who had taken shelter with her mother and siblings at the Atmeh refugee camp near the Turkish border. When the journalist pointed his camera towards her, and tried to click an image, she thought the equipment was a weapon and reacted to the situation by surrendering.
The second image, is of an eight-year-old who was raped and then brutally murdered, allegedly near or within the premises of a temple (a place of worship) and powerful people holding public offices were involved. Some sources have reported that initially, the police had tried to cover up the deed, and later, the whole episode was given a communal colour to polarise the masses protesting in favour of justice to the victim.
The question making rounds in my head since the disruption caused by the two images is, do these provide the zeitgeist of our times, the 21st century? Rapes, lynchings, defacing idols, posters burnt, targeted killings based on race, etc. all to my mind, tell a common tale of violation and degradation. According to me, the main highlight of the first two decades of the 21st century is nothing but violation and degradation that has been leading to an impact worse than death.
On the face of it, nationhood and globalisation have found a better balance to each other in the 21st century. All public institutions function and aim for a “dignified” life. Communication and information exchange are easier, faster, accessible and more democratic than ever before. Civil rights groups operate effectively and transnationally and have a larger share in shaping public policy. They bind civil society groups into perceived global fraternities better than ever before. However, most of these advancements seem merely ornamental, running after mythical ideals, albeit far less effectively. In actuality, the lives of people have become a smaller and a narrower place.
Activism which has broadened in scale in terms of subjects and involvement, has become narrower in scope and sincerity. Amidst this circus, people have become more objective in the way they consume the information, perceive it and identify with it. This is reflected in the solutions and the institutions that they rely on. The decay of institutions, worse than outright failures, is another nightmare of a special kind. Most institutions have a long list of exceptions wherein, compromise of ideals and operations is normal. In fact, the victim has to jump through hoops to prove that they are a victim. Even safeguards made legally, politically or socially available come with exceptions, unlike the violation and degradation which has taken its toll indiscriminately.
As cynical as this sounds, like a hurt individual whining, it might not be further from the truth, with the frequency and scale at which such occurrences are happening. People are getting used to such events. They are also getting used to the responsive cycle of initial shock, protest, half-baked or no justice from the system. The lack of justice is justified by loud ideologues. People then sit and wait for another similar occurrence. They are also coming to terms with it (lack of justice) being a facet of life, however ugly.
According to Hannah Arendt, when evil becomes unthinking, systemic and justified to common people, the evil becomes banal, at which point it becomes unnoticeable from the regular course of events, and it becomes lethal. Infrequent and indiscriminate events of violation and degradation of life, may it be via the ISIS or ‘small time’ offenders at home and the same cycle of ineffective response by the system, evil is becoming banal and lethal.
The seriousness of the problem lies in the fact that most acts of violation and degradation are perpetrated against the weakest section of the society, the children, who are the future of our civilisation, thus affecting generations to come.