#MeToo?

As I scrolled down my newsfeed, I could see almost everyone I know, most of them women, put up a status on Facebook saying #metoo. Confused at first, I scrolled down past a few more status updates, some rather descriptive. The message was loud and clear. Somebody had started a trend, and it caught on, really well. I am glad that it caught on, but it was amazing to see the uncomfortable silence (me included) surrounding these statuses. I have scrolled down and read through every story I came across, but haven’t had the courage to like, or comment on any one of them. I don’t know what to say. I would like to apologize that whatever happened to them, but they aren’t looking for an apology. There was nothing to like about or react to their status – no response dignified what they were sharing. There was bravery in what they were doing, yes, but this was more than just them being brave. I could tell them that I will always be there for them, but they aren’t looking for someone reliable once it happens again, which it might. This problem is far from being solved.

The one thing about the #metoo campaign that caught me off guard, was that every other person I knew came out and shared their experiences. It was surprising, but I wasn’t entirely surprised, and therein I believe lies the root of the problem. We expect nothing more from our ‘brethren’. We don’t hold ourselves to high standards. I’m not sure if we did in the past, but we sure don’t anymore. It’s not normal, but it isn’t abnormal to hear about someone being sexually abused today. It happens. It happens everywhere, at home, in school, at work, on the way to any of these places, at hospitals or at religious institutions. We aren’t safe anywhere, and we know it. We aren’t okay with it, but we accept it, not completely, but more often than not, silently.

This isn’t normal, and it never will be. Through this campaign we are, in some sense, crossing that barrier of silence. I am not convinced on how much of an effect it will have in the long run, because like other campaigns, it is likely to see its rightful end until sustained differently, but I am glad that it has stirred up a conversation (though one-sided) and that is a start.

One, usually unanswered, question props up when these discussions take place. Who is to blame? Is it the perpetrator, the silent onlooker or is it the victim? Or is there a third (fourth) person responsible for all of this? While the victim has nothing to do with this, the crimes of the first two are easy to pin down. I believe that society, you and me, is responsible for this as well. Our silence, our indifference, our inability to stand up for ourselves and the people around us, out choice of leaders and our emotional investment in an already good narrative, with evidence clearly stating otherwise, are all small but relevant examples. Add to that the way in which education is perceived and delivered in India and our lack of investment, personal, economic and political, to bring about a change in it. We play our parts indirectly and we need to feel responsible for all that has happened and all that will probably happen.

Until we do something about it, the next time somebody else puts up #metoo, we can reply saying the same…

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The Dirty Minds

There are certain events that get you thinking. The ones which highlight how humans treat fellow humans (the dirty minds), they peak my interest. The general debate on issues involving humans usually focus on why one person/group of people should be punished. Their acts are put down as gruesome, inhumane, or sometimes in bad taste. Their punishments however have a wider range, from instant civilian justice to castration and sometimes death (can also be read as genocide-the line between the perpetrator and the perpetrated is finer than you expect).

What is interesting about events like this is that the level of public outrage is usually not in direct relation to the level of the ‘crime’. Now that is understandable because human reaction does not necessarily follow the rules of rationality (it shouldn’t, because that would be against the rules of emotion). However, what I fail to understand is the basis for the approach taken to solve the problem. Because the basic structure of a problem is that it stems from somewhere. You can’t cut the stem of a (few) plant(s) and expect to solve the problem. The root still remains untouched. (please brace for the plant and gardening metaphors to follow)

I am often in awe of the human need for instantaneous judgement. We believe that it teaches everyone a lesson, that it serves as an example. We’ve all been to school. Lessons can be forgotten, in fact they are meant to be forgotten. I believe that as a society we need to start asking questions and get to the root of the problem. But don’t be hasty and cut off the root just yet. Maybe the problem has nothing to do with the root, it can even be the soil. (I warned you! )

I believe the only way to diagnose the problem is to ask a few questions.

WHY?

Why did whatever happen, happen?

Is there scope for this to happen again? And again?

If yes, why?

(Ask these questions not on the scale of an individual, but on the scale of society)

Before I continue I would like to make it very clear that I am in no way justifying the act(s) itself, but I sincerely believe that along with delivering a message to the miscreants of the future, we must try and create a system where we can reduce the number of miscreants created in the first place.

It is too idealistic a vision, but it also targets too real a problem. Maybe the dirty minds aren’t the actual problem but merely a symptom of the general trajectory of change to follow. If so, this symptom needs to be weeded out before the dirty minds become our default setting and the resulting activities commonplace.

Broken?

What does it mean when someone breaks you? How do you feel?

Scared?

Vulnerable?

Indifferent?

Or simply unaware?

You definitely don’t feel full of yourself! (apologies) You feel empty, like somebody just took a part of you, something so dear that even the ones closest to you didn’t get a whiff of, something even you didn’t know existed inside of you,  you. It doesn’t matter because it’s already taken away from you the moment it is born. It’s like taking a new born child away from it’s mother.

You finally catch one glimpse of yourself, of a part that is truly you, but it’s gone before you know it. It’s the ‘what could’ve been’ that kills you, not the ‘what is’ or ‘what was’.

Interestingly, you don’t break until you volunteer. Don’t regret it.