Monday, May 12, 2008

Of Pangea Day

Pangea Day was broadcast live all over the world on TVs, internet and mobile on the evening of May 10th which by the way turned out to be 11.30 pm for us, which meant I watched the program on May 11. For those of you who don't know what this was all about Pangea Day was an innovative program featuring short films from all over the world in an attempt to make people understand that emotions, however different they may seem are actually basically the same everywhere. In other words we are not different from the people who we consider our enemies and that we are all the same irrespective of where we come from.

As a movie critic I really liked the show which showcased some brilliant short movies (which are the hardest to make) including two from India. there were three movies that I really liked : J'Attendrai Le Suivant from France; Elevator Music from the UK and More from the US. If you'd like to watch these movies and the others featured on the show; you can do so here.

On the humanitarian side I thought this was a very brave and novel approach to world peace. There were some truly touching scenes in the show but none more touching than the finale where an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man came on stage hand in hand after having lost direct relatives and still believing that peace will come to their troubled lands.

Touching, truly was. But, just being touching is not going to help. The question I asked myself was exactly how effective this show was.

While I sat there watching it, I couldn't help but think of the many people I know personally who would have scoffed at the show. I thought about the people I knew would ridicule the Egyptian group for the music and their language. I thought of the people I knew would consider with contempt the movies made in the Islamic world. These people wouldn't have even watched this show and even if they did they'd probably have just walked out after an hour or so.

It's not just the people in India. I'd bet you the people over at would have screamed treason if they ever saw Operation Homecoming. How do shows like this get to people like them ? Simple answer: they don't.

So, was it an exercise in futility ? No. It was a start and believe me that's better than nothing at all.

When you live in a place where multitudes of culture's meet at crossroads it's easy for you lose hope in humanity. Sadly, India is one such place. The distrust and hatred that exists on so many levels of racism is so thick that you can almost smell it in the air. A colleague of mine once told me he hated Muslims; my neighbor laughed as he watched a news report on how Hindu mobs were slaughtering Muslims in Gujarat. I have listened as five Muslim men ridiculed and laughed at a documentary on Hindu customs and traditions. One went so far as to call Hindus the "damned" people who would never see heaven. This person was fully aware that I was in the room.

How do you reach these people ?

I've tried to change the thoughts of a few people dear to me, but other than them I really don't think people will want to listen. They have been brought up in a society that has told them that they are superior. And these people are not illiterate. They have been taught both sides of the story: the scientific and the spiritual; the humanism and the fundamentalism. And in today's day and age it's frightening to know that many still believe in the spiritualism and the fundamentalism.

How do you reach these people ?

Pangea Day was a noble effort. But did it reach the audience that should have watched it ? It's success cannot be measured by the number of viewers but by the number of people whose thoughts and views it changes. Until then, it will remain as an effort and only that; one among the countless others.


~Static~ said...

A very thought provoking post Alex.
I believe the movies are not made in vain also. It is a start that's certainly better than nothing at all. And it shouldn't stop.

I think the only way to get through to certain people is maybe by allowing them to see the atrocities, the compassion between peoples of different cultures over and over again so that they may develop some tolerance over time. I am also a firm believer in humor being able to heal people. By pointing out the contrasts we achieve a higher understanding of our own psyches.

Obviously the hatred comes down to more than just morals, education or propaganda in some cases. I think group mentality is much different from individual ones. When you group many people together and there is an underlying force of aggression that mob mentality can spread quickly. It's pretty common to hear a group of guys bashing one thing or another simply for conversation sake.

And then some people are just sick. And that mental illness is infectious apparently. A study has stated that 1 out of every 5 persons is a sociopath. I wouldn't doubt if that number isn't higher. And for that there is no "cure", but once again human behavior can be modified by getting the word out, giving examples of how we should treat and think of others.

Governments, educational institutions, corporations, religious organizations and communities hold more power than they realize. And it's high time that we all started exercising the power of positive thought towards our fellow human beings. To quote Gandhi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

The lesson here I think is learning to change how we think. And may positivity and value of human life become just as infectious.

Alex Mcone said...

Trying to convert an individual is easier than trying to convert a mob. But how is anyone going to make that individual listen ? I mean I've had propoganda thrown at me and I've sat there and listened to it and still not been converted but when I talk about liberal views it's almost like no one wants to listen.

Thanks for the comment, Static