Sad case of Jacintha Saldanha: Why media sensitivity is still important

Today, screening of Mel Brooks’ highly irreverent  History of the World: Part I  in the vicinity of Vatican is more feasible without any fuss than it would be to even attempt doing it (even after 3 decades since its release) in a theatre near Velankanni Church of Tamilnadu, India. The reasons are not far to seek. While Christians of all denominations in the West have either learnt to live with iconoclasm or genuinely don’t bother about God or religion in a major way, other than perfunctory rites on birth, wedding and death, Christian devout galore in developing countries like India, Philippines and many other Asian countries sharing common thread of religiosity of native faiths such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism etc.

Has this got to do anything with the tragic case of  Jacintha Saldanha ? Yes – there are reasons why it’s quite important for countries steeped in Western/Modern civilisations to acknowledge that even in this globalised world with ubiquitous MNCs, similar burgers and same iOS/ Android powering new age gadgets on palms across the world, there are still fundamental differences in what can cause (in a person) a sense of indignation or shame and what could pass for as innocuous trifle to shrug off.

In pre-WW II Britain, a person being caught stealing or worse still being named and shamed on even page 5 of a local newspaper would have been sufficient cause to be socially ostracised for life. Fast forward 70 yrs and what we have is a situation where a bunch of people who wouldn’t even mind posing for national television cameras, with unconcealed glee and a show of guiltless entitlement, on subverting a wrecked ship’s cargo to personal garages. What could possibly have changed in a span of only so many decades ?

Conditioning by media  is invisible but truly a potent force in shaping how a society ends up regarding itself. It’s the same conditioning effect which has also resulted in West abandoning its age old prejudices, one after the other,  to the point where, in a country such as USA, for instance, ravaged by race riots only in 1960s, could embrace and show an excellent black actor as God himself, in a 2003 release (Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty) ! Things obviously don’t happen overnight. It must have taken 40 odd years of conscious effort on the part of some samaritans, to drive home these thoughts into public acceptance. However, such conditioning has also brought with it, certain debatable certitudes. Insulation from recognising shame let alone feel the pangs of it is one such bye-product. Increasingly, everything seems sellable to media, in exchange for cash. That doesn’t have to be feats, accomplishments anymore. It may as well be about misdeeds, misgivings or misfortune. It’s an age where alpha males that presided over financial meltdown don’t lose any sleep at all in their plush villas or sun-kissed chateaus, regardless of whatever ‘earned’ slur media or social media heaps on them.

The two Aussies involved in this aren’t expected to know that it could be a non-native English speaker attending the phone or that even if he/she spoke good English, it’s  likely that the person in her, though working in a cosmopolitan city like London, could still have a heightened sense of self-consciousness that may seem more apt for Victorian times than Danny Boyle’s melting pot Britain beamed across the world, only recently. Tragically, it’s this ignorance that has cost us an innocent life. Coming, as it does, on the year of Leveson report, it’s a damning way to remember 2012 as the year of media excesses.

When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made that infamous and highly chastised prank call, they were at least sure of one thing – Andrew Sachs won’t complain of chest pain or heart attack. Thankfully, despite that call’s deplorable banality,  it didn’t cause any  unmitigatable grief. In some cultures, an old man can still develop real chest pain.

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2 Responses to Sad case of Jacintha Saldanha: Why media sensitivity is still important

  1. Exerji – I agree that a part of the world and people haven’t got the exposure and may be sensitive. But I cannot see the connection here with Christianity, Vatican etc. On one-hand I am very sympathetic to Saldhana and her family, but no one expected this. I am sure when the prank came out, all of us had a hearty laugh or at least a smile on our lips. A couple of days later, this comes and everyone gets sensitive! I am not sure myself as how to react to this prank… On a diff note, I am shocked at the cowardice of this lady too. Seriously If someone calls from ‘the Palace’, I would have done the same… Would you pause the call and ask for an ID? Such a silly incident that has resulted in such a sorrow state – fate? Please don’t put me in to chalta hai category… I sincerely don’t know how to react.

  2. exerji says:

    Hi Balaji

    Thanks for being here and for your comments.

    The allusion to Christianity, Vatican was just as a case in point, to highlight how different people from varying backgrounds grade what’s trivial from what’s profound. Sorry, if it proved distracting.

    Like you, I still feel distraught by what’s happened. I guess many of us would have points in life when it would seem not worth living, especially if there is a loveless marriage one can’t get out of or if years of committment shown in a relationship crumbles without fair play etc. However, even in bleakest of such moments, the very thought of one’s child and the joy their presence and innocent smile brings to our heart can easily overpower such terrible emotions and life moves on.

    It’s a very cruel turn of fate that the person those DJs picked to speak, would be so alone and vulnerable to take to this extreme step despite what’s at stake (her family, children).

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