Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 07/10/16 6:11 AM

Feature: Where has nuance gone?

Where has nuance gone?

t`s a bad time to be a whiter shade of pale. Or lavender, mauve, mint, teal, chartreuse….

Actually, it`s a bad time to be subtle. To fall back on irony and expect the listener/viewer/observer to get just what you mean.

This was brought home sharply vis-à-vis a recent post I shared on a social networking site. It was an interview with a renowned historian, a pithy piece studded with pertinent nuggets.

The passage I had cut and pasted above the link was one where the historian had said that Jawaharlal Nehru was being held accountable for anything and everything bad that had happened to the country in the past 70 years.

The sardonic tone was clear even in the excerpt…except, quite a few people just didn’t get it. And faithful to their stand, these people hastened to express their satisfaction at two things: one, the historian seeing the light at last,  and two, this heretic, namely me, obviously following suit by posting the interview. Welcome to the fold, they said volubly, exuberantly.

A quick read-through of the interview would have revealed just what the gentleman meant. He was ruing the great tarring game going on.

So okay, expecting people to read the whole article may have been ambitious but here`s the thing: a read-through, quick or otherwise, of the excerpted passage alone should have made things pretty clear.

Let me rephrase that: it should have made things pretty clear, once upon a time.  No longer, alas.

Now, it`s all about making statements in black and white. Now, espousing  one position means repudiating every single facet of the other position.

The rules are clear: if you stand up to be  counted, please make sure you are on the right side, or prepare to be skewered. And please stick to the KISS principle; don’t confuse matters by parsing the issue at hand. As Herr Hitler would have said: it`s Aryan or vermin. As George W did say: it`s for us or against us.

The word nuance is defined thusly: a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound. But what price that difference when subtlety itself has acquired distinct persona non grata status?

Even as history is being rewritten to suit what the newspapers called `vested interests,` a  certain kind of aggression, totally absent of any cerebral mooring, walks abroad, flexing its biceps and stretching its many-centimetered chest.

Those who do not see or acknowledge nuance actually have it easy. The path is clear to denounce, to harass, to spew invective (presstitutes, libtards, anyone? How genteel `pseudo-secular` sounds now!), to barge into people`s homes, check the contents of their fridge and then, bludgeon them to death.

To accost young couples and ask them which caste or community they belong to; to stage protests when two consenting adults decide to marry outside their respective castes; to harass women they consider are dressed inappropriately; to burn books they would in any case, never read; to turn into a lumpen mob with the flick of a calibrated switch.The no-nuancewallas just don`t get it.

Put in KISS terms, the fact that condemnation of the 2002 riots does not, in any way, mean acceptance or justification of the 1984 riots.

That recognising (unbearable) braggadocio in one individual does not mean excusing the (abject) lack of leadership skills in another. That subjecting so-called sacred space to incisive scrutiny does not mean disrespect therein.

That the young man who courageously stands up to intimidation on a college campus is not a messiah, just a brave man who may or may not stand the test of time.

That applauding the government for its attempts at good governance does not mean buying into its ideological rhetoric.  That the purview  of art and literature has to soar above governmental shackles to really work.

That, in fact, life itself has to be examined and questioned frequently, for it to really work, be meaningful.

A melting pot culture necessarily implies the peaceful coexistence of nuanced people leading nuanced lives. Those who are seeking to banish nuance are doing our future generations a grave disservice. The no-nuancewallas also need to see, realise and acknowledge the idea of India. Hello, India is a great country.

It does not need endorsement or verification by anyone. Hopefully, she will rise above today`s unintelligent goons with their knee-jerk responses, their proclivity to offend and take offence, their innate belief that their vision of India can be hammered into shape, both mentally and physically.

However, in the interim, the scarring of India`s  psyche continues. Today`s slogans, indeed,  have the potential to become tomorrow`s precepts. And that is precisely what scares me. Will someone bring nuance back, please?

abuseartcastecoexistencecommunityFeaturehistorianHitlerironyJawaharlal NehruliteratureMan`s World magazinenuancesubtlethe lack of nuance in societytrolls

Sheila Kumar • July 10, 2016

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