Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Grand Unifying Theory of Crime and Punishment

A 23 year old girl was gang raped this Sunday night in Delhi. She was brutally beaten and thrown off the bus, in which 6 people raped her. She was brought to the Safdarjang Hospital in a critical state where her condition has deteriorated since then. She has been in coma. Her infected intestines have been all but removed through surgery. There are speculations as to whether she'll survive. Probably, we don't even dare to start speculating how her life will be if she survives.

India is enraged. There are demonstrations. There's a flurry of activity on the Web condemning the heinous act, demanding strict punishment to the perpetrators. Blogs. Facebook posts. Petitions. Demands: Fast track court. Extended sentence. Death by hanging. Death by starving...

Since a day or two, I have got entangled in a discussion (on facebook) where, in the current state, I am shamefully defending myself against rude remarks by one of the members in the discussion. Reason: she thinks that such harsh punishments as castration, gallows etc. should be meted out to the perpetrators. I expressed my disagreement, though only after ample expression to my own agony about whatever has happened, whatever is happening. I had to face the charge of sharing a camaraderie with the criminals. What a shame! I want to join hands with everyone in the world to express my disgust and anger about how we treat our women. But look at what I am wasting my energies in: in refuting comments from another person agonised like me, the harshness towards me that shows in her comments towards me being entirely founded on a genuine distress. A distress we all feel. Equally!

Rather accidentally, this very thing probably summarises what I came here to say. Whenever something disturbing happens, we get enraged. We start throwing our rage about. We, the perennial idol worshippers, catch someone to empty our rage on, an effigy to burn. When there's a bomb-blast, we want to throw out all Muslims from India. For increasing crimes in South India, South Indians want to bash up North Indians. When there's rampant corruption, we point our fingers at politicians. There's a technical name of this behaviour: Racism!

When the fact that women aren't treated well in our country reveals through such horrendous incidents, we quickly find another race to persecute: Males.

Nothing happens. Terrorists keep bombing our cities. Muggers keep making our streets less and less safe to walk on. Our women keep getting treated worse and worse. After a few days, we forget. We move on. A bit more benumbed. A bit more de-sensitised. A bit more cynical and hopeless.

Nothing will happen. Keep thrashing about. Keep screaming at the top of your voice. Keep calling any person with any single attribute matching the perpetrator, a traitor and an accomplice. Spend yourself out. Appease your conscience that you did your bit. But nothing will happen.

Nothing will help. But through a process that entails the realisation that criminals grow from amongst us. They are dangerously similar to us. We create them. We feed them. They breed from amongst us.

That criminal is in us. That part of us which makes us first think of nipping away our yet unborn girl-child. It's that person in us which takes the morsel out from our daughter's mouth -- the pencil out from our girl's hand -- and gives it to the son. The criminals takes birth, grows stronger, when we attribute someone's lack in mathematical aptitude to her being a girl. It happens when women think that having food after their husband is what exemplifies their womanhood. It happens when a woman finds it beyond her will and ability to hold meaningful conversations, solve hard problems, build things. It happens when a dad demands dowry for his son's marriage, and another dad agrees to give dowry for his daughter's marriage. It happens when a man finds it OK to screw around with various women before marriage -- and sometimes after marriage -- and wishes to marry a village virgin who remains oblivious of his escapades, and true to him. It happens when a woman thinks that it's unwomanly for her to talk and care about anything beyond the subjects of her family, apparels and accessories, or it's her prerogative to talk depravingly about her mom-in-law or daughter-in-law. It happens when curves of the body of a stranger women we see in the bus, train, office or market, look more interesting to us than the expression of purpose, ambition, worry, attachment, and every other human emotion that shows on her face. It happens every time anyone -- a man or a woman -- does anything to put the fact of someone's being a man or a woman before that of their being a human being.

Sorry. But nothing will happen. Not at least today. nor tomorrow. Human civilisation wasn't built in a day. Nothing of consequence and beauty has ever been erected in a day. A safe and secure society, where the beasts in our minds have been carefully bound and leashed, and only the elevated, intellectual aspects of us find open expression -- a society of that kind is a thing of beauty. It's not a natural phenomenon; in fact far far from it. It's that one tiny little point of stability that lies hidden between an infinite space of instability. It can't exist by itself. It has to be imaginatively dreamt, creatively conceptualised, carefully built, patiently maintained over hot, blazing days, and has to be watched over through long wakeful nights. And if we allow ourselves to pass into a slumber, to gradually drift away from that point of stability -- the way we seem to have done today -- we can't wake up one day and wish away the reality with a loud roar of rage. Our rage can't warp the space. It can't blow away, like a mist, the night we spent sleeping. 

We have only one choice: to start walking back. A step at a time. Slowly. Without protest. Saving our energies to make good the resurrection of the old order, and not squander it in beating our fists on our chests like frustrated apes. And one input that we can't avoid giving to this only restorative act: time.

We can leave the question of whether noodles cause promiscuity to qualified medical researchers. We can allow our psychologists to deal with the grand issue of whether excessive fraternisation between the sexes instigates criminal thoughts. We, the ordinary mortals, the dull-wits of highest order, aren't capable of dealing with such technical topics. We should just try to educate ourselves of one single, simple rule. A rule that is agnostic to the concept of sexes and sexual crimes, about races and racism, about economies and class conflicts, about nations and wars. A rule that is the constituent atom of every man-made structure that has stood against the dissipative forces of nature. That rule is the rule of respecting each other's right to live with respect. There's but one rule here. Only one rule to be followed. Only one rule that can ever be broken. All crimes in this world are instances of this one rule being broken: taking bribes, breaking a traffic law, teasing a woman, or littering the public places, or polluting the environment.

A man who will refrain from attacking a woman from the fear of castration or lynching can't be stopped from going back home and abusing his wife or daughter who, he is sure, will keep quiet because they love him. But a man -- or a woman -- who passes each act of his or her through the acid test of respect and justice will create a more beautiful world with every thought articulated, every word spoken, every move made.

I, the non-specialist in rape-cases, the one born to the cursed race of males -- I, the idiot who has nothing but his little common-sense to hang on to in this age of chaos, rage, cynicism and hopelessness -- I, the poor human being, rest my case.


With All Respect, No Apologies!


Anjali said...

Aye Sir! Doesn't need any comments. Your argument is complete with the dot.

PS: I am not a feminist Sujit. I am an equalist, just as you I guess.

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Anjali. Thank you. :)

Sudeep Biswas said...

No reason to disagree with you Sujit on this matter, but the question remains, how to bring in this rule of "respect" to the still beastly homo-sapiens whom we proclaim humans.
Where in society, religion, school or home we follow that ?
Will it wait for a single unknown instance to kick the practice in or will it require ages through a forced social change by govt/academic/religious bodies ?
I am not talking about a few well-read intellectuals who anyway never were part of such problem.
So if the latter seems to be a practical approach for a larger un-tamed society then how will they be managed till they master the rule ? Should we be allowed to falter till social/academic activities bring us to do lesser crimes by making us to practice the rule of respect or should we also force fear of consequences along with that ?
I am advocating for imbibing the rule of respect but not without the fear of wrongdoing until the rule has permeated in the society. It’s not racism against "humans". I will call it racism against the beasts in act.

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Very true Sudeep. It would be idealistic and nothing but wishful thinking to assume that education will ever permeate to the furthest recesses of the society.That's not gonna happen. But, I am hopeful that instances of violation of the cardinal rule of respect can brought down in frequency within reasonable time. The violations should become more an exception than a rule. Law enforcement will be then be effective. No enforcement can do anything when breaking the law becomes the norm. Only the slow, steady methods of education can do something then.

Kalyan said...

Suzy boy,
Though i agree with a lot of what you said, i disagree conceptually on a few aspects. such as taking steps backward.

Throughout every step in history, crimes of passion and other crimes of so-called respect have occurred.
Every war is beseiged with rapes, every invasion of mankind has been to spread some rulers seed, every act of ignorance has led to unfair advantage being derived.

For example, if a childless couple approached a rishi for blessing them with offspring, how do you imagine the blessing was conducted?

so where in the world and to which point of history can we ever walk back? Primal instincts of man v/s woman, and lure of power, will remain and only vary in perspective. only the laws of society continually change to deem what is currently acceptable and to enable the same voices to resonate in different frequencies.

the only way- its not actually a way, its the inevitability - is forward - to a point that is currently acceptable. hence each voice of rage is a present call that would have similarly been expressed, albeit in a different tone at a different point in history.

men will rape women, men should be castrated or killed, women should be given equality... everything will happen, everything is acceptable. things will change superficially. nothing will change fundamentally.

I am part of the voice and will shout in rage, yet i know i am part of an inescapable constant.

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

So well said Kalyan! Yes, there's this view we could take that all that happens is inevitable. But...well...that's too deep a question for me at the moment.

Let me improve my statement in view of your input: as we drift from one point of stability, we must start working our way towards a point of stability: the same one, or, more probably, a new one.

What distinguishes human existence from lower forms of animate and inanimate objects? our arduous fate of continuously constructing edifices out of rubble and debris, or all the song and dance we make about our frustration about the reality not being the same as our dream? Probably a Buddha would smile at any attempt to distinguish between the two. I, as I am now, would vote for the former.

JJ said...

Sujju Bhai!

Many points very well made.

I would give a slightly different spin on the remedy though: Rather than respect, we as human being need to learn to love the other person for whom they are, rich/poor, male/female, busy/jobless, learned/uneducated etc.. Also, this becomes more a way of life rather than a rule - which is bound to be broken.
I strongly believe that this one thing is the point of stability you talk about and can solve most problems we see around us today. True, nothing is going to happen overnight, but love is easy to teach and is self propagating. And we are all benefactors of love, and the least we can do is pass it on. This also falls in line with what psychologists say that teaching using positive reinforcement is better than punishment.

One of my favourite songs come to mind:

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

JJ. Agreed. Love subsumes respect and is in all ways bigger and better.

HT said...

Read your write up with lot of interest Sujit. No comments just absorbing what's happening around with interminable thought on How can I help bring the change to all this?