Hidden Persuaders!?

Sometime back I read about the book “Hidden Persuaders” written by Vance Packard in 1956. It is interesting to note that the observations made almost a century ago seem more relevant today! At least in India….May be I am wrong Hidden persuaders are keeping their “iron grip” on the masses, almost everywhere like a curse! May be their ‘kind’ varies! Somewhere it is glamour, at others it is power, still others are followers of a religion…some others are simply salesmen!

The author of the book believes that the right of privacy of our minds and of our existence as dictated by our inner self is a basic and important human right. But the Persuaders have “invaded this privacy of our minds”. The author asserts that ‘it is this right to privacy of our minds – privacy to be rational or irrational – that I believe we must strive to protect”. Unfortunately, that striving is visible nowhere. We seem to be simply being led as the kids followed the mythical ‘pied-piper’.
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And unfortunately today, in the age of consumerism and electronic media, in the age of IT based instant communication, this right is being violated with impunity. Marketing is the new name for such hidden persuasion. Consumers and citizens all over the world have been reduced to hopeless and hapless victims of the alluring charm of the hidden persuader, who cheerfully lends his services to anyone, REPEAT, ANYONE, FOR A PRICE!
Film and sports celebrities are the worst culprits in this regard. They take upon themselves the responsibility of ‘persuading’ people from all walks of life, specially the youth and kids, to buy/use and project the items as crucial to one’s image/pride/beauty/macho-ism, including presenting oneself as progressive! So Amitabh Bachan sells himself to sell an oil of dubious credentials and Hema Malini swears by the purity of the water cleaned by the purifier of a particular brand! The list is long!
I  wonder as to why these charming persuaders sell their conscience to be-fool their unsuspecting fans? The fans because of whom they stand where they are? Only for a few ‘more’ bucks? Also, the moot question is – why are the people so gullible?
In the political arena, Hitler was one of the pioneer persuader who sold the idea of German superiority to the gullible (or too nationalistic) Germans. So much so that they were convinced that the Jews ought to be wiped out from this earth! Political leaders of South Asia, many African and other countries have sold the idea of their National superiority to be at war with the neighbours perpetually! India and Pakistan wre included in that list. So is USA under Trump! The danger to a religion is the most saleable argument to these persuaders.

It also defies logic as to Why intelligent people consider their pride and self image so fragile? Why do they get trapped by the sweet talk, knowing fully well that the celebrities are doing it only for money which is included in the pricing of the product? And politicians are doing for snatching power from their opponents?  People often ignore their own rationality for dubious claims of the charmers! But why?

 
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Standing up and be counted!

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When human rights and human dignity is at stake, it is the duty of every right thinking person to oppose the perpetrators of injustice. When the powers that be are vindictive believe in suppressing dissent with brute power, it becomes necessary to stand up and be counted even at the risk to your limb and life! Some young people have  shown exemplary courage in this regard. But most secure and highly placed/affluent persons in India have miserably failed in standing by the truth and humanity. They have been too scared to risk their cozy habitats!
I am amazed at the capability of Bollywood celebrities to steer clear of all controversial, but still important, issues – particularly if the issue involves powerful people or can offend them. One such recent issue is the stand taken by a young student named Gurmehar Kaur against the state sponsored terror oriented censorship by ABVP. Recently, Divya Dutta, an actress and columnist (and now an author) visited Government College for Women in our city Ludhiana. As expected, she was asked to comment on the issue raging in the minds of all right thinking people. But she refused to comment saying “I don’t want to discuss politics here, neither do I want to comment on the issue. No comments at all”
Readers of her column in the Tribune would know that she regularly comments on the ‘achievements’ of every Bollywood celebrity, talks of love, compassion, courage and character! She always speaks from the high platform of virtuosity but when it comes to real life issues she asserts  NO COMMENTS! Strange! isn’t it? Indian celebrities only want to make “please all” comments!This was me on election morning. Wearing white, wearing a pantsuit, and full of hope.
Compare it with the attitude and behavior of Hollywood celebrities who came forward in hordes to condemn the racial and parochial approach of  President Trump to the American values. Latest to join the ‘fighters’ is JK Rowling, the Harry Potter sensation, who called the bluff of Trump on Women’s day. To Trump’s tweet about his ‘tremendous respect for women’, Rowling re-quoted his earlier comment on women “Just kiss, I don’t ever wait …grab them by the p****y …you can do anything”. Bravo Rowling!
It is shameful that Indian celebrities who survive on the goodwill and money of ordinary people, don’t want to come out in the open to call a spade a spade! Humanity and human rights/justice dont seem to them topics worthy enough to demand their time and reaction. How can justice to poor band have-nots be ensured?

 

THE PRESIDENT AND THE TRUTH!

 

A few decades back, one quality that was highly appreciated and sought after was the ability to “call a spade a spade”.

A few decades back, one quality that was highly appreciated and sought after was the ability to “call a spade a spade”. Anyone who possessed that quality was looked at with high respect, and people in responsible positions were required to possess that “quality”. But that no more seems to be true. After the advent of much touted liberalization and free market, the portals of free thought seem to be shrinking fast. This much sought after quality is now looked down upon as an infectious disease which needs be vaccinated against! So much so that even the people who have attained everything possible in life and have actually nothing to lose by speaking the truth also make earnest efforts to be “politically correct” lest they earn the wrath of concerned people! Every day we see so many people making patently false statements and showering accolades on the people who should actually be castigated for their anti-social/self serving actions. One recent such incident that stumped me was the observations made by the First Citizen of the nation at the “National Seminar for the Welfare of Lawyers” organized by the Delhi Bar Council. Funny nation, in the first place, where the most lucrative professionals also need their “welfare” being discussed like this!

 

The President of the country made a statement that “the nation needs to reset its moral compass”, an interesting but highly diluted statement at that.  The question that actually needs to be asked of the collective national conscience is whether, even after seventy years independence, the country does have any moral compass?  If at all there is one, it needs not be reset, but totally overhauled. It seemed that the First Citizen is entirely out of touch with the ground reality about the legal profession and those practicing it. How could he, otherwise make a sweeping judgmental statement that “lawyers had played major role in ensuring the basic rights and furthering the cause of democracy.” Alas, It were true! Any citizen who has had the occasion to deal with this enlightened class of society, has an entirely a different story to share. It is the lawyers (barring a minuscule and honorable minority) who have been instrumental in basic rights being denied to majority of the people – especially the have-nots, down-trodden and marginalized sections of the society. It is not without a reason that they are one of the professions from whom a common man wants to be saved/protected! The truth is exactly the reverse of what the President wants us to believe.

 

Another statement he made, forced laughter! He said that he had “no hesitation in stating that the Indian legal system as a whole had lived up to the faith and confidence of the people”. Has it, really? Thirty year on and not even a single conviction of the perpetrators of the worst post-partition holocaust in the national capital – under the very nose of the national government! None of the powerful judicial wings had the guts to even question the most obnoxious statement made by the Prime Minister of the nation that added fuel to the fire and legitimized the massacre of  innocent people. The entire judicial system in fact took a cue and ensured that no justice was done! No, Mr. President you are too shortsighted and suffer from selective amnesia, a national disease in such cases, if you still decide to eulogize the legal system that failed to deliver justice to the lakhs of hapless people. Not only this, this efficient system has persistently failed to protect the basic human rights of the people who are forced to fight to protect their hearths and livelihood.  Barring a few bright instances, this system  has actually damaged the cause of democracy to a point of almost no return by mostly keeping mum on violations of the law and the constitution by the mighty and powerful! As an example one can see the news (on the same day)  of Supreme Court clearing the vitriolic young Varun Gandhi of the charges of delivering hate speeches for want of (what else) evidence.

 

And finally the President made another statement: “Bar deserved unequivocal recognition for stellar achievements” Yes- it does….for its achievement in the form of millions of pending case; for delay of decades in deciding petty theft case and ensuring that innocent people languish in jails for periods much larger than the maximum punishment for those crimes and for protecting the mighty and powerful from the long arm of the law! It is keeping these BRIGHT SPOTS of the legal/judicial system that forced Surjit Patar, the Gyanpeeth and Sahit Academy award winner to lament and write:

                                Waiting for justice,

People have transformed into trees;

                                Ask them to go home

                                Till when they will keep standing here?

Fortunately, the President could not hide the pathetic situation in the corridors of law for too long and also shared that the women lawyers have moved a petition in the Supreme Court to enforce its own verdict for providing congenial work atmosphere in the law/court rooms. A classic example of “nearer to church and farther from God”! All is not well Mr. President but it needs guts to call a spade a spade- particularly when the spades happen to be so powerful. I wish you showed those guts Mr. President!