Thursday, August 7, 2014

Love and Violence

I loved a girl. Eight years ago. Nothing like that happened ever before or after. Body was on fire, mind was always elsewhere, I was high on oxytocin. I was addicted.

Such a love is bound to fail, even before it begins, in real life. But, that taught me a lesson sharply. Love is violence.

For some reason, I was not much aware of my sex-drive well into mid-youth. I was a strong believer of Platonic love. It never occurred to me that the foundation of society is in population. And population means copulation.

I was a big fan of Darwinian Theory of Evolution in my mid-youth, thanks to the series Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould; and the two books The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. Yet, it never dawned on me that romantic love had to evolve as a motivational pathway to sex, by the same means of natural selection.

I was too romantic, and naive, probably. The knowledge that love creates violence made me shaky. But, that way, any social or inter-personal communication creates violence. For me, violence was encroachment of personal space, creating influence, any form of persuasion.

Obviously, I was striding the other extreme in an impractical bite of conscience to be politically correct.

Interestingly, I had no compunction with being violent in any other socio-political setup, if needed. When it came to women and romantic relationship, I was shaky, mixing all ideas of political correctness and violence. Probably, I foresaw the Indian culture of rape through my experience and readings on power and difference.

World doesn't specifically hate women. World hates difference.

In my childhood, I was not much welcome to any sporting field. I was shy, and I couldn't play football. Problem was I never learnt.

Things changed drastically in early teenage when I went for swimming, cycling and suddenly jumped up the school grade just like magic. Suddenly, I was the most popular guy in the class. Thus, I saw, at an early age, how difference vanishes in a jiffy. And when it vanishes, acceptance comes. But, I didn't think much about that. I was only 13.

I enjoyed heroism throughout the junior school years. Always topping in the manly subjects English and Maths. Playing dominant roles in all social functions in and outside school. I grew a very high superiority complex.

When I went to learn Kyokushin at the South Asian HQ (and I was a serious student for the first two years), whatever little complex about fitness I had went away. Quickly, I was the fittest among all friends from school and neighborhood. Superiority complex grew.

It all broke down in a massive blow in high school. I have forgotten those two years, and the subsequent damage to my ego. What I remember is a sudden fall in stature in one's own eye creates a huge difference. People with whom I never talked in school (in fact, I didn't consider them intelligent enough to talk) now had a chance to pity, and accept, me in their group. That was a blow!

And this difference made a problem in self-acceptance. Obviously, when one cannot accept himself, others follow suit.

However, what I didn't fully realize at 18, this link between difference and acceptance (self-acceptance or acceptance by others) is not natural. It is socially constructed, and perpetuated. This is a direct legacy from our hunter-gatherer forest days. Different kinds of differences are linked to acceptance in different cultures. And, the privileged class is never aware of their privilege. They think it is natural.

In almost every culture in the world, women are the different. In many cultures, women try to be assimilated in the privileged class. That happened mostly in the second wave of feminism, in the late 60s and 70s. The third wave started questioning this assimilation frenzy. Yet, that continues to different extents, especially in a confused economy like India.

That merely reinforces the myth of the natural link between difference and non-acceptance. They say, sex starts in mind. If that is true for romantic love - lovemaking, that must be equally true for real-time violence-perpetrators to the different.

The privileged wants to teach a lesson to the different? The privileged celebrates his privilege more so, in this society of negotiation. When negotiation doesn't work, hack the interaction. Use more primitive powers.

The world hates the woman, when the woman comprises almost half the world population!

It is surprising, women still love men! Even after all this.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Woman Objectified...

Yes, women are objectified in our country But, I can't say, more than ever. It was worse before. For decades, if not Centuries, high class brahmin males ate off their hundred married wives' (or their dads') property. We heard voice against such objectification in the Mahabharata, where Draupadi challenged a hapless Yudhisthira how he could pawn his wife.

But Yudhisthira didn't only pawn his wife. He pawned his brothers too. He considered everyone in the family his possession, regardless of gender. So, Yudhisthira may not be seen sexist at least in this act.

The same challenge was not given to Yudhisthira or any of the Pandavas when they decided to divide Draupadi among themselves, following their mother's order (I don't know how Kuntui could be so callous. She had enough chanc to know where the Pandavas had gone, and why.)

In the Ramayana, Sita didn't challenge Rama in the same way. She had to die as the only way of protest. A recent film Ratichakravyuha revamped my belief that she fell in love with Ravana and left her forest hut by choice. This really proves why she, who used to hold the big bow up every day for cleaning, had to be undermined by a loser in the contest.

Yet Sita couldn't voice dissent, or freedom, after the battle. She had to be protected. She needed a owner, as voiced by Rama.

I agree with Jared Diamond's view that the objectification of women started the day the first settlement took place. As it is popularly surmised, women invented agriculture. That led to a gender-based society. Women were the first victim of the origin of class and private property.

Recent researches claim that menopause was a product of sexual selection. However, we would never know for sure why women fell back to be the victim, why they couldn't limit pregnancy, or if they ever did.

We only know about our times to historical surety.

I was reading a blog posting on rape by the scholar-activist Debolina Dubois. She is very clear about how the casual use of the word rape, in media and public sphere, as a metaphor for some other catastrophe or violence lead to a dilution of the original purport of the word. However, she didn't add any remark to Barun Biswas' comment that our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers are to be protected. A clear-headed scholar, Debolina missed the nuances in the comment that every woman (ie, wife of some man) must be tagged by some family relationship. At least, Debolina chose not to deal with this.

What makes me feel troubled is the current emphasis on reform. Thousands of reforms have been done before. But, always, women remained a property to be protected, provided.

This leads to the relationship experts' confirmation of gender roles, equally valid in modern urban societies - males : social provider and social protector; females : carer and nurturer. I don't understand, why activists like Debolina refuse to understand that the seed of objectification and rape is hidden in this gender role. It is not that they don't understand this. But, they refuse to see the further implications and the prevailing line of action that divulges from attacking the seed in a very conspicuous way, in my opinion.

Let's see what it is.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Political Correctness and...

A spate of political correctness has been shadowing over our middle-class culture for the last few years.

By political correctness, I understand insinuation to a "morally justifiable" power structure through the use of words, or phrases. When a power structure is morally justifiable, that means either a deep-seated belief in a person's ideoverse, or seeing the stance as pragmatic, practical.

When the power structure is laid bare through words (in fact any semiotic - that includes body language, relationship, professional attitude, sartorial and accessory fashion : in fact any interpersonal and social actitivity) in a manner which assumes the power relation is natural, we call that political incorrectness.

At least, I understand the term this way, checking its practice in and around my circles, media and distant communications.

Politically correct statements, on the other hand, try to refute this naturalness of power position. I wish they could see the origin and continuation of this myth wherever possible.

Myth = Showing an artificial, created concept as a natural phenomenon (TVCs/ Ad films use the power of myth to persuade potential buyers) (One of the major forces of any statecraft is the reinforced creation of leadership and happiness myths. The process of such creations is sometimes called hegemony)

In both the cases, it is conditioned. Worse, this conditioning is the root of most other conditioning. No wonder this is almost impossible to see as conditioning at all.

Political correctness is sometimes equated with euphemism. We are taught by our parents not to call a lame man lame. In the line of behavioral psychology, this may condition our personality to some extent where we become inherently uncomfortable with differences.

I guess, euphemism is more about the other person, than about me. It is a way to ensure that I don't hurt the other's psyche. In both the cases, the society ensures acceptance.

My question is, does it really do so? Is political correctness, practiced very meticulously, a good thing?

And how is it leaked, despite trying to be correct all the time? It is leaked, and that shows something is repressed.

Some examples are necessary.

These days we use English words without gender. At least, we try to do so. Actor, writer, director (this was always the word. I have never seen Directress or Realiseteuse, its French equivalent) - numbers galore. After all there is no gender specific word for engineer, doctor, painter or singer, probably because these professions hardly saw a girl before the French enlightenment.

I myself have a problem with the word woman. It has come to our modern form from the Old English wīfmon, which means wife of man. Husband  came from the same root from where husbandry comes. Both the words signify tilling the ground for cultivation. 

In North Indian languages, the popular word पति (pati) means lord, owner. Its counterperson पत्नी (patni) is just the counterword - owned. So, the power structure in embedded deeply in the languages.

Male and female partners are words much more acceptable to me, interms of functionality and idea. But, in reality, are they really partners? And would it be easier to form an ideal team if just the words are changed, but the structure is not?

Surely this leads to a debate around the primariness of language. Does language reflect the structure, or does it influence too? It is commonly accepted that language influences the structure a lot. But, can that influence be guided? Is it dialectical? Is language a kind of symptoms for a greater malady? 

And finally, can we go to the root through symptoms?

Example 2. In today's Times of India frontpage, two reports are published. Both are on the violation of the female. 

In the first report, a judge, who happens to be female, had to resign "from the judicial service to protect her "dignity, womanhood and self-esteem" ", following sexual harrassment.

The trio of dignity, womanhood and self-esteem are given within quotes by the TOI team. Evidently, this was written by the judge herself, in her resignation letter.

What strikes me is why she had to write womanhood? Why not just humanity?

In the second report, the TOI team themselves reported the female person in question (I personally prefer the word girl regardless of marital status, anyone younger than the middle-age category) with the information "a 27 year-old mother of two young children."

What has the violation of a human being to do with her being the mother of two children? This information excess reeks of the same attitude that coined the word woman. Surely, this shows that political correctness in the use of words is not sufficient to rub the "incorrect" mentality off. It leaks here and there, in every page.

This blog is getting too long and unwieldy. 

Time to wrap up.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Five Year Story

I have seen, every five years life changes.

I don't know why. Surely such a long span of time gives life enough oppotunities to focus on a single short-term goal, try out tests and come to a conclusion. Life learns from such experiments.

Maybe this is why the idea of five year plan for a country comes to fruition. Maybe the ancient statecraft artists noticed that long ago; further in the past than Chanakya or Socrates. Further in the past than Buddha.

In Suttapitaka, Buddha talked about a five year period to come to certain understandings of nature. Understandings that would lead to realization - where you become the idea.

But, why should I care for Buddha? I can dive in myself. I can see other people, around me. Our drive for self-actualization, which is stronger than libido in long-term, pushes us to reject certain things for others continuously.

Our values change, sometimes dramatically. Slowly, after five years, we come to see how we can handle previously uncontrollable situations. We become mature.

In five years, our bodies change a lot. Internally at least. We become stronger, or weaker, as we age. We become more adamant, and then flexible, as we grow. This growth sustains throughout life.

When the growth stops we become vegetable. That is worse than death. For the wise, growth never stops.

Socrates said, wisdom is alignment with the nature. I see the validity of that statement. Life is like a spring. Sometimes it recoils, again to expand. 

Our Indian philosophy called the sources sanskara. Each incident leaves impression on the body, and mind, very deeply. Sometimes we are aware of these impressions. More often we are not. Freud called the reservoir of such impressions the unconscious. Buddha believed such impressions are passed on from life to life. Buddhist meditation, Vipassana, is a psycho-physical way to bring all such impressions to the conscious level and then to get rid of them.

In five years, such impressions probably collect to an organic whole to plunge deep inside the mind - becoming almost a second instinct. They condition the mind, and the body.

I see our love for contrast, opposite situations - oppositions - is inborn. I guess, we move towards some kind of opposition after five years. Maybe to counterbalance the previous boredom. Another cycle starts.

Buddha says, the observer, the silent witness, is the blessed person - one who enjoys the play with all its ups and downs, the dramatic conflicts, as a theatre spectator.

But, I am not Buddha. I love participating in this cycle of life with all wildness. 

After five years, life is more interesting!