Ethics - Sach ka Saama - Is this truth or voyeurism?
by Pravin Patkar
When I keenly watched the first episode of 'Sach Ka Samana, I realised that it is an explosive event that can hardly be ignored. No doubt it has a huge voyeuristic potentiality but in today's world there are several options for the voyeurs other than such shows.
As usual the politically oriented religious leaders and the conservative political outfits have started turning their guns against the show. They had barely recovered from the strain of deciding their war strategy against the Delhi high court's decision in favour of the same sex minority when this came to the fore. All indications are that the debate will become fiercer.
At once the show throws up several questions, subtle pornography being one of them. Roughly here we shall operationalize pornography as the public transaction of sexually explicit audio visuals such as text, and images, and so on for non scientific and non medical purposes.
Starting from the original show (The Moment of Truth) all its subsequent versions have capitalized mostly on the fragile nature of marital relationships and personal sexual morality with total disregard to the consequences of the guest revealing himself or herself publicly.
The objections to the show that have been raised so far are mostly flimsy. "What will happen to our culture and family system?" appears to be the biggest worry. The defense is using the opportunity to project oneself as the greatest modern day Messiah of Truth. That of course is the most ridiculous part of the entire debate.
Both the parties to the argument seem to be using a psychological model of mind as a pouch of delicate membrane in which some thorny seed of a sinful act deeply suppressed sometime in the past remains. This keeps pricking and bleeding the membrane. Sometime or the other the person to whom the pouch belongs has to bring that thorny seed out if he/she has to get a permanent relief from the pain. Once 'brought out', relief is assured. Why should sociologists accept such a model? Why should even all psychologists accept such a model? These questions are quite sound but majority of psychologists, much like the laypeople, follow this model.
Such shows try to judge their guests in their fantasyland. I don't know how many people especially women these days read Nancy Friday's ground breaking work of 1970s 'My Secret Garden' or 'Forbidden Flowers', or her other books mostly gathering sexual fantasies of women. Nancy, I won't be wrong to say, for the first time established the truth of female sexual fantasies. Much unlike the zoologist Alfred Kinsey who wrote 'Male Sexual Behaviour' and 'Female Sexual Behaviour' two books whose influence was enormous but credibility doubtful, Nancy Friday's credibility remained intact and her claims were further strengthened. Her books served a purpose. Even psychiatrists and sex therapists started suggesting her books to their female patients who had difficulties in enjoying sex. And still, all this remained strictly in the private domain without disrupting the social fabric. On the contrary, it might have saved several marriages which were on the verge of breaking.
The point is, human life is full of fantasies, sexual fantasies being no exceptions. If they help individuals enjoy sex they have served a vital purpose. They are a part of our truth. So are individual's toilet habits and bedroom secrets. In all this, we have followed one simple wisdom; all truth need not be exposed publicly.
There are many difficulties in the whole issue of truth itself. What is a truth for a person is to a great extent his perception. For instance, imagine a traffic jam and several cars stranded in a long queue. One driver in the queue gets out of the car to find out the reason. He meets a passer by who seems to know more. The driver inquires the reason. The passer by says, "There is an accident ahead and that has blocked the road'. The driver returns to his car. The owner sitting in the car asks the driver about the reason. The driver replies, "There is an accident ahead which has blocked the road". Is that the truth? Is there really an accident or is there just some routine police checking or just that a container carrier has broken down in the middle of the road. Who knows the truth? Is the driver telling a lie? What if the driver is put to a lie detector test? Of course, he will pass because he believes what he tells is the truth. In short, besides the question 'if there an independent truth that exists' there is one more possibility, that is, the truth may be just what one considers as the truth. In a situation where someone is going to judge, this alone is the case.
The next issue is about the detection machinery i.e. a polygraph or a lie detector. Simply speaking these are biofeedback monitors. I often use GSR monitor) (galvanic skin response biofeedback monitor) for meditation. ECG, EEG machines are also a kind of biofeedback monitors. The fact that biofeedback monitors can be used for training, for instance, meditation means one can learn (or rather one must learn) to train one's body in such a way as to get the required response from the biofeedback monitor. When you learn to relax on a biofeedback machine you master the art of manipulating the machine's response by adjusting your body and mind. These machines can be manipulated. Something similar was observed by the police in Sadhvi PradnyaThakur's (the Malegaon bomb blast) case during her lie detector test. So lie detector tests are not only full proof but can also be manipulated.
Everyone goes to the toilet several times a day but does not give details thereof in the public. Every married couple has differences and occasionally quarrels but that is not for public consumption. Every mother knows the dark secrets of her children but that is a part of their family secret which is not to be shared with the outsiders. Every child knows certain secrets about its parents which too are a part of the family secret. Declaring them doesn't serve any social utility but can certainly cause disruption in social relations. Behaviour as per one's id (biological impulses) cannot be and need not be completely ruled out but to live in a civilized society one cannot live as per one's biological impulses. Training is civilization means being able to shape, train, and monitor one's biological impulses and behave in a socially acceptable way. Repeated exposure to a common occurrence of impulsive behaviour trivializes and generalizes impulsive behaviour. Some of the impulses have to be suppressed and trained with the help of values. Those values will have to be kept away from repeated and frequent questioning.
In this regard I remember Acharya Vinoba Bhave's discussion in his famous book Sthita Pradnya Darshan where he discusses values. He says for the human society to remain civilized certain values must be taken as given and need not be questions. Why shouldn't human beings eat human flesh? Or why shouldn't humans have sex with their mothers are some such questions which are dangerous even when discussed. Some values, Vinobaji says, are like an onion or a bolt of cabbage if you go on peeling it hoping to find a core inside you will find nothing. I remember the rationalist Bertrand Russell who for some time believed that values can be reduced and spelt down in non values. But finally gave up his stand and accepted the non reductivist position in philosophy. Values are values and that is all! They can be refined and elaborated by rationalism but can never be replaced by them.
Let us keep in mind that - Speaking the truth is not an absolute virtue. - Every truth need not be spoken out publicly - Every truth need not be spoken out even privately - Lies have a great social utility - Lies are not always a sin - We all live in our own fantasyland and there is no entry to public censor this. - Private fantasylands should not be subjected to public scrutiny. The results could be disastrous - An untruth is not necessarily a lie - Speaking the truth is not the only virtue or responsibility for an individual. There are many other virtues and responsibilities and every individual has to keep a balance among them. - Lie detectors are not full proof - Lie detectors can be manipulated with practice - Individuals can quote a response as true which in fact could very well be an untruth.
What happens in the dark caves of our mind, (the content of our fantasyland) and in the darkness of the bedrooms is not for public consumption. A cultured person is not one who doesn't have a fantasyland or a bedroom. It is one who one who in spite of that behaves with a full sense of social responsibility in private and public life. No individual life is strictly self regarding. Every act of every individual has an 'other regarding' dimension. To that extent one's freedom is limited by the society.
Indiscreetly repeatedly and publicly exposing the fantasyland of individuals could trivialize or normalize what is socially 'non acceptable' and dangerous.
Let us pause to consider this while talking about / viewing such shows and not fall into the dangerous traps they lay for us.
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