Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The difficulty of being GOOD.

The difficulty of being good is the title of a book by Gurcharan Das. It is a philosophical book which discusses various moral issues humans face with reference to characters from the great Mahabharat. I read this book few year back and found it very engaging. The topic of the difficulty of being good, came to my mind while chatting with one of my friends on the issue of gender discrimination which is present in every religion. I was trying to convey the point that, we all have our own biases and prejudices, many times we don't even realize that, but we all need to introspect and analyze our own thinking to get rid of these things, and it is a very difficult process. It is not that easy to be good at all times. We all speak passionately about the issues or problems which we care about, we all speak in favor of some political figure or celebrity who we love, and against some who we don't like. However, many of us change our stance instantly if we come across the views from the other side. We are normally not that welcoming of the criticism directed towards people we love, we are not that welcoming about the alternate views about the issues about which we care. I am not saying that we need to agree with all those things which opponents say, but many of us get mad to see that people can even think like that. One ideal example is when Hilary supporters can't understand how come anyone can support Mr. Trump and Trump supporters can't tolerate the fact that people are supporting Mrs. Clinton.  This is one simple example to demonstrate the point which I am trying to make.

By "good" I don't mean nice or not mean or tolerant here, I am using this term for being impartial or reasonable or someone who can recognize the differences and still try to look for commonality. I mean someone who can agree to disagree, someone who can see and appreciate that every issue can have two sides and sometimes there is no right or wrong. Someone who can appreciate ambiguity and uncertainty of life, someone who can understand the point of view of an atheist as well as the theist. I understand that I am asking an ideal behavior, but we don't want to give this title of "good person" for doing trivial things, right? There should be some challenge associated to reach to the point where we can call ourself "a good person."

It is not that easy to be an unbiased person or to be a really politically neutral person and criticize or praise all political options which are out there only based on their stand on various issues. It's not easy, especially because we don't get the protection from any camp, we don't feel that we belong to any herd where there are people who exactly think like us, with no arguments and disagreements, and this is not a very comfortable situation for many of us. To avoid this discomfort and insecurity, we choose our sides, we either love or hate some political leader, we get associated with the certain political party, no matter what we try to defend or attack them. We try to show that our religion or country is the best in the world and others are not that good, drawbacks of our own religion are trivial, but other religions have terrible shortcomings. We expect other's should not offend us, but we should be allowed to say whatever we want (personally, I support absolute freedom of expression). When in a majority, we think that minority should respect majority's views and behave accordingly (beef ban in India is an ideal example of this), but the same if group when in minority, expects that their ideas and values should be protected and respected by the majority. This last behavior pattern I observed clearly among Indians living in the USA, many of them supported overwhelmingly Mr. Modi and his call of nationalism and majoritarianism during last general elections of India, but got very apprehensive about Mr. Trump when he said very similar things, but in the American context. These people feared that because of their minority status, they might come under attack or suffer some angry reactions from the majority, but the same group was totally dismissal about similar fears expressed by the minorities of India. I am not trying to say that after Mr. Modi's victory in India minority is in very perilous state or they are suffering at the hands of majority, but his tone during the election campaign was not that different than Mr. Trump's tone, and I can see the different response by the same group of people, just because of their different strength in that society.

The desire to be good, is very common and natural, but the willingness to take conscious efforts to become good is not that common. We all want to be good without taking efforts to become good, and that is why it is very difficult to be good. It is tough, but we all can try to achieve it. I hope readers of this blog will try their best to be a "good person." We need more good people in this world, I don't think anyone will disagree with this statement. Let's first recognize the difficulty of being good and then try to overcome those very sincerely. I am trying my best, are you?

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Saturday, October 1, 2016

No means NO.

Recently I watched a Hindi movie "Pink," it is a courtroom drama dealing with sexual assault and battery related incidents. I liked the movie, it is very well made and all actors have performed brilliantly their respective roles, but this post is not about the movie. It is about the importance of willful "consent" in any relationship. I watched this movie with my kids, they both are teenagers and will face a situation of dealing with their or their partner's willful consent in their relationship and I wanted to make sure that they get this message right; when someone says "No," it means "NO." It doesn't mean yes or even maybe, it doesn't matter what that person said just a few minutes ago, it doesn't matter if that person was drinking or very friendly and seems to agree to your advances, NO means NO.

Any relationship needs a very strong foundation, and to treat our partner equally can be a first crucial step towards building that strong foundation. I know it is not an easy task for many, our culture and patriarchal society never treated all genders on an equal basis. One can include any kind of discrimination to point out the inequality in our society, but here I am talking specifically about gender discrimination. Many cultures never gave women a chance to have control over their sexual behavior as they gave to their men. Rather every time some sexual misconduct happens, many societies try to find the fault in victim's behavior. Many try to hint that victim might have provoked poor boys (or men) and forced them to commit this crime. Now, before I move on, let me clarify that I know that men are also victims of sexual harassment many times, but data shows that still women are main victims of this crime, that's why I am focussing on it specifically. This victim shaming is one of the reasons why many such incidents even don't get reported, as many victims fear for social backlash or humiliation. It is still very common to comment or judge the character of women based on their sexual behavior, the clothes they wear or some of their social behavior (like smoking, drinking, etc.). Only women can stop this, they need to claim their freedom to express themselves without any social prejudice, they need to make it clear that it is their life and they are free to choose their path, same like men. They must demand equal rights, no more-no less.

After watching the movie, during our discussion I told my kids that they should understand on thing very clear, whenever other person says "no" it means NO, and they should respect that under any  situation. Always respect other person's right to decide for themselves, it is a minimum courtesy we all can offer to each other and especially to our partners or friends. Please go and watch Pink if you like courtroom dramas, but even if you don't, just remember that NO means NO, it is a sentence in itself, it doesn't need any explanation or justification and only humans can understand this denial, wild animals don't have the capacity to control their natural instincts, but we humans do have it and it is one of the major differences between our and wild animal's social and personal behavior. So if you claim to be a human, you should understand when someone says NO, just get this thing right in your mind, NO means NO.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]