Over the past week and more I have read a lot of posts both on blogs and FB and even commented on them. But Ashwini’s post asks a lot of uncomfortable questions. I tried commenting on her blog, but found it was becoming a full length post. So I decided to do it here, trying in the process, to understand our psyches that have made us the people that we are today.
Ashwini, you ask if we would unhesitatingly jump to defend someone being molested? Unfortunately, we have to admit shamefacedly that we do not, not every time. We have qualifications for doing that, you see: It should concern either us or ours; we should not come to any harm if we do; there should not be any long term repercussions. (there are many more such ‘qualifications’, but let them be, for now)
You see, we instinctively shy away from controversy and trouble. Why endanger our social position by taking sides, even if it is a blatant assault on a helpless person? So we remain silent and even quietly slink away before we are seen. We refuse to take a stand. And thereby hangs the tale of our cowardice.
It is not just about molestation and rapes. What about road accidents? Don’t we try to melt into the crowd to avoid the responsibility of taking the victim to the hospital? What would we do if there is a police case and we are called to testify in the court as the eye witness? Who has the time or energy to do it? We wait for someone else to come forward and then offer our support. Let them take the lead and the bother. We can always ‘support’ them, and take credit later.
Do we step in when we see children being thrashed by their parents or adults who hold power over them? It is their child. Why should we get involved in ‘someone else’ problem’? And then, what about harassment at work? Bullying by those who hold some form of power? What about manipulation, subtle or overt? Twisting of the truth?
The honest are browbeaten at every opportunity and if they raise their voices, they are ridiculed and vilified. The placard reads rightly: ‘You can get raped but not protest against rape.’
There are other reasons too. We don’t want to tangle with those in power, or with the bullies. It is not a pleasant experience to be targeted by these honorable members of society. So when the son of a politician or a high ranking police official, or an influential person in whichever field is the culprit, we run away double fast and melt into the crowds. Who knows how the person might harm/help one in the future? What if one antagonises him today and finds oneself out of favour tomorrow? Better be on the side of the powerful (and the wrong) and reap the benefits. Truth and justice be damned!
We have double standards and are very choosy about whom we defend, for we are hypocrites. We would be baying for the blood of the perpetrator of a crime most vociferously, proclaiming that we stand for justice. But the moment it turns out that the perpetrator is a son/friend/relative, there is a volte face. ‘Oh, it must have been her mistake. He wouldn’t have done it without provocation. He will surely have an explanation.’ All the righteous indignation and condemnation are tossed out of the window as we slink into the shadows, looking the other way. Why, we even support the perpetrator, for isn’t he ‘ours’?
And the perpetrator gloats. He has supporters who will stand by him and applaud him even if he is a criminal. And so he repeats the heinous act – by blaming the victim in addition to mauling her. If you can’t prove yourself innocent, trash the victim. So start throwing muck — the more, the better and the more chances of it sticking; the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed. Be brazen. ‘She is a slut; look at the way she behaves; she only pretends to be virtuous; in fact, she is ‘dented and painted.’ And soon the chorus is taken up by the friends and supporters and the chamchas. And if a sizeable number of people believe it, he can heave a sigh of relief. Maybe he has even gained some new admirers, even more unscrupulous than him. The victim has been successfully made into the perpetrator. So there!
Don’t we adore the despicable and the lumpen? Malice is the order of the day. We glorify swear words and filthy language as being ‘open and honest.’ Talking dirty is integral to this honesty bilge. Rudeness is part of everyday interactions and reality shows, including the ones involving children. We shame the losers for losing, all in the name of giving ‘honest feedback’. Yes folks, it is all about winning, by hook or crook — whether in politics, real, reel or the virtual world.
And we have even courts exonerating rapists by saying ‘he was lonely, depressed, grieving or was being victimized and so did it; he needs to be pitied and helped. After all, he is an honorable leader/doctor/teacher/actor/father/social worker/bureaucrat and can’t be all that bad, can he?’ That is the molester’s cloak of invincibility. And that gives him the power to act despicably and get applauded – in public and in private, which is why we have gang rapes as in Delhi and spectators applauding the molesters as in Guwahati.
And how do we react? We might seethe from within; we might even recoil at the possibility that it might be us the next time and might vow to ‘be careful’, but we are not vocal about it. For, how careful can one be in the presence of beasts? More importantly, how can we be sure that we might not ‘provoke’ the beast to be, well…beastly and maul us in the future? ….and so the beasts stalk us – silently, but with more and more impunity and brazenness.
Don’t forget that we are also voyeurs in addition to being selfish, cowardly and hypocritical. (Notice the number of (in)glorious adjectives adding up while describing ourselves!) In the name of creating ‘awareness’ and ‘educating’ the potential victims, we ‘share’ the pictures of the molestation, subjecting her to repeated violations by us, the voyeurs. It is all a matter of gossip and discussion cloaked in sympathy, and people avidly follow the news, albeit with horror — every sleazy and gory bit of it.
While we are being so considerate about the molester, the victim doesn’t deserve the same courtesy. The fact that she complains means she is of dubious character. So the police ask lewd questions and produce ‘proofs’ furnished by the accused – of photographs where she is seen with other men – never mind if they are morphed. ‘Do you have proof? And can you testify that they are genuine?’ she is asked. Today, an innocent can be framed by bribing the concerned police personnel for a pittance. And the victim takes ages to prove that the ‘evidences’ produced to frame them are all false.
Blaming culture, religion, social conditioning, the governance, laws etc. etc., can come later. First we need to look into ourselves and see what we are beneath the layers of sophistication. It is a sad discovery: standing up against injustice is not part of our psyches, at least not when it doesn’t concern us directly. We might undertake online causes and join candle vigils, but when it comes to the crunch, not many of us are ready to stick our necks out for the victim. Till such a time that we start being human beings first — putting all other agendas and ulterior motives aside — such things will continue, legislation and the most stringent punishment notwithstanding.
Ashwini, I am sorry, I still don’t have any answers to the questions you have raised. Do you, my dear friends?
Here is wishing everyone a great year ahead in 2013!
(Homepage image courtesy: heraldsun.com.au)