Privacy Has A Funny Relationship With Power
We do not have a right to know how Shahrukh and Hrithik lead their lives behind closed doors (sorry Stardust, I do not approve of your methods!).
In a perverse way, powerlessness grants a greater degree of privacy! Confused? It’s really quite clear. Does anybody really care who you and me socialize with, sleep with, bank with, lie to, apart from the people who live with us and love us? Of course not. Because we wield no power in society at large, we are nobodies!
The key word: Accountability. People with power are accountable; they do hold a degree of responsibility because of the position they hold in society.
Our politicians are accountable to us — because we put them there, and our taxes lie at their disposal.
Our sport stars are accountable to us, the fans, who come out in droves to cheer for them, who drop everything to watch their matches, watching them represent our country.
Our entertainment idols, too, are responsible to us to a certain extent. No, we do not have a right to know how Shahrukh and Hrithik lead their lives behind closed doors (sorry Stardust, I do not approve of your methods!).
But we do have a right to criticize their choice of roles, and their execution of them. Because we pay for the tickets, that pay for their exalted lifestyles.
Basically, I’m saying the notion of privacy is a fine line. People’s private lives, no matter who they are, ought to remain private – if they have no impact on their public roles, of course.
If Bill Clinton spent his spare time in a clinch with Monica Lewinsky, who gave a damn, if at the end of the day, he did a good job as President? And Indira Gandhi’s legacy as a strong woman, who governed and prevailed over a country like India will remain no matter what her liaisons were.
Did the author have a right to detail them in her book? Maybe, since she’s exploring the psyche of the woman that was Indira. But is it also an invasion of a woman’s privacy? Yes. But that is a necessary corollary of living a life that others are still clamoring to read about!
These are delicate matters, open to interpretation. But exposes like the Tehelka one leave no room for doubt. Sure, none of it may ever be provable in court, and it may all come to nought… That is all irrelevant.
The point is: We deserved to know. We had the right to know. This wasn’t about paparazzi staking out a star’s love nest; it was our public officials caught (literally) with their hands in the till. Sure, certain ethical rules may have been broken… but hell yes, it was justified. We should always have the right to know.
As I said earlier, privacy is linked with power. And occasionally, the loss of privacy goes hand in hand with the acquisition of power. It’s no secret.
This opinion was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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