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Posted at: Jan 11, 2017, 12:53 AM; last updated: Jan 11, 2017, 12:53 AM (IST)

An artiste’s obligation

Meryl Streep speaks out in defence of decency
Ms Meryl Streep is not just one of the most talented artistes of our times, she has also demonstrated that she is very much alive to the artiste's primary  obligation in our times — the obligation to remind society of the need to  speak up to the authority and the powerful. At a Hollywood function where she was honoured by her peers for life-time achievements, this brilliant actress gave expression to the most Americans’ dismay and frustration at Donald Trump’s electoral success and political appeal. Ms Streep’s audacious performance has resonated across the world and her words have given heart to all those who find themselves subjected to some kind of official dadagiri, intimidation and outright coercion. While reminding her global audience how  Donald Trump publicly mocked a disabled reporter, the actress insisted that the powerful and the privileged should not be allowed to get away with this kind of bullying behaviour. Speak up, and tell the new “leader” that the Americans would not be a party to his demeaning antics. 

Ms Streep’s words were so close to the bone that the President-elect could not just pretend not to have heard them. And he reacted in the only way he knows — nastily, dismissively calling her an ageing and over-rated actress and “a Hillary lover.”  The man who will be the next President of America has been served notice that dissent and differences would be aired and that the artistes and intellectuals intend to exercise their craft to try to reclaim and restore decency and decorum in American national life. 

This brilliantly audacious homage to Hollywood’s hallowed traditions of pluralism and inclusiveness stands in sharp contrast to the bullies who in recent times have managed to shut down and shut up the likes of Aamir Khan. We become comfortably tolerant of intolerance. Our newspapers and other media outlets have discovered the usefulness of timidity and conformism. The universities have been handed over to second-rate administrators.  Those who dare disagree and express dissent are dubbed anti-national and black-money lovers. Ms Streep’s stunning defence of liberals’ values and ideas has been heard across the world; she needs to be heard in India, too.  

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