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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beware, “We are merely sophisticated apes!”

“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men—above all for those upon whose smiles and wellbeing our own happiness depends”, so mused  Albert Einstein. 

Now, the question is: Do we know this simple truth? Do we appreciate this simple philosophy? Or just as Einstein’s theory of relativity, is this too beyond our comprehension?  Whether it is understood or not, one thing is certain: quite often, we come across people, driven by beastly instincts, transgressing this simple truth, that too, quite freely, particularly in India. Or, we might understand this simple truth, for our heritage speaks about this spirit, but we do not practice it—at least that’s what one is tempted to conclude looking at the happenings in our society, particularly at what happened to that young girl from Delhi who, aspiring to better her economic lot, migrated from the countryside to the capital for equipping herself with professional skills.  

Of course, such crimes against women are not new, for the history of the mankind is replete with such violations from time immemorial. But the governance of modern societies, particularly democratic societies, is said to be better equipped to arrest such crimes. Alas! India too is a democratic society. Yet, this malady is more rampant in our society than anywhere else. The protests of the youth who have come out on the streets, first to express their anguish at what had happened to the girl student and later outraged by the death of that unfortunate victim, make this plain truth evident: there is no protection for women even in out capital city.  

The nation-wide anger expressed by the youth, both by girls and boys, at the laxity of law in dealing with the perpetrators of such dastardly crime against women has only highlighted the deeply felt need for protection of women—who in the last 20 years have become active partners of the country’s new-found economic growth, particularly in the knowledge-economy—from the street thugs.

One heartening outcome of this ghastly crime in the capital city is: the youth of our otherwise indifferent society have for the first time come out on the streets, outraged by what had been inflicted on that youngster demanding speedy justice. As against this, the silence of the government, which has only infuriated their anger further, is certainly surprising this time round.  

What is most surprising and equally disturbing is that not even a single leader of national stature came forward to identify with the cause being taken up by the youth. The Prime minister took almost a week to react to the demands of India’s urban youth that poured out onto the streets demanding protection for women from such criminals and punishment for the criminals demonstratively and speedily. A just demand! If reports are correct, we have about 140 policemen for every 100,000 persons as against the global average of 270 policemen for the same population. On average, the courts in our country reportedly take about 15 years in deciding a case. Yet, our leaders preferred silence rather than articulating their plans to improve the protection of women, like making public transport safer—at least to give confidence to the demonstrating youth saying, “Yes, enough is enough, we shall squarely address this growing incivility in the society forthwith”.

The leaders might have thought that this upsurge too, like other such outcries in the past, will, with the passage of time, die down on its own.  But the urbanized youth appear to be relentless this time round in their pursuit of speedier justice and protection from such onslaughts against women who are increasingly joining the mainstream of economic activity.  
As many critics feel, the government may take its own sweet time in making the travel by the public transport system safer by increasing the protection force. Nor are the courts in a position to speedily punish the offenders and thereby instill bhayam in the society that deters others from repeating such violations, for they are tied down by their own judicial procedures. And even if the government launches an initiative to improve the strength of the protection force, can we afford to ignore the fact that no government can ever walk around us all the time to protect us from the lurking wolves?

That said, it makes great sense here to recall what Dr. VS Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, once said: “We are not angels, we are merely sophisticated apes. Yet we feel like angels trapped inside the bodies of beasts, craving transcendence and all the time trying to spread our wings and fly off, and it’s really odd predicament to be in, if you think about it.”  For that matter, even our spiritual heritage says that an individual is a ‘process’ rather than a thing, and is always in a state of constant growth, development, becoming. We are all said to be governed by three gunas (qualities) called Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva that are, though distinguishable, not separable. While all the three are present in each individual, one guna predominates the rest. And it is the predominant guna that determines an individual’s actions.  Indeed, it is the inequilibrium between these gunas that creates all problems. It is therefore, preached that we shall  transcend tamas and rajas gunas and strive to be always in Sattvic (nobler) state. 

Another important development that took place recently in our country also merits our attention. India is toady divided into two, both economically and culturally. This cleavage is obviously resulting in a conflict. In what form this conflict, the brewing resentment, reflects in the behavior of the affected lot is hard to anticipate.

Against these realities, we must beware, seriously beware must we all of the fact that the protection from the onslaught of socially-deviant prima facie rests with the ‘self’. And how one should protect oneself from such attacks is what each individual has to define to oneself.

At the same time, the youth should keep their vigil ever active. It is only such active participation of the enlightened citizenry in correcting the governance, whenever and wherever it falls behind, that makes democracy function for the good of all.

Jai Ho, the newfound enthusiasm of the youth!


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