It is time now for me to introspect.
Nobody near or dear to me was flying in or out of Chennai airport on the fourth of December, but I still kept watching the news channels. It was a week after the Mumbai attacks, a week after the men in uniform finished their jobs, and a couple of days after even socialites stopped commenting on the tragedy. The terror threat was mentioned in the newspapers too, but I just counted on our newscasters to give me the latest with spice and spectacular voice modulation. Unfailingly they were there, waiting with their cameras and anchors for the first blast or the first dead body. It is their job. They need sensations. Exaggerating an event is easier than creating one. And as they waited, I waited too.
Was I waiting for a bloody event too? On the surface I will not agree to this. I claim to be a sensitive, concerned citizen who would naturally not want fellow-countrymen to suffer. But why was I watching continuously? Why do we all watch this news continuously? On the two days of terrorist engagement in Mumbai, I had an excuse. I was waiting to know that the terrorists have all been captured or killed. But, after that? I certainly was not waiting to see who the next CM was going to be, after all it is a party with the tagline “high command will decide” as its headline. I was watching the airports shown in multiple windows.
What was I waiting for when those airports were covered live? Was I also waiting like those journalists for something sinister to happen interestingly? When I introspect on this, I am ashamed. I never imagined a voyeuristic streak in my psyche. What happened to my sensitive empathy? It may appear as voyeurism when I think of it as a perverted pleasure derived from peeking at persons without their knowledge, but perhaps in a way it is sadism- the thrill experienced on seeing pain inflicted on and suffered by others. Am I single in this subcontinent with these morbid subconscious tastes, or are there millions like me out there?
This is a terrible thought. It is more terrible and terrifying than a terror attack. Why do I and others do this? It cannot be few in number. Just a few people watching will not bring revenue for the channels. They have mechanisms to show that they are being watched. When they are being watched, they make money. What do ‘we’ gain by watching?
Watching TV is by itself an obsession for many people. If the TV is not functioning many people become restless and irritable. The same is happening to the net .It has become a part of our lives. I have been critical of the people who were hooked on to the soaps, but that was the intellectual-aesthetic part of me. And, it was that same sly self that pretended to update itself on the happenings when in actuality it was an addict wanting that one more shot. I have to admit with shame that I have become addicted to these ‘latest happenings’ and ‘breaking news’ that feed my urge for ‘that’ something to happen. So, I begin to wonder if (1) I am addicted to TV news channels and (2) if I have developed a sinister streak in myself. TV addiction is understandable even if not acceptable and the acknowledgement of this fact is not going to hurt my ego as it is not a socially despicable behavior. But , waiting to watch terror? That is neither intellectual nor aesthetic. It is not acceptable to one’s carefully nurtured self-image. Yet, I fear that is what is happening- not just to me, but to lot more people.
If this is an addictive behavior, one has to look at it from that perspective. Initially (for ease of writing let me call the addiction-inducer the object), the object is interesting and then becomes alluring. It is being the source of atleast fun if not happiness for people around you. It is not despicable atleast amidst your peers. You always feel you are just going to have one good look at the object before you throw it away for good. You perhaps use it and do not return to its pleasurable qualities immediately; but over the course of time, you think that you can handle it and want to use it on and off. The usage becomes frequent. You get obsessed with it. You develop a compulsive urge to keep using it. You miss it. You crave for it. You want more and more of it. With this framework of reference regarding addiction, I wonder more whether we are getting addicted to news on terror.
I am scared that one day I might miss my daily scare.
In any addiction the addictive substance has to be available in the beginning, and its sellers ensure that it is in regular supply. If this is our new addiction who sells and who keeps selling it? We are not innocent and blameless. We are responsible for buying it, enjoying it and craving for it. But in any de-addiction programme making the substance non-available or atleast not easily available is the first step. And in my experience only those who accept that they have become addicted and want to get out of the addiction recover.
I want to get out of this. I hope that those who are like me would also wish to get over this new addiction. When we decide to desist, the sellers will not offer the merchandise.