Following Donald Trump’s official nomination, Stephen King observed dryly: “One difference between Nixon and Trump: when the Republicans nominated Nixon, they didn’t actually know that he was a crook.”
It isn’t just America, political observers in many lands will have discovered for themselves this depressing difference between the idealised past and the shameless present. A rash of successful leaders with dodgy records is rising like a bumper crop of cauliflowers. No reflection on them, actually.
Their extraordinary ability to rise above moral questions like hot air balloons says much more about the people who elect them to office.
It is also the age of bizarre, self-aggrandised goverment. The Ministry of Culture (MiniCult in short) is grading artistes Promising, Outstanding and the rather pathetic Waiting (POW in short), in order to exercise more implacable control over them.
The motive is to dismantle legacy Indira-era monopolies over state patronage, in which one person, popularly known as a czar, decided who would be allowed to go to which festival at what cost to the taxpayer.
Former czars are still at large and though they have turned their attentions to private enterprise, their noses are still prominently inflamed due to intemperate indulgence, known in the Sanskritic vernacular as rasranjan.
But doesn’t MiniCult’s new scheme replace a system of individual patronage by one of bureaucratic or ministerial patronage?
It’s like an aggregate is going to exercise arbitrary powers, which looks like progress until you recall that even aggregates are headed by individuals.
The idea that culture minister Mahesh Sharma is grading Kuchipudi dancers, performance poets and installations artists en masse by the POW system should be giving the creative community the mass willies.
The foreign news continues to be grim. We have grown accustomed to the shocking body count in Turkey, but Radio Free Europe still surprises with a breakdown of the collateral damage of the abortive coup: 60,000 people suspended or dismissed from their jobs.
The leading casualties are teachers — 21,000 licences revoked — and education ministry officials — 15,200 sacked. Besides, 1,577 university deans have been asked to put in their papers.
By way of comparison, only 7,500 military personnel have been detained and 8,000 policemen removed from their posts, along with 1,481 cashiered judges.
The most sensitive offices seem to have suffered the least: 257 officials of the prime minister’s office have been sent home and 100 intelligence officials suspended.
While home, finance and defence are traditionally regarded as the heavyweights, education seems to exert a magnetic attraction on those who would be agents of change.
India isn’t alone in witnessing this. Zee, among other channels, sent out this distress signal about Aam Aadmi Party Bhagwant Mann livestreaming his journey from his home to Parliament, including descriptions of the layers of security in the way.
He says he will do it again, who knows why? The Speaker of the Lok Sabha has taken a dim view of Mann’s Facebook post, and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi wants to know if it was done under the influence of agencies.
Or just under the influence, perhaps? The smartphone camera is revealing India’s talents, sights, recipes and casual bizarreness, pointing to the time when social videos will compete with television for viewer attention.
It’s also drawing attention to the flourishing gamut of gratuitous violence in the land of ahimsa. Idiocy, too, is flourishing, causing perpetrators to film their crimes and upload, thusly getting caught.
The latest is the video of a family of animal-skinners being thrashed by hoodlums under the guise of gau rakshaks in Una.
It was shot and shown off on social media like a trophy, but it backfired, since the same social media became the vehicle of a Dalit backlash.
The trophy video craze is catching ’em young. And the victims of the young are helpless animals. Months ago, some weird slasher was filmed attacking stray dogs outside a New Delhi Metro station.
Weeks ago, two medical students in Chennai made a video of a puppy being thrown off a roof. Now, there’s revolting footage from Hyderabad, made by eight minors who burned three puppies alive.
The phone camera is revealing the proverbial dark underbelly of our society. Time someone wrote Indian Psycho. In the US, Donald Trump’s nomination is overshadowed by the disaster that Melania Trump’s speech turned out to be, playing out, to the amusement of both Democrats and Republicans, before a television audience over 20 million strong.
Apparently due to miscommunications between Trump’s wife and her speechwriter, she ripped off huge chunks of Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democrats’ convention eight years ago.
Trump’s trail bosses spent more than a day trying to deny it, and then the Donald himself capitulated and said that everyone makes mistakes. Even Mexicans? Well, he didn’t exactly say that, but it follows logically, doesn’t it?