Saturday, January 14, 2012

In praise of dishonesty

Caveat lector, let the reader beware, this is not a satire. The author wholeheartedly believes in what the title states. True there might be some subtly and sophistry involved even some degree of qualification but on the whole the statement stands.  There is a strong belief in this society and others elsewhere that honesty in all its form is good and beneficial. I believe it is a pernicious view which can only harm us and make us pessimistic especially considering the time we live in. Look around us and you will see disorder, hatred, corruption and other such fiendish things. Are we not supposed to espouse the efficacy and need for honesty and such other commendable values? The answer, if not obvious to you all, is a resounding no. For if indeed moral appeal did work it would have worked by now. This battle against moral degradation needs to be fought with cunningness and Machiavellian style; moral luminaries of the world might disagree but then my response would be they can go and inflict pain elsewhere.

Jose Saramago, the Nobel laureate writer said "Pessimists are the ones who change the world, for the optimists being the ones who are enthralled with what it is.", at the expense of sounding extremely conceited, I think he got it wrong. It is not the pessimists but rather the unreasonable ones, as Bernard Shaw suggested, on whom all progress depends. One has to be unreasonable and deeply so, in order to believe there exists a bright future for this country; our future depends on such a belief. We can bicker, quiver, and lash out venomous satires against the society but of what good is it?  Yes it might make us feel superior as if we are above these squalid creatures or criminals but that’s about it, much ado about nothing. What we need is a heroic unreasonable belief that the country is in a good state, be dishonest with ourselves and for a change not complain. Yes we have heard it all, the crime rate, the fraud, the traffic, the imminent devastating earthquakes, the politics and what not. What good has it done us? US cities have more crime rate than ours, Chinese government is far more corrupt than ours, New York probably has the worse traffic jams in the world!
Our negativism justified or not, has real life consequences. When we grow abroad and interact with foreigners we ourselves give the vibe that they shouldn’t invest in Bangladesh and then at the same time vehemently protest Government’s inability to promote FDI, how patently ridiculous. We are ambassadors of our country and this has to be recognized, self pity is the sign of weakness and inadequacy. Our media needs to be dishonest too; there I have committed a blasphemy. As Oscar Wilde rightly pointed out "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. I can already see critics, especially the bardolators among them,  going but the purpose of art is " . . . to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature." And I should say let the literary genius rest. Instead of giving stories on number people dying and disappearing let us give news on positive ones too; yes something like the Rickshaw puller returning BDT 2.5 lakh. But don’t make them sound inspiring and unique, make them look common place. It is precisely their uniqueness and the way they are covered, with grandeur and pomposity, that defeats all its purpose. Instead of inspiring further act of heroism it only strengthens our pessimism. They should be in the back page, in a small section, just like an occasional theft; subliminal message that is what is needed.

As for our video media, ah the level of honesty is simply sickening. The dramas portray dysfunctional families and the pervasive sadness in our life, the so called art film, as if we were oblivious to reality. What we need is believable characters that have veneer of normality, which allows the audience to relate to them, and yet have some edifying qualities which inspires the viewers. For instance a character who makes a point of using foot over bridge when crossing a road or waits for the red light to cross the road using a zebra crossing. This alone can probably reduce our traffic congestion significantly, if the drama is of any good. It is also about rational expectation, the more people are bombarded with work of ‘heroism’, the more people will take them for granted and when confronted with similar situation will react accordingly. Human beings thankfully are cognitive misers; the universal maxim of our age as Schopenhauer said is “to get by with the least possible expenditure of thought”. Hence with such little dishonesty on the part of the vaunted guardian of truth i.e. media, much can be achieved at the trifling cost of conscience.

If the reader is detested by the aforesaid ribaldry then the fault squarely lies on the reader for he/she, lest I look gender biased, was forewarned. If at all I sincerely hope that I have inflicted you with some level of doubt after all better doubt in knowledge than certainty in ignorance.