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Hysterical activists or illogical reporters?

December 3, 2006

One reads all kinds of things in newspapers. Some things make you feel good and some things make you feel sick. Well, today I read something that made me feel sick. It was an article that appeared in a mainline newspaper and it was titled ‘The Hysteria of Activism.’
What it said was that social activists are over dramatic and ‘alarmist’. The example of Chuhiya, the eight year old little poster girl of UNICEF was given. In real life, this article said, Choonam Kumari, who works in her father’s dhaba (tea-shop) had ‘neatly combed hair’ bbc-4_1_1.jpgand ‘an expression of solemn dignity’ while in the poster she is portrayed as someone ‘scruffy’ and as a ‘rough and tumble urchin.’ This the writer felt was all wrong as UNICEF had done something that ‘comes in conflict with the facts’.
What facts? Is this little girl who is out of school, is being denied an education and slaves the whole day in her father’s dhaba not dirt poor? Does she not fall under the category of ‘child labour’? Does her ‘dignifed’ look and ‘combed hair’ make her any less needy?
I failed to understand the point the writer was making. But wait, she has an explanation, though it sounded illogical to me.
Today, this writer feels, ’causes are no more than products, which if marketed well, will get funds.’!! Ah, so that was the point. Trying to get funds for good causes by marketing the cause was not quite right in her eyes.
Shockingly, this same writer calls AIDS activism a ‘huge celebrity enterprise,’ because ‘organisations try to portray celebrities as caring individuals who need to be taken seriously.’ This writer feels this is absolutely wrong because in their hearts these celebrities don’t believe in what they are doing. She gives an example of a famous actress activist who was shooting for an AIDS campaign and refused to actually hold an HIV infected child.
Frankly, I do not think it matters what the celebrities actually think. If they have come forward to associate with a cause, I am not here to sit judgement on them. And I also do not care if the social welfare agencies are busy marketing themselves so that they garner more funds. In fact I say hurrah to them.
As for this write-up, it’s surprising how a reputed newspaper allows such illogical views to be published. They could have at least published this article under a heading such as ‘Counter View’ or something like that. Instead this write-up appeared in an important section of the newspaper.

5th December: Today CP Surendran wrote a very sensible article in the TOI. He asked what the government was doing about the other little children who are working, not schooling. What a relief to hear a sane voice. No mention of how ‘bad’ the social activists were and about how well Chuhiya’s hair was combed!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2006 12:31 pm

    Supposing she is needy, would that make her labour slave labour ? Why ? SOmehow the education is ossified. I give my child intensive labour in a jogging track, that is after his boring classes, which I dare not look into. The jogging because his health was bad by gluing with pokeymons. If you dare to say that as slave labour, then I would buy a jogging suite from tommy hilfiger, if proline is outdates these days.
    Mam, everyone is needy. need of a social status and so on… Labour doesn’t become slave labour, just because somebody else has money to send his kids to tennis track and prepares his kids to work in BPOs, or Ambani’s outlets.
    There is no denying there is a middle class of morons who are not suitable for job markets and become activists. They sell poverty to show their compassion, even to get jobs and rise in profession or politics…Some of these people could be boring in real life, full of preoccupation with themselves, spending hours on color of their cars.

  2. December 4, 2006 12:50 pm

    Interesting to meet you Noname. This is the funny thing about the internet. First time I met someone who doesn’t think anything wrong with kids working.
    Also I was not aware that social activists were preoccupied with themselves and spent hours deciding the colour of the cars. A rather sweeping generalisation about any group of people.

  3. December 4, 2006 2:26 pm

    who doesn’t think anything wrong with kids working
    Good luck to everybody who thinks the kids should be sleeping, and doing BA in social sciences in rest of the time.

    That was not the issue however.

    There is a distinction between slave labour and working when affiliated within the familly structure, there is a distinction again working in familly shop. Supposing the child is the slave worker, the slave owner would be the father. The liberator would be the one who has extra dollars. This is certain arrogance.

  4. December 4, 2006 5:33 pm

    Came via Caferati…and now I know why you got the award!:)

    Regarding your post, I feel nowadays there is no set criteria and a value system as to what metes cover stories, how important facts are, or give importance where it is due…I doubt editors, sub-edits and copy editors exist anymore, because most of the newspapers don’t even get names, spellings and their grammar right!
    If a prestigious national paper like Times of India can allow the ‘Brangelina fever’ to reign for weeks and that too on their first/cover page, leaving aside other issues that are more important in this country, I’m not surprised at the lack of ethics for other articles.
    I understand and empathise with families that have no option but to have their kids working especially when all they can think of is survival. What I don’t is, the fact that the media makes these out as ‘senstational items’ to sell their newspapers!

  5. December 5, 2006 5:48 am

    Designology, I know of many cases where children are put to work to pay off their parents’ debts. Why, in my colony two sisters work the whole day to pay off the debt that their father took for their brother’s wedding. The father? He is unemployed because he only wants a particular type of job. He will not work as domestic help. But he has pulled his young daughters out of school to do it for him. They also do the domestic work at home…in other words these girls slave the whole day. To make your own children work the whole day even if it is for oneself is terrible, in fact it’s worse. Surely, each parent can put his child into school for a part of the day? I know of some successful people (Laxmi Nivas Mittal) who worked at his books and also worked in his father’s shop in the evenings. That is why he is where he is today. He had an education. Some parents are not bothered about educating their children. Either they think it’s not important or they are selfish.
    About writing sensational stuff on the front page of newspapers, I agree that it’s in bad taste, although there is nothing wrong in trying to market one’s paper. In the long run, wrong tactics fail. I have written about the TOI’s obsession with Brad Pitt but the TOI believes they are doing it sell their paper. They are wrong, what they are creating is ill-will but as long as they do not have sufficient competition, they will continue to do well.
    Check the post out: Brangelina play hide and seek.

  6. Anil permalink
    December 8, 2006 2:10 pm

    There was an interesting article in the Economist where they had touched upon all the hysteria that the media generates when an Angelina or a Madonna adopt a child, but conviniently forget to mention the large sums of money that they give for education, development etc as it is not news worthy and not a good photo-op.

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