December 22, 2006

Moral indignation is outraged only when presented with an affront to its most parochial sentiments.

Darfur has become an accepted fact of our history, and only occasionally anymore animates the conversations of our latte drinking liberals. Civilian death tolls from Iraq are not seen as collateral damage or civilian casualties anymore, but as routinuous and vaguely tragic byproducts of the inevitable march forward of history. We are all on some level or another guilty of regularly misconstruing, multiplying, misinterpreting, misquoting, misapporpriating, minimizing, or maiming facts in a manner and medium of our own choosing and convenience.

The atrocities that take place in the name of journalism are fitting reflections of our own laxities and sliding standards. Ditto the vagaries that take places in the entertainment industry’s portrayal of people and places. Most of the time, we just let them slide by.

Except, of course, when they engage our most primate and parochial concerns. Then we must protest not only the misrepresentation itself, but the appalling worldwide silence. The same silence, incidentally, that we would be guilty of had we ourselves not been the object, but the audience.

***

I have not seen the latest bollywood output, Kabul Express. I do not do bollywood anymore. And I am not shocked that it has gotten it all wrong when it comes to the portrayal of the Hazara of Afghanistan. I am, however, mildly surprised at the way so many people who have been emailing me this morning have been holding the Indian movie industry to apparently reverential standards of factuality and truth – affirming, through protesting this latest anomaly, that on all previous occasions it had our collective tacit approval.

***

This is but just one incident. More generally, and more seriously, I want to ask myself: What is one, who tries hard to be a person of conscience, to do? One feels like withdrawing. And reading Camus. And sulking. And keeping aloof and above all of it. But one has no choice: one is in this.

One feels bad for the gradual decay eating away at one’s moral soul. And before soon, one will stop noticing it altogether.

***

And so: Really, what the hell were Indian filmmakers thinking?! They should not be able to get away with this!!

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