The act of reverence

Before writing this article I tried finding out the number of blogs which exist today. Most of the reports dated to 2008. I guess people have given up estimating the number given the rush in blogging space. Apparently there is one new blog being created every 1 second which translates to 31 million being added every year to the existing set of around 150 million blogs. The latest figure on the number of blogs is around 120 million. Not to mention out of all the blogs created more than 90 pc don’t survive for a year. I guess it is my fear of joining the 90 pc which keeps me going. Maintaining a blog is difficult. I am no celebrity that others would be interested in my life. Talking about which I sometimes wonder why are we so obsessed with celebrities. And now that even the Nobel prized is being doled out to celebrated presidents, the celebrity obsession has made inroads to academia also. While I feel there is nothing wrong of being celebrity inclined, given that there is a strong possibility that everyone one who has made it big has done so in-spite of multiple obstacles and thus makes a good case for emulation, the total lack of due diligence on our part on who deserves praise and who does-not is totally appalling.

Jyoti Basu’s death generated more interest in West Bengal than anything else in the recent past. So when three of my friends who are least interested in politics asked me what I felt about his tenure as the chief minister, I realised much has been spoken in media to generate so much interest. And so as to remain a-political I will not comment so much on his chief minister ship as on the extreme views which columnist took. The funniest one was this –In his final months, when he took to his bed, Basu was miserable because he could not function. To his way of thinking, a Marxist goes down fighting at the barricades; a prolonged fade out accompanied by hordes of people in attendance is an ignominious end of a life committed to a struggle – the objective of which was a gloriously utopian world sans oppression, exploitation, violence….

Columnist Sumit Mitra in his article in Times of India, Don’t sing only hosannahs makes two very good points regarding the use of verbose and elaborate praises in obituaries . To quote him – Most of those who decide on what should appear in newspapers chose instead to go for an overkill of hagiography, with a welter of modern counterparts of the “useless phrases” that George Orwell cited in his seminal essay, Politics and the English Language – “jackboot” , “Achilles’ heel” , “hotbed” , “melting pot” , “acid test” , “veritable inferno” .

The second point is much more important. The histrionics in newspapers over Basu’s death is not an exception but a trend. Ramachandra Guha, historian and a keen social observer, was among the first to note this “cult of celebrity” when, in 2006, he wrote about the media going gaga over the demise of BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, but remaining silent after the death of C Subramaniam, the man who spearheaded the Green Revolution. It was The Economist that did not fail to grasp the man’s place in history, featuring him in its famous Obituary page. Like democracy, nationhood, and much else in India, her newspapers too must come of age to respect our dead by fair judgment, not lachrymose theatricals.

This celebrity worship can also be seen in the corporate world. Taking every word of the senior management as gospel is nothing short of intellectual dishonestly and might have huge repercussions. Regarding the use of English phrases like ‘ challenges’, ‘ value proposition’ to fill up the gap when we have nothing really substantial to talk about, the less said the better. Those interested can of course read up the entire Dilbert series on corporate jargon. I feel getting awed at success and failure is quite natural but what is more important is reserving the final judgement on due diligence and not only pure reverence.


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