August 9, 2006

Signs of the times

Does popular culture reflect the fears and phobias of the time? I remember a few decades back when stories (in books and movies) abounded about how the US president (or his wife or his vice-president) is replaced by a look-alike. I didn’t think that reflected the paranoias of the time at the time, but now I’m not so sure.

We’ve watched (or are in the process of watching) two US TV series from 2005-2006. They both show the leadership of the US as being morally ambiguous or corrupt. The shows? "24" and "Prison Break" :) (Incidentally, "Prison Break" is my favourite new show :p) In "24", it’s the president of the US who has no care for his own countrymen (and women) in his quest to do "what needs to be done to secure the nation’s future". In "Prison Break" the vice-president will go as far as to frame an innocent man (and kill several others) so that she can win the presidential election. All for the "good of the nation".

Is this how entertainers (and a good portion of the population) view their leaders? Or are these stories just coincidental to the current political/social climate? Here in Sri Lanka, nobody would dream of using mass-media to criticize their leaders. Sure, there are shows which are critical but the criticism is more covert. For the longest time, if you dared criticize the government, you could expect a call from the goon squads and it wasn’t going to be a friendly visit either. However, the people do express their opinions of the government (and the opposition and of politicians in general) fairly openly. The problems crop up only when you start expressing your opinions to a lot of people via the media :p That’s kind of weird, I know.

On the other hand, I get the impression that in the US, the media will lambaste politicians while your average Joe, the man on the street, will not care enough to discuss these matters. Here, politics is more of a topic for common discussion than the weather. Over there, I get the impression that it’s the other way around. The only similarity that I see is that in the end, whether you speak out or not, whether your discuss corruption or not, the apathy remains. We keep electing the same bunch of crooks (or their counterparts) come election time. Sure, we might justify it by saying that one side is less crooked than the other but if we know that they are all crooked, should we be making a distinction as to how less crooked one side is than the other?

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