Sunday, October 23, 2011


Goody is no more, but the happenings of that time have lessons for us; how do we respond...?

The racial remarks controversy from the ‘Big Brother’ reality show in Britain was well highlighted in India. Eventually Shilpa Shetty won and besides fame she also made some money. A few weeks later Goody too visited India and she was well received—forgiven and forgotten.

In a reality show a participant needs to survive in order to win. In order to survive he would make the most of the arsenal at his disposal. Arsenal meaning the array of interpersonal skills at his disposal—could be bouquets or could be barbs. It depends on what he thinks is ‘good strategy’ and what he thinks is ‘fair’ in order to win that prize… Goody and her mates were found using barbs… Whether by design or by default, they went about hounding Shilpa; and Shilpa Shetty on her part was found susceptible to racial slur.

Two important questions that get highlighted here are these:
1) Is it gentlemanly (lady like in this case) to use that tone and strategy on someone?
2) And next, need such a behavior be condemned as legally, ethically or morally in-appropriate in a community or society or nation?

Behind British mannerisms of gentlemanly and lady like behavior there is actually a big heart. Even though at times people all over the world use ‘high class’ mannerisms to claim exclusivity and aloofness, in essence good mannerisms are built around having dignified, comfortable and caring relationships with people. The spiritual essence of good mannerisms it that ‘living water’ should flow between people as they do things together… Therefore it is easy to recommend that people must be gentlemanly or lady like in their ways—use bouquets—for then they could win hearts, achieve more and be happier all along too…

As for the second part, as to how the society should react to it, being ‘politically correct’ doesn’t seem like the best way out. ‘political correctness’ puts people under constant pressure that the correct words need to be used, that in-correct words should not be used, and only acceptable behavior is allowed. Such an attitude is embedded in the concept of ‘tolerance’. And tolerance in itself is a state of ‘tension’.
Jesus Christ did not tolerate the Jews, nor did Mohammed the prophet ‘tolerate’ the infidels (he cared even for them and wished their welfare), nor did Lord Krishna tolerate the many characters in the Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’. There is a need to look for a response that is based on adherence to an even higher ideal—higher than ‘tolerance’.

Situations of conflict are bound to arise when people live together. On such occasions of conflict, if people leave the nasty behind and take a loving approach, and still hold fort on their issues of concern, then their relationships are comfortable and they are happy… In comparison to others, who have poorer approaches to life, they gain—if not immediately surely eventually. And this produces a ‘high quality’ existence for that individual and the society to which he belongs… Keeping this in mind, a society seeking welfare, would coax its people into taking a pleasanter approach to life. The call to gentlemanliness and lady like behavior is hence a call for successful encashment of life’s potential.

Coming back to the Big Boss issue, there are two things that society may take up for handling a controversy of racial slur…
a) Apply the rules and laws as is appropriate.
b) Take whatever steps possible in the direction of education of people towards a pleasanter approach to life.
Therefore, if Big Brother has violated norms, the rule of law should act. Censor boards or institutions dealing with public decency should play their part according to rules. Opinion makers should make their views heard. And then leave it at that.
The alternate strategy of hounding those responsible into making apologies is meaningless and distasteful. In such an approach there is an element of one-upmanship trying to assert oneself as being tolerant to a greater extent than another and that needs to be taken out from the society’s response.

The essence of human nature would set things right in its own course. Shilpa’s winning of the competition and the fall from grace of the others is that natural course of human nature. And the attempts made by those fallen from grace, to patch up, should be credited to their good sense and humaneness.

So how does one look at this episode at Big Boss objectively…? If one is scientifically disposed then the issue can be looked upon through the perspective of ‘group dynamics’. In ‘Group Dynamics’ inter personal relationships and power play happening in small groups (2 upwards) is studied. A possible situation in groups of individuals consists of a process of ‘hounding’; one person gets singled out and a whole bunch of others pounce on him. It happens in groups of all kinds. It can be an issue as simple as brunette Vs blonde, a nerd, someone ‘different’… anything different. And in ‘Big Brother’ Shilpa’s alien status was used to single out a person. Such reality shows are good laboratories for psychologists…

In other words the situation was a problem of individuals and not of nations. A group was not familiar, or did not want to familiarize itself, with the customs of a person—never mind what the motive was. And people all over the world sometimes refer to nasty approaches. Even India is no exception; the mother-in-law daughter-in-law conflict is legendary in India. And it is also true that for every Shilpa Shetty who can maintain a dignified posture one can also find others who would have retorted on equal or nastier terms…
The viewers obviously loved the dignified approach from Shilpa as against the nasty approach from Goody. Even so, could Shilpa have done better?

There are indeed a few (not many) who would have taken it all like water on a ducks back, never shed a tear, and happily gone through with it… many nerds get past taunts as if nothing ever happened, little people, out-of-the-group types… Think of Eddy Murphy in the same situation… He would possibly have made such a huge joke of it that the ‘group’ would have found themselves silly. Or may be Orpra would have done a great job in her own characteristic style. Let us say if David Beckham was to be cornered thus with some or the other issue issue he would get away with a disarming smile. Even from the starlets of Bollywood there are quite a few who would possibly have gotten away playing the fool…

The secret behind this is that one’s happiness does not really depend on external factors. Definitely Goody (or anybody) could create a hindrance but such a one cannot come in the way of someone’s happiness… An individual is said to be complete in himself—a fountain of joy unto himself. If he digs into his heart, as Jesus Christ says, living water would flow out of him… So adverse situations, like the one that was created in the 'Big Boss', should not matter.

The British public must let Goody be… if there is a law she has broken let her face the consequence, otherwise there is no need to hound her for apologies or with demands of political correctness…

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