So, there’s this artist that I follow online. I think he’s good with his “art” (web comics). However, some time back, I came across some of his views on certain topics, and I found myself disagreeing (sometimes, quite strongly) with a few of those.
This made me wonder if I should continue visiting his website for the comics, and thereby, encouraging him (in an indirect way). The comics, BTW, are totally independent of his views that I had objections to.
And I realised, this is not just about this particular artist and his art. It’s a common issue that we face each day of our lives. We have all heard of brilliant artists and other celebrities indulging in drugs, violent and racist behavior, crime, etc. We have leaders talking bullshit, organisations flouting norms, and closer home, we even have friends and family members, with whom conversations about certain topics invariably end up in arguments.
These are not ideal situations to be confronted with. But what do we do in such cases? Do we continue engaging with such people?
Of course, we do! We don’t stop listening to such artists’ music. We still elect such leaders because we think some of their policies are good for the country. We continue buying products and services from such companies because we feel they add value to our lives. And of course, we don’t stop talking to our friends and family just because of a few arguments.
But sometimes, some of the words and actions of these celebrities, actors, athletes, corporate and political leaders, etc. makes me wonder if they think they are somehow above the rest of us, above legal, ethical and natural frameworks, just because they have the support of so many people.
There’s an exchange between us and these people. We enjoy the fruits of an artist’s labour, and, in exchange, we show our appreciation by “liking” and “subscribing” to her art. With our leaders, the exchange is about the power that we give them (by voting for them) and the quality of their governance once they have that power (by bringing about changes we want to see). Friends and families give us love, memories, moral support – things we need to face life. Point is, in all cases, some sort of exchange always takes place.
It’s said, “We make the world we live in.” And I agree. That is why I think it’s important that we be careful when we participate in these exchanges. I’m not saying we should totally ostracize someone because of a few faults. Good actions should definitely be appreciated, while bad ones, denounced. But we should also remember that if our appreciation for the positive aspects is actually acting as an encouragement for the person to further indulge his negative actions and / or words, then some of that is our responsibility. We should see what we are getting out of the “exchange” and what we are contributing.
I’m not saying we take the responsibility to fix the whole world for everyone. It would be pretty damn amazing, but I think impossible, if one could do that. But, one can, and should, act based on what one thinks is right. There may be people who are not well liked by most others. But if you like them, support them. If you think the net result of their actions (whether positive and negative), is negative, then don’t support them, irrespective of how popular they may be.
One thing to note here: Simply turning a blind eye to the bad doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility. The artist of whom I speak, I received a hint of negativity from some of his words online. But I found myself ignoring that negativity, focusing only on the positive (his art). But then I realised, I was just feigning ignorance – I wasn’t actually ignorant. I had some idea about the artist’s views (on topics other than his art) that I didn’t agree with, but I didn’t want to dig deeper into it, because I didn’t want to face the question of whether to continue supporting the artist’s art (which, believe it or not, helped me on a couple of difficult moments). But running away from the question will not answer it, and I think it’s time I do.
Side note: When evaluating the bad a person has done, don’t just look at their past. If the person realises the bad he has done, and feels remorse for it, then by all means we should encourage him, no matter what he has done. I think a second chance should be given to those who realise their mistakes and are serious about getting back on track. It will not always be easy, especially for those who are the direct victims, or are close to the victims, of the said bad actions. If they can’t give the person a second chance, it’s understandable. But for the rest of us, I think we should be willing to let them make a fresh start.
We are all very complex characters, of course. There’s good and bad in each one of us. And, sometimes it’s difficult to separate the two, even within ourselves, let alone in others. So, weighing the good and the bad in someone will hardly ever be easy. And we may not even be capable enough to do that. And that’s okay. The idea is not so much to make the “right” decision (whether to continue to support the artist or not), but to make a thoughtful, aware decision.
As long as we are acting after having thought about what our actions imply in the bigger scheme of things, I think we are on the right track.
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo