Bad satire can dismount people in a dangerous territory.
Hate is a strong emotion. Rather a deadly one. For it blinds reason and misleads. It bounces, and bounces badly. It usually emanates from fear, and fear distorts the rationality. Haters consume themselves in hating others just as their imagination lands them into wicked and sadistic malice. Poet Pablo Neruda writes in Autumn Testament—
Hate is like a swordfish,
working through water invisibly
and then you see it coming
with blood along its blade,
but transparency disarms it.
Hate carries a pointed spear that cannot be disarmed. Even as hate is so much discernible all around, it has not been tamed so far. Prejudices perpetuate it and responses aggravate it. It falls into a vicious cycle of retorts whose outcome is usually disgraceful and violent. In the words of Jane Austen, “the natural defect of propensity to hate everybody” has become the hallmark of present age. Almost everyone hates anything at any point of time. Hate seems to come in so naturally while many other factors contribute to its making. Even the most sophisticated and educated demonstrate it and become persecuting people.
The notable quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. reads, “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true”.
The Charlie Hebdo event in Paris is an eye-opener. The skilled and renowned editorial staff of this magazine used satire to vent out their prejudice against a particular faith, Islam. For last so many years, the Charlie Hebdo had been publishing provocative stuff smacking hate for Islam. Humour was utilized to suggest Hate. Despite receiving warnings from different quarters, the magazine repeatedly took swipes against Islam.
Stretching the slogan of ‘free speech’ too far, the Charlie Hebdo continued to take a dirty dig. It is reported that within its pages, the magazine till date has published 12 objectionable cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, bringing unprecedented disapproval from the Muslim world. In 2011, headlined by a cartoon reading “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter,” an issue invited Prophet Muhammad to be a “guest editor” for the weekly. The Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed following its publication (The Huffington Post, January 07, 2015).
In its latest report, The Washington Post, describes Charlie Hebdo as “irreverent, crass and a foe to just about every religion”. The news report adds, “Over the years, Muslim anger at the weekly publication has burned slowly in the background. Charlie Hebdo continued to depict Muhammad (PBUH) and critique Islam in its editorial pages, resisting calls to stop the practice”.
Can hate veil as satire? Not always. When hate is too intense, satire cannot prevent the consequences. Bad satire can dismount people in a dangerous territory. It is “when the powerful mock the powerless that bad satire accomplishes the opposite of what it is supposed to accomplish”.
The shooters in Paris did the same. They became identical haters of those who instigated them through bad satire. Since hate had brutalized them, their reaction was also brutal. A condemnable gory act.
Back in India, hate is revoltingly getting embedded with each passing day. Of late, political discourse in India is rapidly turning into a controversy’s child. Pressing for the Centre to declare Bhagavad Gita as a ‘Rashtriya Granth’ (national scripture), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared that only a formality remained to be done in this regard. BJP chief of Uttar Pradesh came up with another potshot that a part of Taj Mahal was part of an ancient temple. Kerala BJP vice-president M T Ramesh announced that PM Narendra Modi was not against “ghar wapsi”. Asadudin Owaisi, member parliament, reacted to forced conversion of religion by saying that actual “ghar wapsi” is coming to Islam. From the hate statements of Ramdas Kadam and Giriraj Singh of Sangh Pariwar to cabinet minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s outrageous remarks, hate is spreading like an epidemic. Speeches, statements, writings—hate percolates through them all.
Is hate getting strong and stronger? Is plurality a concept impossible? Have religions failed to inculcate tolerance among their followers? Is freedom of expression the freedom to disgrace and debase anyone anytime?
Foolhardiness does no good. Creative control is still not an idiotic norm. Radical responses are reckless. Hate has to be tamed, not allowing it to bleed. Letting others live, breathe and exist, honorably, is a rule recognized universally. Hate cannot undermine the right to life, no matter who are the haters and the hated.
(The columnist teaches at the Media Education Research Centre, MERC, University of Kashmir)