Monday, 19 March 2012

On how to know if you are leaving a goofy dictatorship

When Margo and Chris were leaving one of the former Soviet 'Stans (Turkemenistan I think), an official took away their digital camera for a while to make sure they hadn't taken any photos of anything didn't officially happen in the 'Stan. The photos didn't have anything more subversive than photos of a historic old quarter, the national museum, a few national monuments, the desert and a few camels. As these photo subjects were utterly innocuous to the government (I like to joke that the security officials, had to quickly decide if the camels were the top-secret stealth camels), none were censored. After all, the tourism ministry probably wants foreigners to photograph things like a historic old quarter, the national museum and a few national monuments. It may be less keen on the photographing the desert (as it may represent poor environmental management) but it isn't much of a secret! ;-)

For some reason, I was in a goofy mood today and kept coming up with even sillier scenarios. Such as the security official coming back and offering a valid critique of their camera technique ("Your framing of this statue is poor. A better composition would have been to take a few steps back and zoom in a bit more."); a patriotically-inspired censorious nature ("This picture of our wonderful statue doesn't show it in it's best light. I must delete it."); artistic paternalism ("You must go back and photograph this statue properly! Here are the necessary papers!"); or possibly just admiring ("This photograph of the statue is really good! Would you mind if we kept a copy for the next edition of our tourism brochure?")! ;-)

Yes, I am making light of censorship and dictatorial regimes. Yes, said issues cause untold hardships, etc. However, mocking them is one, non-violent, way of reducing their power. On the Flanders and Swann record "Then we wrote", Michael Flanders comments on the censorship exercised by the Lord Chancellor in the United Kingdom at the time. He was ashamed to admit at the time that nothing he had written had been censored. He had also refused to confess that some of his work had come back with appreciative notes written in the margins along the lines of "I like this, and Jolly good!"

I guess I am in a silly mood. There are worse moods to be in.

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