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.