On Palin Effigy and Freedom of Speech
It makes a very interesting reading to me. Effigy making, burning on the street is a favourite pastime of people in India. We have burnt effigies of all well known leaders. Ministers, Political leaders, occasionally even Cricket players are favourite targets. It seems to have become a ritual here. What’s this fuss about Palin’s effigy? We do not understand.
There are many forms of protests that we have developed. They, like in USA, are various forms of freedom of speech. We in India have a large population of diverse background to cater to, so various forms of expression [call them freedom of speech, if you think appropriate] have been developed out of sheer necessity. Burning effigy is the most elementary form and, as the Americans have discovered now, it is not at all a crime. Not a hate crime as US authorites say in the Palin case.
The next level of expression is constantly attacking a certain group in media. This has greater impact and attracts the attention of the intelligentsia, not that they will do much about it. It is the work of the educated and the interesting aspect is that they raise some issues at fundamental level or conceptual level. This is also not a crime.
The next level is to beat up someone because they belong to certain community. This is practised widely all over the world and ignored or supported conveniently by politicians depending upon whether it serves their agenda. This is a high risk game. In India getting arrested or becoming hero are the only two possibilities in this game; and one may have dubious distinction of achieving both in one stroke! But the game must be arranged well so that these activities must follow the said order. The sequence cannot be becoming hero first and then getting arrested. It might work if the hero has lost his position in which case he becomes a zero before the arrest, so the statement is right.
I think when it comes of freedom of speech USA has much to learn from us!
Hmm, it’s ok to do it to a Palin effigy, but God forbid if someone did the same for Obama. BIG difference – HUGE consequences – THEN it becomes a hate crime.
I don’t like it. Period. For either party. I think it’s poor taste and disgusting, be it for Palin, Obama or any political or otherwise figure.
But the differences, that makes it all the worse.
Come to think of it, burning of effigies is a symbolic cultural thing for us. We burn Ravana effigies at Dassera, and folks in Goa burn Narkasura effigies in Divali on the first day. All acompanied by a huge public outpouring of excitement.
I suppose nobody would have paid any attention here if someone had simply and quietly hung an effigy outside their house like they did for Palin.
But maybe this effigy stuff is a bit new for the US….(I may be wrong , too)
Dear Aleta and Ugich Konitari,
Thanks for your comments and observations. The write up has a background of some undesirable trends in Indian politics. When symbolically we must destroy the ‘bad’ as in burning effigy of Ravana, the message is that we must remove bad tendencies. The problem is when people get angry and burn effigies, the insensitive leaders ignore [and can afford to ignore] the feelings of people. So the sensitivity of US citizens is a welcome change.
When people fit to be effigies become leaders who rule us, the swamp that we are in will continue to haunt us.
Aleta’s comment is interesting! It seems to me that the person those ‘rolls of waste’ is supposed to signify makes a ton of difference ! Perhaps all the difference.
And one can see whats happening when effigy burning is stoked with fiery divisive discourses. That is highly combustible. Like we are seeing now..
I came back to this post and reread my response. I have to ask for your forgiveness. I generally don’t come off so strong in my responses, as least, I hope I don’t. Some things I’m passionate about and your post was one of them. But now I see, you’ve opened my eyes more, that in some cultures, this isn’t a hate crime as much as it is an expression. I still don’t agree with it being done… but that is my heritage showing. I’ll keep a more open eye and heart to posts. Hoping for your patience and understanding.