Censorship and self-censorship. Political constraints and cultural roots
The honest and the just is always blissful, but the dishonest and unjust is always miserable.
Beat the honest, make him suffer, torture him to death, blind him, hang him&still he is more blissful than the dishonest and the unjust.
"The Republic" By Plato
Truth versus Falsehood
The danger of telling the truth and its aftermath nightmare has always been a big question mark in man's mind. Truth is an independent entity. It does not care about the consequences and its existence is free from any obligation and considerations. To worship truth and reality and condemn evils and hypocrisy has always played an important role in mankind's mythology and religions. Pre historic findings in the main cradles of civilizations like Egypt, Babylon, India, Persia, Greece, Latin America (Aztecs), China and many others and teachings of Great prophets and saints in one way or the other have dealt with this essential question of man's life. Holy texts, legends, poems, ballads, epics, narratives, plays, are full of scenes of this never ending battle between Truth and Falsehood, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness.
Prometheus stole the fire from the Zeus and presented it to human to set them free from darkness (ignorance) and cold (harsh conditions) and by doing this Zeus and other gods sentenced him to the most unbearable tortures.
In Persian Mythology, in Shahname Ferdousi, Truth has been praised almost in each and every chapter. In Hamlet play, we see that the moment Hamlet came to know the Truth, the tragedy and suffering sets in. Out of all these beautiful literal heritages, the Zoroastrian teachings are sharp to the point and whole religion is based on this battle. They believe that the universe is divided between The Good and The Evil. Your status in this battle will be decided according to the army you choose. It continues that we should help the army of the Good to overcome the army of the Evil. This is achievable by supporting the Truth and rightfulness against False and mendacity.
In our days, the conflict by no means has come to its end. On the contrary, through the various epochs it has gained momentum like an avalanche which keep on rolling with it's horrifying roar. In the heart of such a chaos, drawing a clear line to specify these two armies from each other is almost impossible.
Both the armies have their own vehicles and means. Falsehood needs darkness to make a successful attack. Needless to say that obscurity is the best camouflage for a night assault. In absence of sun and when there is not even a faint shimmer of moonlight, when people are deep asleep, when utter silence has spread it's terrifying wings far into horizons, the attack can be much more effective.
Censor and censorship:
Past and Present
Censor and censorship tries to command such silence and obscurity over the society, tries to seal the eyes and block the mouths, do whatever possible not to let a single beam of awakening light finds it's way in. Anyone who carry a candle or whoever dares to disturb the dreadful prevailing silence, must be punished and vanished immediately.
In olden times this punishment was primitive and barbaric. In Dark Ages, it used to be executed through the "Inquisition Courts", Galileo and a number of others are the real examples. We have been witnesses to the emergence of Nazism and Fascism in Europe not long time ago and no doubt they succeeded to hail their devastating massacres only after that desired silence and darkness set in. This is not strange that the motto of all tyrants and absolutists and their method for ruling the others are very much similar to each other. Destroy the libraries and set the books on fire, blind the eyes, pluck the tongues, imprison others in dark and moist dungeons, and the like.
Even today, still there are a number of countries who not only exercise the censor and censorship in their medias and cancel the license of those journalists who crossed the "red line" and, even worse, deprive them of work and sentence them to imprisonment and even death, but also create such an atmosphere that the columnists, authors, translators and poets and all other vanguards of awareness, commit themselves to "SELF CENSORSHIP". Self-censorship will economize the expenses of the despotic regimes and the atmosphere of horror and hunger and imprisonment will do the job and there is no need to employ so many personnel to check and do the censorship prior the publication.
Writer's or translator's work in such an environment looks like the work of a ropewalker in a circus. He or she has to perform the task of delicate walking on a thin rope and at the same time beware of the danger hovering over his or her head.
He has to play with words, he has to torture his mind to get a word or a phrase, which convey the true meaning of the original text, or is, at least very close to that. This calls for more profound translation skills, more vast knowledge both in source and target languages, a very delicate sense of art to employ the proper words and maintain the honest tone and theme of the original text in the target language. Apart from the standard skills and knowledge needed for an acceptable work, a translator or writer has to be smart enough to combine all these qualities together and present a reliable translation work and safeguard his own position as well.
During The Second World War, the Fascist gangs, invaded a village in Spain and destroyed everything there. Pablo Picasso after walking through the village drew a very simple sketch of the devastated cottages and farmers' huts. The Fascist commander in charge looked at the sketch and ordered Picasso's arrest.
"Is it your work?", - He shouted at Picasso while showing him the sketch.
"No. Sir, this is your work!!", - Answered Picasso.
The metaphorical answer of Picasso shows the delicacy of telling the truth in a very different way. This delicacy has to be considered in translation work in similar atmospheres.
In facing such dilemma, many amateur translators either give up or their "work" turns out to be a real treachery to the original text. This way, these so called translators not only do not care about themselves, they even destroy the real image of the author.
Freedom and Responsibility
Here I have to refer to a very important point. There is a very sensitive line between the concept of "Freedom "and "Responsibility". The writer and to a certain extent translator has to ponder about his or her readers, try to understand the cultural and religious background of the addressed audience. Whether the topic is based on the realities, is it going to play a positive role in enlightenment of the people or on the contrary it is doomed to leave a very negative impression about the intellectuals and family of letters? Here we cannot call such responsible considerations "Self censorship". Dictating policies does not cause this, this is not out of fear and threat, but this is the self-decision of the writer out of reasoning or wise selective work of a translator.
Future is bright and promising
The courageous discoveries of the new lands beyond the oceans, The Great Industrial Revolution, The Great French and October Revolution, countless sacrifices of men and women in both First and Second World Wars, unprecedented achievements in technology and electronics and IT, combined with many other factors, synthesized a very radical change in the societies. All these gave rise to the emergence of a new generation of educated and enlightened men and women who have felt the bitter pain of dictatorship with their skin and flesh to the morrow of their bones. A blessed generation who realize the value of freedom and knows very well that without such responsible freedom, the army of falsehood and darkness will attack again and again and drag the society back into the dark abysses of the bleak times.
The mission of writers, translators, journalists, painters, musicians and all those who fight against backwardness and ignorance is to walk side by side with people irrespective of their race, nationality or religion and try to love them and elevate them to higher and higher levels of awareness. Help them to open their eyes and see beyond their own limited walls. Show them the beautiful gardens of man's knowledge and endless galaxies of new kingdoms yet to be discovered. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) says: "There is only one history in the world and that is the history of man".
When the fabulous phoenix of awareness fly over our global village, when darkness replaced by light, when the eyes are wide open and blessed voices of maturity become the universal hum of the world, then talking about censor and self censorship, will only be a sad flashback to our past history.
- World's Mythology (an abstract)
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