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


Anil Kulkarni said...

I must admit you have framed it very well. I don't think I disagree to any of the questions raised or points made. And yes, in this world we can't call fat people fat, dark people dark.
On the last line yes, forcing opinions on others.. Thought provoking!

raja sekhar yellepeddi said...

But why call fat people fat and dark people dark?
Being fat or dark doesn't make one ugly.
See, that was racist right there.
Not trying to prove a point,
But small reservations like these at an individual level forge the nation's paradigm at a macro level.
It's time we work on ourselves and broaden our horizon.

No offence intended, nor getting judgemental. Just an observation, which applies to many including me, in some way or the other.