Sensitivity versus Sensationalism

on Sunday, August 17, 2008

Any allegation of corruption or a scandal finds a ready buyer in us but if any virtue is attributed to anyone, the sceptic within us has doubts.


Can we invoke our sensitivity for a change and give it a chance over sensations? Our lives, public and private, are driven by sensations all around. Without killing sensitivity sensations cannot survive. Our growing appetite for sensations has therefore, if not killed, blunt our sensitivity. Media, print and electronic, has played major role in sensationalisation of everything for their commercial compulsions.

Murder, in itself, is news. But these days, mere murder does not give us the kick. It is not worthy of reporting, at least prominently. Murder must have other unusual ingredients, like parents killing child or some angle of illicit relationship or sex as the motive and so on and so for, for occupying prime time slot or headlines. It would be unfair to singularly blame the media for this state of affairs. We, the viewers and readers want sensation too. This appetite for sensation on our part makes commercial sense for the news channels. Is this appetite of ours not responsible for the crimes? Are we not together creating the world around us in which we are living? Can we see this? And if we are really tired of all this, will someone else come and change it for us, or will we ourselves have to bring about this change? Let us seriously examine this. All may not be ready to seriously examine it; and masses may not be prepared to be confronted with such direct questions. Besides, the politicians and organised religions will not want them to do so either, for their comfort is derived from the ‘fear’ and ‘escapist attitude’ of masses. Now, unfortunately, the media has become yet another party with vested interest in the insensitivity of masses. At times, one wonders whether we are collectively heading towards times when we shall directly partner in crime for the sake of sensation! Or are we not already doing so?

Our insensitivity towards the grief of the late Aarushi’s parents or the families of Nithari victims was evident when our taste buds for sensation were curiously relishing the baseless stories that were written and dished out to us by insensitive and inefficient police and security agencies through media. Aarushi was a bright student. Can the schools throughout the country not hold prayer meetings for this tragedy that happened with a student? Is it not enough for the schools to relate to Aarushi as a student? Or, is not enough for all of us, the society as a whole to relate to her because she was a daughter and share the grief and render prayers for departed little Aarushi instead of keeping glued to the TV sets showing disgustingly monotonous hypothesis on killings? If our conduct is driven by sensitivity and not sensation, the media will also want to report refined sensitivities.

Corruption and terrorism are also direct products of this appetite for sensation and lack of sensitivity. Charges of corruption give us the kick because it helps our subconscious mind to invent a villain in the corrupt person. Invention of a villain or a hero isolates our false identity, the ego, from one unified existence. Having found villain in a political party or an ideology, the ego goes out in search of a hero in antithesis and walks into the trap of exploitation laid by the opponents! We fail to realise that an equally corrupt other person, party or ideology is waiting to exploit us. Can we see this?

Any allegation of corruption or a scandal finds a ready buyer in us but if any virtue is attributed to anyone, the sceptic within us has doubts. Are we not, at some deep subconscious level busy playing a game that ‘I am’ better and therefore not prepared to see and believe a virtue (that I do not have!) but ready to believe the charge of scandal or corruption without a blink?

When our insensitivity fails to see injustice—and agonies of any individual, group or groups, such groups would want them to be noticed so that their cause is noticed. Sensation is a shortcut to being noticed. Initially, the deprived groups create sensation through terrorism. But before long, such groups are used by anti national and anti human groups for their dubious ends; and they invariably succeed because, we as a society, continue to remain insensitive. Thus, the roots of terrorism are in our collective insensitivity and manifestation of terrorism is the outcome of our appetite for sensation.

Sensitivity inspires our senses to act rightly while the sensation gives us a temporary tickle to otherwise dormant and dumb senses. Sensitivity is from within, sensation is external. Ego needs sensation; sensitivity is nature of being. Our appetite for sensation not only blunts our sensitivity but drives our personal and public life to lower levels of existence. Increase in stress levels and growing disharmony in personal relationships is direct result of growing insensitivity. Mind-boggling figures of corruption, immoral and unethical means of grabbing and retaining power, vulgar manifestation of ill-gotten wealth by politicians and powerful people through children’s weddings and birthday bashes are all creating a sensation. If such sensations stops giving us kicks, the politicians or ‘powerful’ people will have little incentive in staging such events. They only want to be noticed and if sensationalism stops coming to their aid, it will gradually lose its utlity. Once sensitivity replaces the appetite for sensation, the political leaders will be forced to exhibit greater sensitivity to get noticed, even when it is for electoral gains which will bring about an altogether new beginning.

Peace and harmony at social and personal planes will be a natural consequence of sensitivity replacing our appetite for sensation. Numerous sensational marriages and divorces in one’s life and superfluous emotions of pain and pleasure as shown in soap operas on TV screens would be found futile when human relationships at personal and at collective levels will experience the fragrance of sensitivity.

Do we want to experience a real, sane world around us, free of corruption, exploitation and terror, and not merely as another sensational utopian ideal? Then, let us give sensitivity a chance by first calming our appetite for sensations.

-NIRANJAN TOLIAS

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