Monday, December 13, 2010

Missing the mark

In the span of a few months, I have met several wonderful people, across the globe, by virtue of a social networking site. I haven't met them in person. I have known them through images, status updates and the little notes that they scribble in their virtual notebooks. They are an amazing bunch of people. In them I found a discursive space of interaction. With them I have the opportunity to debate and to discuss.  It is as if, I am living a more 'real' life of sustained discussions in this 'virtual' space.

The real world of this virtual space, unsurprisingly, also functions according to the real human dynamics of emotions. The notes, especially, reveal the thoughts that engross the self. The thoughts have no boundaries; and the notes become poetry, prose, fiction, essays, abstract jotting of emotions and all the obscure and the particular that involves us in the real world. And they can be shared with  particular people or with everyone, depending on our choice. This, it seemed to me, is an extremely 'free' mode of communication that the social networking site facilitates.

After several months of intense interaction with such notes of friends, one fine morning, I couldn't trace an individual in the network. His notes have always been an inquisitive mix of information and engagement with knowledge. It is not that all notes, either by him or by others, appeal to me in the same league. Yet, I always live by a principle put to me by a friendly doctor uncle - "Read everything you can lay your hands on. Don't pick and choose. Choose the things that you would like to keep with you after you have finished reading." I emailed Alokeda enquiring if he has deleted his profile for some definite reason and to check if all is well at his end. 

The reply that came challenged my idea of free networking in the virtual social space.

Alokeda, aka Aloke Kumar, wrote back saying that his profile has been "disabled" by the authorities of the networking site since he had expressed his negative opinion of journalists in a note. Possibly after several complaints from people with a different opinion, the networking site had nullified Alokeda's account. My first reaction was to be appalled by the networking site's administration. I wanted to write about this incident. But, each time I read the piece that I had written, I realised I am missing the mark.


While studying Aristotle's Poetics with Prof. Krishna Sen in the University of Calcutta, I was introduced to the Greek concept of hamartia, used prolifically to analyse literary tragedies since Aristotle's era. Interestingly, hamartia  had nothing to do with drama in the Greek world. Etymologically it means, "missing the mark" and is an expression that was used with relation to archery. An archer is said to have hamartia if he misses the target.
Tragic heroes are tragic since they are neither too good, nor too bad. They are neither saints, nor devilish. They bear semblance to the reader-audience of the the tragedies. They lack the balance of  goodness and badness, like the most of us. They err. They achieve. Their characters misses the arithmetic mean that would make them a perfect balanced creature, situated at the middle of the two extremes of absolute goodness and absolute evil. Shakespeare's Hamlet is too much thoughtful; he would do good with some rashness of Macbeth and vice versa. But what should be, never is. And hence they are tragedies, not fairy tales.


This interpolation of the idea of hamartia is necessary to the context of the nullified profile of Alokeda. Though my initial grudge was directed at the networking site that succumbs to such un-democratic approach, I did not know why, but I was constantly reminded of a dialogue from the 2007 film, El Greco, directed by Yannis Smaragdis. While El Greco was working in the workshop of Titian, the master painter Titian gave a brief piece of advice to El Greco. He said, "Never show them everything." The truth, if shown, is unpardonable. By "them", Titian was referring to the human ego that wants to know everything but does not have the power of humility to accept opinions opposed to those that are already framed in the mind.

When Alokeda expressed his negative opinion about journalists, I understand that those holding a positive opinion on the same issue begged to differ. It is only a natural expression - a universal possibility of difference. Differences of opinion is what provokes progress. The human need to be assertive, by itself, is a necessary component in creating 'new' ideas and things. It is not an evil in itself. But when assertiveness is expressed by forcing silence, then we see a 'missing the mark' syndrome. The target should have been creating a zone of interaction where reasoning and debate in a rational manner would be the means of functioning. Instead, it became a zone of combat, aiming at the nullification of the opposing view. 

But does complaining against the different opinion of Aloke Kumar, leading to the disabling of his profile, make the pro-journalism view predominant? The question whether silencing the challenging voice is good has always been there. And, probably, it is rhetorical question that should be directed at ourselves rather than at each other.

The absence of Alokeda from this interesting networking site is a constant reminder of the limitation of replicating the existent systems of the real world in the virtual space. Thankfully the virtual space is ever-expanding and hence Alokeda's interesting 'notes' continue to exist in another domain of social networking. Silence is but a temporary agenda that the humankind attests to. Limitation is but a challenge to continue questioning the accepted idioms of expression. Had there been no questions, the human history would have stalled. Succumbing to the fear of change is a weakness that mankind needs to challenge. Or else, we will forever be frozen in flight, rather than be able to feel the freedom of flight.

frozen in flight, or flight of freedom?
Image of the statue of the legendary Turul bird at top of the rails of the Buda castle and a living bird in flight, Budapest, July 2010. By self.      


Sandipan Roy said...

Hi! You always raise very rudimentary questions that we like to avoid as they are not very easy to deal with and corners us in a zone of discomfort. The point is perhaps since the progression of human civilization people had grudge with the questioning attitude of an individual against opinions formulated in a very all pervasive way due to some reasons that generally coincided with vested interest of a certain group. It is not that people around them do not understand that but they find that the group is more powerful due to the establishment of a coterie and opposing them will not be a worldly wise act as they are more overpowering and are capable of influencing the moods of a majority.Actually this cowardly prudence has made their morale strong day by day.But there are few people who are not afraid to call a spade a spade come what may.Their such habit must have made them pay a hefty price but I know that they are not to be demoralized or frustrated by such blows in life.The former category is basically a weaker section who know themselves that their claims are a hoax and lack the spine to publicly debate on the issues.Now what is to be understood is that these snses are also commercially motivated sites and they are only concerned about the members behaviour to the extent that they safely conduct their business and the ILC related laws do not interfere in their basking business.Anyway voices of dissidence could not be choked at any part of history and I am sure Alokeda will be back with his different point of views soon.What we may do to get him back to this platform is that you may draft a letter of discontent about the issue and we all who wish it can sign it once you explain in further details exactly what happened.But mind it to avoid any hassles there's possibility the sns may discontinue the membership of the dissident members.
Good Luck...