Of gaffes, war-cry and racial profiling  

Shihab Sarkar     | Published: June 23, 2018 22:11:56


The recent news of Albert Einstein's alleged ethnic bias in his observation of a nation may shock many. The great scientist has long been adored as an epitome of great human qualities and innocence. Such a sage-like person can remain mentally skewed towards the Chinese and will even use racial slurs in writing about them is shocking. It, however, goes against another recent revelation about the physicist. The news speaks of a small event in the Japanese capital of Tokyo in 1922. It says the great scientist gave a brief handwritten note to a hotel courier, a Japanese national, explaining his theory of happy life. Einstein wrote, "A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest." The observation aptly applies to the scientist. There are scores of tidbits and anecdotes about Einstein's plain life that stand witness to his pure human qualities and liberalism.

In spite of many being shocked by the scientist's personal observation about the Chinese, lots of other would pass it off as a mere gaffe. They might attribute the scientist's view of the Chinese to a certain condition of his mind at a given time. In order to reach a conclusion on this observation of Einstein, they might raise a pertinent issue: learning about the context of the blurting-out. For, remarks made on the spur of the moment by famous persons are not uncommon. In most cases, they lead to embarrassments. Many feel hurt. But things become clear after the dust settles, with the person concerned admitting his or her faux pas.

In the modern times, politics and the diplomatic world are used to seeing storms raised by impromptu remarks. Many make amends by retracting their views, especially those related to bilateral issues. Some topics are highly delicate. Those range from ethnic and racial issues, exclusively private matters to socio-economic statuses. Prior to the attempts at rapprochement, the leaders of the USA and North Korea have traded barbs several times. Eventually, the verbal warfare emerged as an ugly contest as to what extent one can go in sullying the image of the other. As both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were not prepared to concede even a little in the battle, the diatribes at one point veered towards their physical appearances. Instances of this type of verbal battle at the head of state level are rare in history. People are used to seeing these hostile postures during wrestling bouts, especially before the fight starts.

However, there are one-sided attacks, too. A few 20th century authors are blamed for racial-profiling certain communities in society. Some turn reckless while portraying a section of people which they do not like. Thus the issues of skin colour, beliefs and social customs are found to be the easy themes in the attacks. Denigrating the black people in Africa and those brought to America as slaves was once a common trait among a section of white supremacists. They include social analysts, politicians as well as creative people. Bureaucrat Lord Macaulay in the British colonial times stands out with an audacious proposal. He advocated it was only by overrunning the Indian culture by that of English which can complete the domination of India. A similar racially biased attitude towards the Indians is found in 'A Passage to India' (1924) by E.M. Forster, the British novelist. Although brilliantly presented, many critics term the portrayal of characters in the novel lopsided.

Repentance and admitting the offensive nature of their acts finally absolve many of their guilt. But few can follow this path. Had Einstein been alive and seen the New China, he would certainly have changed his harsh view on the Chinese people.

shihabskr@ymail.com

 

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