One of the few Tamil TV shows I watch is Neeya Naana. A talk show that brings two sets of people with opposite views on the same topic. The show is interesting because it’s not pretentious or staged. The exact topic for the show is given only when participants sit on the stage. I know it because I saw the whole recording when my friend participated in one of the episodes. The show is aired on every Sunday at 9 PM on Star Vijay. Although sometime they end up having unwanted topics, mostly they discuss serious topics on the show. But last week’s show (dated: 10.02.2013) would have shocked everybody who watched it and even the participants. I have posted the official video from Star Vijay’s YouTube channel. I request everyone to see the whole show. It will be an eyeopener for you too. (Disclaimer: I don’t subscribe to the views given by activists in this show. This blog is only about how we should be informed about the social issues. If those students had that information, they would have argued better)
The show was about how the young of Tamil Nadu view the problems of Tamil Nadu. The opposite side was represented by social activists who work on these issues on everyday basis. The show exposed the sad state of students but if you view it in a bigger picture the generation in which you and I are part of is also as misinformed as those students. The activists cry for people to come on the ground to work on social issues but my problem is with this amount of knowledge on issues, how are they going to fight for an issue. What we get is a herd that goes behind heroes glorified by media.
Look at the way students answered the first question about what you think is the most important social issue in Tamil Nadu. All the women unanimously said “the women are not safe” in the same exact words used by some media. Some even said electricity is a social problem and one guy said death of Tamil and when countered about the Tamil authors he knew, he went dumb. If you ask the same question to our “Facebook Generation”, you will not get a better answer. They might say the right issues but if you go in to the details, they will go speechlees. Because we are more happy to “Like” an issue rather reading about it. We are happier to comment on politicians rather trying to know what makes them the politicians they are. We are happier to watch jokes on Sirippoli and Aditya rather watching a debate on Pudhiya Thalaimurai. We are happier to read the Chennai Times and Friday review than reading the editorial. We are proud to call ourselves apolitical. We are proud to have 9-6 job and make fun of actors, politicians and policemen when we travel back on our cars and buses. But we will complain about the social issues when we randomly see an article on the Internet. We will crib that all problems are because of political corruption. Do we think about the reasons? Do we at least try to know what’s happening in our state and country? Who cares?
There are two major problems. The lack of awareness about certain issues and the lack of knowledge about issues they know about. To be precise, taking stands or making opinions about an issue with limited knowledge. It all starts at home, how many families in the current situation discuss social issues or politics at home? Even if the young ones at home want to discuss, they would be slapped with a gag order on what to speak. Invariably, every family wants their children to study a professional course, earn money, get married, make children and have a carefree life. If someone starts to even talk about societal issue, “Yen pa, unakku Indha vendatha velai” (“Why are you doing unwanted work?”)
The second important reason that paved way for this lack of knowledge especially in Tamilnadu is the restrictive college education. Surprisingly, the student uprising of 1960s and 70s due to language imposition paved the way for the Dravidian parties to come in to forefront. Somehow they stopped giving the same space to the college politics in the later years. The active college politics in North India might be detrimental in few things but it allows students to discuss social and political issues. Although there are colleges in Tamilnadu that have student unions, all of them are either marred by caste politics or rowdyism. In other places, the student unions are just committees that run events at colleges. Sometimes when I see students from certain engineering colleges, I remember those zombie like people who you see in Apple 1983 Big Brother ad. I was in the same position when I did my college.
The third reason I see is the lack of reading. I take classes for students at a MBA Institute. Whenever I take the first class of a semester, I ask what do they read. I find people who are not willing to sit and read a newspaper that might take 30 minutes to read in a day. The answer they give back – ‘Sir, we read the news from Internet’. But do they really “read” is a question mark. If you ask about books, it doesn’t move beyond Chetan Bhagat. We scrape through news items and create opinions based on catchy headlines that shine on the top. The advent of technology should have helped us to access these things more easily but we are making it so difficult for ourselves. Even those who read have a strong belief that whatever media says should be true. We don’t try to assess the true meaning of what media purports. We forgot an important Thirukural that has been taught to us from school
எப்பொருள் யார்யார் வாய் கேட்பினும்
அப்பொருள் மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்பதறிவு
It can be translated as
“It is wise to seek the underlying true meaning in
whatever sensible, whoever it may be, has to say”
With so many scandals and paid news items, it will be our stupidity to believe what media says.
The fourth reason is what even those activists accepted at the fag end of the program. They have not been talking in the right medium to be accessed by this generation. It has become a closed loop that they speak to a limited set of audience and discussion happens there. In fact one of the activists was surprised at the way some students on the other side spoke.
I was not surprised at all. I find the auto drivers of Chennai more knowledgeable in social issues than the people I see on my Facebook list. What is more appalling is the way we outrage on social media sites based on the limited knowledge we have in these issues. We also think clicking a “Like” or making a “RT” will change the system. But when right knowledge itself is lacking, we will end up fighting for the wrong issue in a wrong way. I was reminded of this Bharathiyar song that might be perfect for this situation
The reason why I wrote mostly in first person was because I haven’t been writing about these issues on my blog even though I read and understand a lot about them. I have decided to write more about social issues that I think should be taken to my readers. And I would be happy if anybody else joins me.