Thursday, 16 October 2014

Love Jihad

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted:
"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a lion to not eat you because you are a vegetarian"

While the original quote is "...expecting a bull not to attack you..." but I like the lion one better.

Highly recommended reading - Aavarana - The Veil

It takes all sorts to make a world is an old proverb. There are all kinds of people out there - Good, well behaved, polite, smart asses, witty, dull, dumb, arrogant, cruel, sadistic, masochistic, sadomasochistic and so on.

Then there is a second proverb - Birds of the same feather flock together. We typically see these examples right from our childhood and college. The smart ones hang out together and topics of discussion are studies or study related. People call them nerds. Then there are a group of sports-guys and studs who ace in the field but flunk in exams. It's very rare that you see people from both groups hang out together socially because they want to. People gravitate towards others of the same kind. When this happens, your mindsets are all alike. However, it is very rare that a person of one mindset understands where the other comes from.

I have already written a post saying that one cannot judge another based singularly on your experiences with him because you have no idea about the kind of situations he went through to become what he is - You can find it here. I see a lot of people who make this fundamental fallacy. But this is not a post about judging people - It is about judging situations.

Let me start off by telling you a short story - An eminent Indian journalist is seen talking to a group of people in a major American city. Suddenly, he is seen in a scuffle with one of the men there. Someone records a video and posts it on Twitter saying that Rajdeep Sardesai manhandled by Modi Bhakts. Immediately people spring into action. Modi Bhakts they say... Is this the Acche Din we were promised, they say. Modi and his supporters are all fascist, they say. The Indian hyperactive media does immediately takes a holier than thou stance and starts objecting to such crass behaviour.

A little later, a slightly longer video is released that shows Rajdeep Sardesai provoking the man, calling him abusive names and it was Rajdeep who initiated the brawl. The point here is to not judge who is right or wrong, but to simply illustrate that one must not rush into conclusions because situations are often a lot more complex than what appears at the outset.

I write this point singularly to talk about Love Jihad - With the recent post by Saif Ali Khan who, I must admit has written well, doing rounds, a lot of people seem to be trivialising the issue. They think Love Jihad is a silly concoction created by the RSS. In reality, they say, we are all Indians and we are diverse. These restrictions and claims are suffocating. Love Jihad is not real... The people who talk about it in this way are no idiots - They are well meaning people. But they are the kind of people who are like nerds of the college who hang out with other nerds. In their circle of nerds, there is no guy who gets beaten up by his girlfriend's rowdy ex, because there is no girlfriend to start off with. So the concept of getting beaten up by someone for dating someone simply does not exist in their world. So they do not understand why people beat one another up for a girl - It's absolutely absurd...

But what you find absurd is still a reality of life - To others, to whom the problems really do exist, you sound like the pretentious Mary Antoinette who infamously said - "If the peasants don't have bread, let them eat cake" - because you are trivialising a problem that doesn't affect you. There are real problems out there - Have you actually been on the ground? Have you actually done thorough research? Or are you just sitting in an air conditioned room and running a couple of Google searches and doing armchair debates?

Problems on the ground are a lot different from perceived problems. When we wrote software for our warehouse, we wrote it with good intent. On actually going to the warehouse we realised what colossal mistakes we had made in some aspects of our design, because our perception and reality were completely different.

Think about it - Everybody wants peace - The problem is with our definition of peace... Even the terrorists in the middle East want peace, they just want to establish a peaceful Dar ul islam in the world. Aurangazeb was a peaceful guy according to his Muslim subjects. The problem is with perception - and of sides. I love the line from James Bond movie - One country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter. While people bombing Kashmir are terrorists for us, they are fighting to free it from India's evil clutches. Isn't it the same in Israel and Palestine? Each one believes they are right and fighting for rightness and righteousness.

Love Jihad wouldn't have been a problem if people who were marrying across faiths said - Hey, you maintain your faith and I shall maintain mine. There wouldn't have been problems if they said - Hey, let us teach our children both our philosophies, you go out and experience the world and decide for yourself what you want to follow. If people were as nice as Saif Ali Khan claims to be, there would have been people sitting lazily around smoking pot and farting rainbows. The harsh reality is something entirely different. So next time, before shooting your mouth off on areas that you don't understand - Don't! Research topics a lot better...

Highly recommended reading - Aavarana - The Veil

Friday, 10 October 2014

Where do you draw the line?

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Sugar has carbon is not a debatable statement. Red is the best colour is..."

With the explosive growth of social networks where you don't need to have conversations face to face, combined with the anonymity of the internet, people are no longer scared to post their opinions out there. I am sorry, did I say post? I meant vehemently shove it on others.

But opinions are different from facts. Sugar has carbon is not a debatable statement. Red is the best colour is...

When something is illegal, the value of the product increases by a large amount. The Chinese "medicine" black market is responsible for the deaths of elephants and tigers in large numbers. Poaching is illegal, but the reward is so great that the punishment doesn't seem to deter poachers. Recently I read a post where people were talking about elephant poaching and how difficult it is to control it. The post continues to debate if ivory trade should be legalised. The argument  here being that if legalised, one need not have to kill elephants. You can perhaps have some kind of government regulated formal structure.

While this may seem to be a viable solution, one wonders how one arrives at what needs to be legalised when we are unable to control its growth. The simplest examples for these are prostitution and drugs. There is a perennial market for sex, considering prostitution is the world's oldest profession, and one might think that if a woman is interested to make some money and a man is alright with shelling out some money in exchange for "services",  there should be no problem. He is giving her a job and receiving a "job". Now I am sure one group of people completely disagrees with this argument calling it immoral while another agrees with this - Yes, look at the more stable and developed Western countries, I mean, look at Netherlands. It is legalised and there are no problems. They have so many benefits, protection (more ways than one) arranged by the government etc. The police know where brothels are, customers don't have to worry about getting secretly videoed, prostitutes don't have to worry about weird people, etc.  So should we legalise it? How do you decide?

But if you think it should be legalised, let us continue down that road and see what happens next, at the risk of slippery-slope fallacy. One of the other "stable and developed Western country" Denmark allows for animal brothels. You see, now we are at a tricky place - We cannot say if the animals are ok with human sex, but the owners say that the animal craves sex - and now the question is, should you say this is ok or not? Would you say this amounts to animal abuse? Would this make you to sign petitions? Clearly you have two sides for this as well... How do you decide?

Don't you think the same logic can be applied to drugs as well? We know people take drugs, we know there is a huge underground market out there. One might consider tightening the screws (requires man power) further to make it so difficult to obtain illegal substances that the prices keep getting jacked up further until a point where it no longer becomes viable to buy and sell drugs. The other solution, of course, is to legalise it because we are unable to keep it in check. Imagine a store from which drugs can be purchased - There is continuous police protection, each person has a unique card with magnetic strip and we know when he purchased drugs, which drugs and in what quantities. Quantity regulation to prevent overdose deaths, etc. can be attempted. But this will get opposition, because drugs will ruin lives, you say. But why? What if we put up sign boards that say "Don't do drugs - they ruin your life" etc. just like for cigarettes? People know the ill effects of cigarettes but that doesn't prevent smokers from purchasing them. People know alcohol messes with your liver and your brain and yet we allow alcohol purchase - when we are fully aware that it is the main reason why so many lower class people cannot grow - their income is always directed towards liquor purchase and husbands become abusive wife beaters. And yet, we legalise some things and not others... How do you decide?

Let's move on to modern Indian's poster-boy problem - You guessed it, homosexuality. Section 377 is a draconian, stupid stupid (yeah, I used it twice) rule. Why should homosexuality be legalised? Because homosexuality is natural - One cannot help if one is born gay or not. So if one is born gay, what can he do? By introducing such draconian laws, we are going back to the middle ages. Agreed - Everyone should be happy. But let's continue looking at other natural things while we are at it. It's a well known evolutionary fact that female animals pick the strongest male in a bid to guarantee survival of its offspring while males tend to have sex with multiple partners in a bid to increase chances of getting its genes through to the next generation. So infidelity is hardwired into males. So then should we say extra-marital affairs is natural and the idea of marriage where someone is bound to one person is unnatural and unnecessary? How do you decide?

Speaking of women, the next poster-boy problem is women empowerment - Again, I am all for it. But the methods picked by people are rather odd. On one hand, I hear people shouting against caste based reservations. On the other, I hear people supporting women's reservations. How can you say both? The idea of stealing college seats and jobs from a meritorious person seems outlandish on one hand but seems to not dissuade you on the other? So it is ok for a meritorious boy to not get a seat in a college because of women empowerment? BMTC buses have the first half seats designated as reserved seats for women - but the other half is open to both men and women. How's that fair? While I am primarily opposing reservation, wouldn't it be fair to say that the first half is reserved for women and the last half for men? A lot of our solutions are knee-jerk reactions. Girls are not sent to school because their parents have to save money for dowry (making them feel that having a girl child is a problem, resulting in female infanticide or raising illiterate daughters) I understand why you want to make it free. But don't you think consistency is important? Isn't this discrimination where boys' families have to pay and girls' families don't have to? The ultimate goal is to not have discrimination, isn't it? And don't tell me we don't have enough money - The cost of education for a kid in a year is so low that it might cost you your one pizza...

Rightness and wrongness are simply decided by the number of people who agree with you. Nothing in this world is a constant - A lot of people believed the world is flat - that doesn't make it true.

Arranged marriage and love marriage both have their advantages - Neither is perfect. It is the people who make the difference... So if you don't like arranged marriages, go marry someone you like. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for YOU. Stop generalising everything, stop calling arranged marriages as a stupid idea, stop calling it backward. Again, mind you, I am not advocating either of this... I am just saying - Don't judge. Do what you think is good for you. If you don't want to marry, don't...

Everyone is entitled to opinions - it is when you start shoving it down others' throats that I find annoying. Problems are far more complex than we think, and we cannot solve problems in isolation because the same reasoning can be used elsewhere. Think about it...

With more and more people saying "Freedom of Expression" for everything, be it refusing to stand for the national anthem or saying abusive things against a religion, one finds it extremely difficult to judge what is right and what is wrong - because in the end, opinions are just opinions. So again, where do you draw the line? If I find a religion violent and say it, should people pounce on me or should it be condoned as freedom of expression? If I make fun of someone who died, is that ok? It could be bad manners... But if I spread lies and bring disrepute to someone through slander, I can be jailed... Should I be jailed? Isn't that still freedom of expression? How do you decide?

Then there is another group of people which believes anything factual that can hurt someone's sentiments should be avoided - To a certain extent, one may agree with that. To call an ugly person ugly is rude. We have to abide by the Social Contract. But, we cannot use that as a blanket rule. If your child is misbehaving, you will need to teach her some manners. If that child starts crying, it doesn't mean that you made a mistake. You had to do what had to be done. To stand up for what is right is your Dharma. The problem, as illustrated above, is deciding what is right - for rightness itself becomes subjective.

There can be differences of opinions with neither being correct - So to force YOUR moral compass on someone else is completely wrong.

To summarise - Believe in what you want to believe - Quit shoving your opinions down others throats - In the words of some guy "That may be your moral compass, but what good is it for me?"

Related Posts:
Of Liberals & Bullshittery

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Demon Cave

Swami Gulagulaananda reminded:
"As you sow, so shalt you reap"

Kumar turned around to look at his friend. "So what do you think? Should we do it?" Suresh, lying on his back, seemed to be completely oblivious to the question. Staring at the leaves of the peepal tree under which they rested, he seemed to be lost in thoughts. "Well?" persisted Kumar. "Let's wait till Shyam gets here" he replied. "Oh good, Shyam is here" said Kumar seeming relieved. He wanted to get done with it. He had been waiting for this for a while now, and he was glad that there was finally company.

"Fine morning today", said Shyam cheerily as he approached his friends. "What are you both up to?" Just as Kumar got ready to respond "Actually...", Suresh casually interjected "We are thinking of going to the Antarangaasura cave" Shyam looked a little scared. "Isn't that cave haunted?" he asked worried. "We are in the 21st century. Are you really scared of bally ghosts?" asked Suresh grinning. Something about the grin piqued Shyam. "Alright, alright. I was just testing if you wimps were going to be namby-pamby later" Suresh suddenly sat upright "Ok, it' settled then, let's go", he said. "What, now?" asked Shyam. "Well, it's still early in the morning. We should reach there before the sun is high in the sky", reasoned Kumar.

The trio made their way towards the cave that was supposed to be the home of the asura Antarangaasura. The three young men lived in a peaceful village nestled amidst several hills, one of which was the home of a demon who was said to kill anyone who dared enter his home. After a couple of hours, they stood at the mouth of the cave. The continuous strong wind was the only source of sound in that area. The frightened men looked at one another and gulped. Nobody had dared to venture into the cave. The asura spared nobody. But they were not those who believed in folklore. They were born in the age of space and science.

"Alright Shyam, lead the way" said Suresh. "Why me? Why not you? Don't tell me you are scared" protested Shyam. "I am only testing you" replied Suresh trying to grin bravely, but his fake grin fooled nobody. Kumar gathered courage and said "Alright, I will lead, you follow" Speaking thus, he switched on his torch. The others followed suit and slowly walked into complete darkness, only illuminated by their torches.

They had to walk only for five minutes when they came across what seemed to be large boxes and some human skeletons around. "Chests? What are these chests doing here? They seem to be old. Several centuries old. And whose skeletons are those?" Shyam went closer and asked his friends to illuminate the boxes while he tried to open. The lid wouldn't budge. He grunted and exerted all his strength and the box seemed to offer some leeway. Suddenly it opened and they couldn't believe what they saw inside the box. It was filled with gold - coins and ornaments and pearls and precious gemstones

The trio stared at the chest wide eyed, unable to believe their luck. They opened the other chests one after another and found all of them filled with gems. "Unbelievable. So much wealth. We don't have to work for the rest of our lives. Actually, I don't think anyone in the generations to come in my family will have to work" said Kumar excitedly. "Yes, let's quickly split this wealth into three parts. And let's do it before anyone else gets to know about this" said Shyam greedily. "Oh what's the hurry. Nobody has come into this cave for so many years. Nobody will dare to even come into this cave. Tell you what, I will go get lunch from the restaurant. Let's split the wealth after I get back" said Suresh on his way out. "Alright, fine, go get your stupid lunch. I am going split the wealth right now. I can't wait another minute" said Shyam.

A couple of minutes later, Shyam turned towards Kumar and said "The gold isn't going to distribute itself you know. Why don't you help me here? You look so dazed, look at you. What's the matter?" Kumar looked at Shyam, his eyes gleaming in the latter's torchlight. "I am just thinking of a way to increase our share" "Increase our share? How? Don't tell me you are going to invest it" said Shyam. "No such thing. I am just thinking of the share that has to go to Suresh. That guy is so bossy. He keeps ordering us around all the time. You remember how he gets us to do work all the time and takes credit for it, right?" Shyam recollected all the times that Suresh had stolen credit for their combined work. Suresh would talk and charm people and get credit for work that was done by Shyam and Kumar. "That's right. Even now, we are the ones stuck in this dingy dark cave while he is probably out there flirting with that restaurant owner's daughter. But how do we get him to opt out?" asked Shyam. Kumar turned around and said menacingly. "We outnumber him, two to one. Nobody knows we are here. Nobody will suspect that he would come here. Nobody else comes here anyway. I say we get rid of him here." Ordinarily mild mannered, Shyam would have never thought of murder but the sight of so much gold and the fact that it would go to that arrogant Suresh angered him. "You are right, nobody will find him. Alright, you stand over there with that rock. When he comes hit him on his head" he suggested.

A few hours later, Suresh walked back into the cave carrying lunch for his friends. Seeing Shyam from a distance he said "Oye Shyam, I can't believe you are not done splitting the wealth. I have been gone for quite some time, you know!" said Suresh loudly. "Yeah yeah, there is so much money here, it is going to take longer. My hands are aching too. Come join me" Shyam shouted back, trying to control his anger. "Work? Me? I just climbed this stupid hill again and am exhausted. Where is Kuma--" *thud* Before Suresh could understand why his skull was cracked, he had collapsed, bleeding profusely. Shyam came running towards him and hit him again on his head, to make sure he was dead. "Come on, let's drag his body deeper within the cave" suggested Shyam. "Nah, leave him there. It's not like anybody is going to come here. Well well, I am famished. Let's have some lunch" smiled Kumar. "Oops, I completely forgot" replied Shyam as he picked up the packet of food brought by Suresh.

They settled in a corner and saw that Suresh had brought delicious food. The duo wolfed down the meal quickly and got back to splitting Suresh's wealth. Less than ten minutes had passed when Shyam complained of drowsiness. And then he collapsed. Before Kumar could react, he collapsed too. Little had they known that their friend Suresh had poisoned their food to take all the wealth for himself. And thus the asura Antarangaasura had devoured all those who had dared to enter his home...

This is a story I had read as a child. Although, I did choose Antarangaasura as the asura's name because antaranga = internal, and asura = demon