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The Government and The Emperor’s New Clothes

Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Andersen's first illustrator. (Source: Wikipedia)

It is the duty of the media, be it digital, print or electronic to criticize and to critique the system not for any political ends but for the larger interest of the public

By Paojel Chaoba, Executive Editor, The Frontier Manipur

There have been much polemics over the subtle distinction between ‘to critique and to criticise’. However, the fallout of contemporary politics has both the words tainted with negative connotations like many more outdated and value-neutral words and phrases. Despite the existing twists to popular semantics, those of us from the world of journalism and media had since long been fed with the belief and value that ‘to critique and to criticise is our responsibility and for some perhaps, the job of showering praises and flattering political regimes.

Yes! Within the constitutional democracy, we enjoy, it is not only the job of the journalist to critique and to criticise. Each citizen has a duty to perform and can express his or her views freely based on the call of the conscience. This voice from within may instigate us one and all to raise our voices while “the other conscience” influenced by fear and greed may tell you to keep silent and be perhaps make one comfortable with statist views that are contrary of democratic values.

Maybe times are bad! The system may seek to convince or confuse and more or less seek to pound one down to submission. It has become a norm to crack the whip on those whose dissenting voices are clearly against any repressive power. Willy-nilly, many have been murmuring that the times are bad. However, the songs of the bad times will be sung aloud and not murmured anymore.

One can imagine the predicament and moral issues faced by Galileo Galilei, the scientist who argued that the earth revolves around the sun. His argument was against the Church’s belief on geocentrism – the belief that the earth is fixed at the centre of the universe. Today, we know who was speaking what and what the challenge was. However, our current understanding and acceptance of the conceptual difference between – geocentrism and heliocentrism will be inconsequential to the powers that be of the ages gone by under which Galileo was persecuted. And hence, Galileo was a heretic for challenging the belief of the Church. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life and died but he died with his belief in verifiable observation or his own truth.

Amidst the tumultuous times, we can observe the power of any repressive systems and the ways they act and manoeuvre to win the trust of the public or to confuse all at best. Many are punished for lifting a finger with no chances of getting relief. The executive and the judicial systems are at times seemingly left to twist and dance to the whims of those in power while the common man or a simple peasant is left in the lurch or a vast desert with promises of a bountiful crop. Many continue to shovel and water the ground even as the futility of the exercise cannot be questioned as the proverbial sword of Damocles over their heads. However, those who have endured the labour and pains feel the hunger pangs and the primal need to satiate oneself oscillating between the idea of the citizen and a mere subject of the state. The questioning will have to be raised sooner or later.

Presently, we can see those who have raised dissenting voices are being punished. Their arms twisted, some are at times offered sweets and are left to enjoy in private – their voices lost as they salivate and lick the jaggery syrup of the materialistic world. Many intellectuals and those who are known to raise questions are left in a whirlpool of self-doubt. They ask themselves if the effort is worth landing up in the bad books of the regime and take the risk. Many are forced to confine themselves in their comfort zones and cocoons.  It is understandable that those employed by the system would rather tow its line. This does not mean, there are no mavericks around even within the system. They do have eyes to make a distinction between black and white or the proverbial slave-master relationships. There are others who are willing to bare their backs willingly and wait for the whip. History bears witness to Socrates being made to consume hemlock by the Athenians for the allegation of corrupting young minds.  
Even as widespread oppression seems prevalent and the cheap rhetoric of jokers holds much water, the voices of faceless individuals in their master’s not-so-secret service literally infest the social media, barking at every comment which disagrees with the master’s voice. One can easily conjure up the image of a dog sitting near a gramophone on the once very popular logo of “HMV” or “His Master’s Voice”.

It is the duty of the media, be it digital, print or electronic to criticize and to critique the system not for any political ends but for the larger interest of the public and to provide a redressal platform that is prevalent. To remain a silent spectator or to illogically ornate the populist programmes of the government is not a healthy practice. Those in power should learn to acknowledge when the public smells the stink. The dispensation should find out from where it is emanating from, to address the cesspool policies if there is any, instead of lashing out with orchestrated forces and emotive blindness.

One is reminded of the literary folktale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen titled “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The tale revolves around the story of how weavers of a vain king swindle him by giving beautiful ‘invisible clothes’ to appease his ego. The vain king parades around his kingdom in the nude. 

The public out of fear and reprisal applauds the king and his new outfit, afraid to say that the king is making a fool out of himself. Finally, a young boy points out to the king that he is not wearing any clothes. Similarly, the onus to tread on the lines of the young boy falls on those who dare and also know that we, the citizens have the freedom to express their views without fear while maintaining ethical values.

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