Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Klumps Strike Back: Coming soon to a theatre near you

Remember the Klumps? The cousin of mine who got married a couple of months back? Like most North Indian weddings, his wedding was a blatant travesty of good taste - a study in garish and obscure rituals laid over a hotbed of back-biting family politics - but it was an event I believed I had successfully avoided by being half way across the world at the time. In this, it seems, I was too optimistic (not a fault I'm often accused of). Klump Sr. showed up yesterday at our New Year Family Celebration [1] armed with four hours of footage of the wedding on two DVDs (no seriously, the damn thing was actually longer than Fanny och Alexander) and insisted that we all sit around and watch 'highlights' from the video, thus enabling us to relive the event in all its tacky tinsel glory. This would have been a silly enough indulgence in any company, but what made it totally ridiculous was the fact that every single person except me in that room had actually attended said wedding, so that the entire 'show' consisted of people pointing each other out with loud exclamations of "oh, look that's you! and look, that's me! and me again! and that's you again! and oh, there are the bride and groom, grinning like idiots for the 300th time in the first half hour!". I'm beginning to think Cain might have had a point. I mean if you had to choose between some stupid mark on your forehead (which could actually be pretty cool in this Harry Potter obsessed age) and relatives, which would you pick?

Do other families do crap like this as well - or is it just some deviant strain in the Klump gene code? Am I going to end up wanting to inflict my fatally boring photographs on people at parties at some point? Kill me now. Now.

It's at times like these that I wonder if technology is really worth it. People are always talking about the rights and wrongs of nuclear power and whether science should or should not be governed by moral laws. The more immediate question, I think, is whether technology should be governed by the laws of taste. The dark side of nuclear power is all well and good - but let's face it - people have always been pretty good at wiping each other out; the really urgent question is the dark side of technology - the way in which it allows people to inflict themselves on others in talentless, almost embarassing ways. The way it allows people to send the most imbecilic New Year messages to you on sms. The way it allows anyone and everyone to put their deathly dull photographs and videos on DVD, on the Web. The way communication ensures that you can run half way across the world but still not be safe from Family.

The trouble, I think, is that people haven't really thought through the effect of this sort of tastelessness on future generations. It's not that weddings were any less garish in my grandparent's time (though presumably there wasn't Indi-pop then), it's just that because of the lack of adequate technology, the only record that survives of that special day is one Sepia tinted photograph of the impossibly young bride and groom standing together in one stiff, contrived pose. This is part of the old-fashioned romance of marriage, its essential mythology. What happens to the idea of weddings when future generations can see for themselves how the weddings of their grandparents consisted largely of a bunch of grown-ups acting like lobotomised buffoons, making corny jokes and generally operating about two thousand feet below the lowest common denominator? [2]

The right answer to this moral issue is, of course, that people must learn to use technology responsibly. Like a former colleague of mine who ensured that the only photographs taken at his wedding were a dozen tasteful, carefully posed shots taken by a professional photographer. That still leaves us, however, with the problem with what we do about those from whom such levels of maturity cannot possibly be expected? When we find a country that we deem irresponsible in possession of nuclear weapons we levy embargoes against it (unless it's the United States, in which case we import its television programming into our homes and try to wipe out the last of our brain cells through repeated exposure to David Letterman). What do we do with relatives who insist on showing us their boring pictures? Any ideas, Mr. Annan?


[1] An annual ritual that involves some 2567 members of the Klump Clan, and bears a much closer resemblance to Dadar station during rush hour than to an intelligent meeting of civilised minds.

[2] Thinking about it, this could actually be a good thing - maybe if we show people the truth about how goofy they look at weddings they'll stop insisting on having them. Kind of like looking in a mirror and discovering that you're not Paul Newman.