The ship of theseus: Aesthetics of alienation


Aesthetics of alienation


Recently when the film Ship of Theseus drew full house, the philosophical root of the question behind its story somehow did not get discussed enough in society. Anand Gandhi has dared to ask some very fundamental issues about life, its transitivity, its mutation through organ transplants and then where does the original identity reside, in the part, or the donor or the receiver.

Apart from outstanding photography and beautiful sketching of situations which have no easy answer, it also had a small glimpse of a TV channel on innovations. Now, why there is not a TV channel which draws upon a huge reservoir of creativity and innovation is a difficult question to answer. It is as strange as asking why public broadcaster, AIR and Doordarshan don’t have even on hour of time a week on showing some or the other aspects of creativity and innovation to excite the minds of masses. But that could be said about every newspaper as well, why don’t they have a six column inches every day for a creative innovation or an idea. But let me get away from this vain attempt to argue that making communities responsible through exposure to creativity and innovation must be a larger purpose of every social media. Sometimes acts of omission are as important as acts of commission.

The film brings this out sharply when it wonders whether getting a new lease of life is so important as to get an organ by hook or crook. What is the ethics of taking something away from someone without due discourse on the consequences of that action for say donor ofthe organ and of course receiver as well. This is not a new dilemma. But exercising power over someone who is helpless and is vulnerable is not really an act of great valour.

Let me take another example. Let us say that a hospital has several people living around its wall. Some are sick and some are well. Some have tea shops, some sell trinkets and some have made a small a temple. The ones who have made a temple enjoy patronage of influential people and thus they are not removed but others are, while cleaning up the place. The sick person on pavement does not get treated inside the hospital though he is just a few feet away. For him, the hospital is miles away. But for those who are hundred of miles away, it is just round the corner, because they can afford to get there easily. The Film raises questions about the paradoxes of life, every day conversation about various choices and exposes hypocrisy underlying intellectual pretentions of the middle class. Anand brings together all those who got organ transplant from the same person together in the last shot and leaves the rest unsaid. All of us receive a lot from society and every day. We are under huge obligations actually, if we try to develop a balance sheet of what we got and what we give, if at all.

And yet when time comes to take decisions, we start stinting and become oblivious of all the unredeemed IOUs. If a pavement dweller gets soaked in rain because the tarpaulin under which he takes refuse gets punctured because of strong winds, we are obviously not responsible. But if we join the winds and make the task of stitching or repairing the tarpaulin more difficult, then perhaps we assume some responsibility for the way winds blow but also the way people cope or do not cope with it.

The film,  ‘ the ship of theseus’  wonders whether we ever pause in our busy life to even contemplate on these existential questions. Sartre and Camu may not have been able to resolve the dilemma about whether we really have a choice or not. But to me it seems that we all have a choice, to be more humane, to be a bit more concerned, to carry  the burden of our authority and power a little lightly on our shoulders, to be a bit more concerned about the rights and lack of these of those who depend upon us. But also those on whom we depended for various mercies when we were in need.



Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place

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