Friday, November 6, 2015

Returning Awards and the Debate on Intolerance

There is much anger in the general public (at least those I meet these days) about writers who are returning their awards.  Why are they returning their awards? What is this intolerance that is bothering them? Why did they not return awards in earlier intolerant times? Who are these people anyway?

The anger seems to come from the perception that people returning their awards are agents of the opposition party and are part of a ploy to show the government in bad light. Many are angry that these literary and filmy people are talking about intolerance when it is we have actually tolerated them for all this time. There might be some truth in that.

As for me I have no issues with people who want to return their awards. If they want to return, let them. They are not asking us to return our awards - they want to return theirs. What do these poor writers have but their awards?

But then there is another thought put forth by my friends. Are they returning the cheques, the plots of land, the respect they got etc etc. We don't know. Anyway no one seems to know them, so it does not matter what they do anyway.

Quiz: Who are the award winning writers we know of? Hmmm. The writers we know of, do not have awards. Those who have awards we do not know. Funny. (And there are many like me who are neither known nor have awards - but we have plenty of opinions.)

But I am intrigued by this idea of returning awards. Does one have to wrap it up and send it by post? If so to whom? With acknowledgement due? At what stage would it be confirmed that the award has been officially returned? What will the record say? I am sure there must be some technicality there.

On the other hand the government need not accept the returned awards. They can simply say 'return to sender' and send them back. Once given, they cannot be returned policy. If neither the government nor the writers want these awards they can lie in the post offices or courier offices like orphans with no one to claim them.

To return the award is the awardees prerogative. To reject the returning award is the government's prerogative.

Why are we getting angry?

I suspect that we are getting angry that even these weak, literary types think they have a say too. Who are they? Why don't they write their stuff and sit quietly? They don't really belong in this space. The anger is at the weakling's weak way of protesting - in his own weaklingy way - of returning awards. Protests like this are not really protests. Real protests by real men and women involve crowds, muscle, firing, blood - force. What kind of an aberration is this returning awards business?

Like in all cases we pick on the weak here too. No one comments or speaks out against perpetrators of violent acts in our society for the simple fact that they will get violent with us. They will protest violently. They will come home or to our office and then beat the daylights out of us. But this bunch we can freely take a shot at - one look at them and you know they cannot survive you. We can do anything to them and no one will come to their aid - who comes to the aid of the weak here anyway. Writers, artists, girls, infants, downtrodden, lovers on Valentines - always one person or two is kicked and beaten by a mob.

For the weak we do not tolerate the slightest deviation. (A rose to a girl - break their bones!) For the strong we tolerate anything they do. (A rape or a murder or two, let it be proved in court.)  It speaks volumes of the society we are.

So let this be clear. We will not tolerate you returning your awards. Keep your awards with you. Be happy.

And don't talk about that word intolerance! We cannot tolerate it. It is the case of the tolerant versus the intolerant. Us versus them. If you say we are tolerant we will tolerate you, otherwise we will not tolerate you. In fact we will not tolerate any intolerance from you towards our tolerance. You are pushing it all pal. We have tolerated enough.

The awardee chaps go babbling away minus their awards, confused with all this. We cannot tolerate this anymore they say (see - intolerant chaps). A small group with a weak voice. The rest of us watch. Now what?

What does intolerance mean to them really?

Have they been at the business end of this 'intolerance'? So what is their problem?

The problem is like this perhaps.

I have a thought - a differing thought. Do I have the freedom to express it if it is within the law? If it is offensive someone could complain and the matter can go to court. If it is not, people can have a debate and move on. A thought versus a thought is fine. A debate is fine. All civilised.

But when thoughts are dealt with physically - by beating up, threatening etc - then there is no hope for any difference in thought. Ideally you counter a thought with a thought. A word with a word. But if you beat the word with a stick, then there is no debate. There is only one rule - that of the stick. Until someone comes with a bigger stick. And a bigger one.

When we are intolerant of the complaints of our old, our weak, we have a problem. If we are strong and secure we must take care of the women and children, the old and weak, the sensitive and the fragile. Because they have a role too. They cannot see the strife the soldier can. They need to be assuaged and pacified and dealt with in a different manner. Not beaten up and told to sit in their places and not move out.

Sit quietly. If you are quiet we will let you be. If you make a noise you are with them.  Choose now - us or them.

Who is us? Who is them?

Who are you? Who are we?

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