Friday, December 04, 2009

Disaster 'Poetry'

Remember The Tay Bridge Disaster?

Well, McGonagall's poem now has a desi equivalent, in the shape of this piece of doggerel posted on the I'm a Bhopali site. Ms. Zaidi's poem is like an object lesson in the writing of juvenile verse - uninteresting rhymes[1], trite images, uncertain tone, lines that don't scan and the overwhelming impression that any sense the verse may once have had has been subordinated to the rhyme scheme. Old William would have been proud.

***

By contrast, the regular press actually managed to turn out a couple of good articles for the occasion, including a surprisingly decent NY Times Op-ed piece by Suketu Mehta and Indra Sinha's article for the Guardian. It's almost enough to restore one's faith in the MSM.

[1] For a contemporary example of what interesting rhymes might look (and sound) like, see here.

6 comments:

Space Bar said...

that essbaum made my so far lousy day. thank you.

Aniket said...

I don't think Suketu Mehta's piece is anything to write home about .. in fact I think it distracts from larger systemic issues of corporate malpractices .. and his "exotic" comparisons (servants in school, burning chillies) are nothing short of Orientalist trash

Falstaff said...

SB: You're welcome.

Aniket: I didn't say it was a great piece, just decent - which, given Mehta's usual form is a significant improvement.

And what larger systemic issues would these be? What Mehta's piece does do fairly effectively is highlight the double standard - that there's no way UC's apathy would have been tolerated if those dying / suffering lived in the developed world. Which is a relevant and sufficient message for an op-ed piece targeted at a Western audience. The 'exotic' comparisons are annoying, agreed, but I take comfort in the fact that this time he's stereotyping the West as well (Americans believe in cleaning up their messes? Really?)

Aniket said...

Some of the systemic issues are highlighted here:

http://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/the-untamed-monster-corporate-greed-and-the-continuing-tragedy-of-bhopal/

One could disagree with Lal, but I do think that UC's callous response cannot be dismissed as a one-off case, it points to some larger problems (like racism) built into the very fabric of modernity and development.

Falstaff said...

Aniket: I'm not sure that Lal is really saying anything at all - his article doesn't really provide any instances of corporate malpractice other than Bhopal. His final paragraph says some vague things about Vietnam, Nicaragua, etc., but that's not exactly corporate malpractice, is it? To conflate poor corporate safety standards with government neo-imperialism is to both needlessly confuse the issue and weaken the overall argument.

On the whole, I tend to agree with Mehta - Bhopal is, in many ways, a unique incident, and we're better off highlighting its uniqueness and the consequent need for moral indignation, than trying to draw shaky parallels between it and other 'issues'. Do we really want to connect U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Bhopal tragedy? What could that possibly achieve except weaken the cause of the Bhopal victims?

elizabeth said...

the essbaum is effing awesome. thanks for the link--I'd never heard of her before.