Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fallacies of rape

In this unfortunate season of rapes and crimes against women, I thought I’ll point out some fallacies surrounding the debate.

The first and the one that afflicts most people is that the severity of punishment is a deterrent. If that were so, there would be no murders because the punishment prescribed is death. Gladwell has shown that it is the guarantee and immediacy of punishment, and the guarantee of ostracism by friends and family that act as a deterrent, not the severity of punishment. Also, severity of crimes committed by criminals almost always increases, the longer they are allowed to go scot-free. I can bet my pathetic salary on the theory that every major criminal would have committed other, probably minor crimes previously and gained ‘confidence’ from the lack of punishment. So what needs to be fixed is policing and judicial hearings and not sentencing.

Another fallacy is that the commoditization of women by the media has caused women to be treated as objects which in turn lowers their respect in society and leads to crime. When has anyone of those ‘commodity women’ been victims of crime? Why are they respected and feared in society?  Why is it that crimes against women in power is rare? It is because crimes against women, particularly sex crimes are typically about power, very rarely about sex or anything else – the more powerful a woman gets, the less the chance of her being targeted. See how most of the victims of rape are children, the physically weak, or the ones who have no voice in society, or women who are in situations of weakness. And it is almost never the women who are ‘commodities’.

There is also a line of thought that it is the loss of our traditional values that has led to increased crime against women. This farcical notion is spread by the right-wing lunatics, and (particularly) by older folks who are otherwise sane. Again, nothing is further from the truth – a good number of the perpetrators of these crimes did so because the women defied their notions of purity and ‘satitva’. Think Khap panchayats, or honour killings, or this rape incident, or even the lawyer who was killed by the guard of her apartment complex – perps who committed these crimes thought they were white knights bringing honour to society by becoming outlaws themselves.  Think also, pub attacks, acid attacks and forced marriage revocations. Or that the reason the accused gave for gang raping the 23-year old in Delhi: they wanted to teach her a lesson for going out in the night with a man, and for talking back at them. And do note that these perpetrators come from communities where ‘traditional values’ are the strongest.

People also tend to identify differences between eve teasing, beating up girls in a pub (or couples in a park), and between rape. However, what should not be mistaken is that all these crimes spring from the same sick mentality and should be treated as such. (I am not suggesting the death penalty for eve teasing, but I AM suggesting that it should be taken seriously and disrespectful tendencies nipped in the bud.) All these also spring from the same power tussle. And what cannot be forgotten is the lack of respect that we as a people have for individual freedom: a woman is not an individual with rights but a collective – to be owned by her family, her community and by the state. A woman is a family’s honour, a community’s honour or a country’s honour, to be protected and salvaged (more likely, savaged) by men controlling her with violence and threats of violence.

And you would have heard cries, particularly in the English media not to politicize this issue. But this _is_ a political issue. An unsaid rule of a democracy is that citizen voluntarily give up their right to use force to the government with the guarantee that the government will protect the citizen against others who inflict unjust violence, and will use force legally, in correct measure and only as a last resort. What we are seeing under the UPA (particularly UPA-2) is the opposite: protection of guilty, indiscriminate and disproportional use of force against innocent civilians, and complete forgiveness for those who break the law, particularly when they are related to or minions of the first UPA family. In short, the UPA, given its Italian influence, is leading the mafiazation of the country. If this isn’t politics, what is it? 

Finally, I want to tackle the notion that somehow women understand this issue better than men. Something like the theory that you need to be a Dalit to understand the pangs of the dalits. Of course, there are women who do, and I will not deny that. But look at the response of the some important women in the country, and you’ll realize that not all women are equally outraged by these incidents. For instance, in this case, the Sphinx maintained her enigma until forced by public pressure, a Delhi woman officer commended police action and the Delhi CM shed politically correct tears, but allowed the cops to beat up women protesters. In an earlier case the Notional (oops, National) Commission of Women wore makeup, outed the victim with no regard to her privacy, and issued toothless statements against crime. Even the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, showed her ‘traditional values’ by proclaiming the victim to be living dead! And of course, all of them have their difficulties, particularly the NCW which has no legal teeth. But why didn’t the chairperson join the protest and ask for legal teeth? Why didn’t Sushma Swaraj, or Sonia Gandhi come out and say that they would relinquish half their 36 Z+ security guards to protect the public? Why were the CM, the PM and the Sphinx silent when innocent citizens were brutalized by the police?

Well, to harp on the point, it is political again. It is because we the middle class don’t matter politically. It is because despite all the abuses, we the middle class don’t vote in large numbers. And it is because we are not a vote bank for justice, peace and prosperity.

Perhaps it is time this changed.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Privatizing public responsibility

One problem with specialists in a field, particularly a theoretical one is that they get entrapped in dogma. Now, the naive are also victims of dogma (ex: Apple buyers), but they do not command the language or terminology of a field to convince others of their beliefs. Specialist dogma, on the other hand is more threatening, because specialists can summon both language and superficially correct evidence to support their dogma which may convince non-specialists to follow their lead.

The dogma of the UPA government starts with the assumption that the public sector cannot be fixed (or won’t be fixed) and that the private sector is the ONLY efficient source of delivery of all services. The inevitable conclusion from this is to outsource all government functions to private parties.

They did it with 2G, by outsourcing decision making to an individual and with coal, outsourcing it to a committee of individuals with private vested interests. Unfortunately, successful outsourcing means outsourcing non-essential functions and not your core competency, and the UPA is out to remake the government into a defunct body of fat cats riding in red light cars. (Clay Christensen has a different opinion on core and non-core functions here, but I’ll stick with dogma!)

This trend started with the RTE act. With an interesting twist of language, the government hoisted the responsibility of protecting the Right to education on the private schools. The consequences of this and the subsequent approval by the Supreme Court of the act mean that governments now have no incentive to improve public schools. Anyone who asks for quality education will be directed to beg at the nearby private school. Never mind that outside the big cities, private schools are in much worse shape than their government counterparts. Never mind that this opens up new avenues of corruption for government servants. Never mind that this will lead to a huge influx of people into the major cities simply looking for a better education for their children.

Further evidence comes in the form of FDI in retail. Whatever be the merits or demerits of the policy, a much-publicised reason for opening up retail for FDI is that the Walmarts of the world will create cold chains in India and reduce agricultural wastage. Now, I was thinking, Walmarts will be allowed in 53 cities in India, so how many cold chains will they need to create? 10, 20, 50? In contrast, the Food Corporation has 69,474.96 godowns (Page 42) with an income of 74,711 crores (roughly 15 billion USD). Not to mention, the 5300 cold chains already in operation in the private and public sectors. Now, I don’t know how much it costs to build a cold chain, but surely it would cost less than 15 billion USD to upgrade FCI godowns to cold chains? Again, observe the underlying dogma. (On an aside, I got these stats within 3 minutes - why can’t the media find stats like these and ask the right questions instead of simply thrusting mikes in suited faces?)

The latest in this is the cash transfer program. As recognized by dozens of committees and mentioned in hundreds of reports, the problem in government is the delivery mechanism, not what is being delivered. So, how can a system that can’t deliver grains deliver cash? Why wouldn’t the leakages that persist in delivering goods not remain in delivering cash? How will the system prevent the drunken husband from beating his wife and drowning all the cash in drink?

Unfortunately, for those who run the country, such questions are not worth answering.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

More freedom…

In 2007, I wrote a post entitled “Unit of Freedom” that described India as a mobocracy. Ever since there has been accumulating evidence of the same, the latest being the arrest of two girls, one for posting an innocuous comment on facebook, and the other, for liking it.

What is most tragic however, is that the judge actually allowed the charges under section 295A and under 64 A of the IT act  to stick, and only released the girls on a bail of Rs. 15,000. He did not consider the manner of the arrest, the innocuous nature of the complaint or the motives of the complainant, and instead applied the ‘law’ like a robot.

With protecters of the law like this judge and the Maharashtra police, no wonder people have to turn to Thackerays for protection.

Namma alateyannu…

There is a famous essay by Dr. Kota Shivaram Karanth titled “Namma alateyannu meeralarada devaru” which, loosely translated means “The god who cannot exceed our limitations”. Dr. Karanth, a quintessential rationalist explains the origins of God in our minds – how the magnificence of the god who created the universe* is entrapped in the puny imagination of humans.

I read (well, was supposed to read, but skimmed) the essay in my I PUC Kannada text book and I’m unable to locate it now. However, I remember the summary of the essay very well – that God is essentially a creation of the “puja” establishment, and therefore, he does not exceed human limitations.

You ask, why bring this up now? Well, I reached a tipping point in my antipathy towards organized religion on a recent trip to Kukke Subramanya and I was trying to find that article so that I could write this blog!+

Have you wondered how similar the god of an organized religion is to a King of the ancient times ? Kings are all powerful in their realms and have the power of life and death over their people. Kings have huge egos and need frequent displays of obsequiousness to satiate them. They take offence easily and frequently run campaigns of terror against their offenders. And nothing offends them more than praising another king. Kings offer protection for *their* people, and only until the protected acknowledge the protection and are (publicly) grateful for it. Access to kings and favours dispensed by them are mediated by agents beholden to the king. Replace kings with God and agents by priests, and what do you have? organized religion!

And while we are at it, I (naively) hope the overzealous internet police of India do not see this post and haul me off for arrest, but instead focus on tackling real security issues like the violence committed by Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai.

* I am not saying that a God created the universe, nor am I refuting current physics which believes that the sum of the energy and mass in the universe is zero, which is a convenient place for a self-starting universe. I’m merely stating scripture.

+ On an aside, I am terribly disappointed by the lack of Kannada literature, particularly classic Kannada literature on the web. Is the Ka Sa Pa listening?

Monday, September 10, 2012

A f’cking crazy country

Going by the recent controversies over cartoons in India, one might think that the Lashkar is misguided in training armed militia to fight against the country. After all, if a cartoonist can be so dangerous that he is charged under the same section as Ajmal Kasab, all the Lashkar has to do is train sufficient militants in cartooning skills and it can take over the country!

Goddamn f’cking state.

But what pisses me off is how stupid the judge should be to admit the charge instead of throwing it out and charging the cops with unlawful arrest. Or how stupid one of our national icons Mr. Narayana Murthy is, that he is proud of Mania’s+ record in protecting free speech!? Or how stupid is the compere on a national channel who cannot differentiate between a charge of sedition and the decision of the National Broadcasting Association not to show the offending cartoons?

God save this country. But no, he cannot either. Just an express train ride on the way to total doom. Folks, if you have a chance, get out of his hell hole while you still can.

+Mania = Ma(n Mohan) + (So)nia

Monday, September 03, 2012

The caste system of the communists and the JNU-types

What? How can the doyens of equality propound a divisive belief like the caste system, you ask.

Here’s how:

The following are the untouchables: the BJP, right-wing parties, America (except when it is bankrolling their projects), the rich, the Hindus, logical thinkers,  and self-made entrepreneurs. All contact is to be avoided with this lot, under any circumstances. The untouchables never do anything right. They always try to exploit the gullible upper classes. In fact, if the JNU-types had their way, the untouchables would be gulag-ed, their properties seized and the constituents sent for hard labour in West Bengal (Editor: now that West Bengal is ruled by another dictator, read the last phrase as your favourite (or least favourite) form of inhuman punishment.)

The Shudras: the Congress party, handout-dependent industrialists, the ‘poor’, and the lower-middle class. They are to be despised most of the time, but are to be exempted when the alternative favours the untouchables. A few handouts, some lip-service and relentless verbal abuse of the untouchables keep the Shudras happy with their lot.

The Vaishyas: All those who finance these worthies: Russia and China in the past, evangelical organizations, and international communist organizations. While money is to be despised in general, that too vociferously and in public, money that comes from these sources comes blessed for use in private. And the Vaishyas are preferable to the Shudras – misdeeds of the former against the latter are to be supported at best, and ignored at worst, to preserve the hierarchy of the system. Think how our communists are silent about how China disenfranchises poor people of its lands without due process.

The Kshatriyas: Naxals, Bodos, Maoists, and other violent wings of extremist leftism. The Kshatriyas not only commit the violence that the JNU-types secretly admire, but they can also turn against the JNU types when angered – so they not only command respect, but also demand (and get) it. Atrocities committed by this group against any group lower in the hierarchy must be supported, encouraged and glorified. They are to be supported at all costs except when the interests of the Brahmins are in danger, which brings us to

The Brahmins: As members of the uppermost caste, constituents of the JNU Brahmin caste are beyond all reproach. They include the JNU-types themselves, hardcore communists, and most importantly, Muslim fundamentalists. Nothing shall be said that criticizes actions of members of this caste, they are always clean and always closest to the god of the godless. So, Bodo violence against Muslims should be condemned while the violence committed and threat of violence issued by Muslim fundamentalists against innocents, most of who are poor and middle-class shall be condoned.

Have I missed any important constituents? Enlighten me with your comments!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nantu adu heegoo untu

I’m not a big fan of plays and I generally keep my distance from Kannada plays in particular. However, my wife pestered me sufficiently to attend a play with her at RangaShankara – Nantu adu heegoo unte?

Directed by Bhargavi Narayan, the play is a funny take on the travails of marriage. Sheela and Shankar, a couple married for many years are separated and close to finalizing their divorce. Shankar also has a new fiance, Seema, a flirtatious, shopaholic daughter of a real-estate baron, who is many years younger than him. Shankar is a director who hasn’t met with much success because he refuses to appeal to the mass market of television serials. Vinay, their mutual friend and Shankar’s accountant invites Sheela to Shankar’s house to resolve tax issues. Thrown into the mix is Shankar’s friend and former cricketer Shamir, a playboy and wannabe actor.

What happens in the melee? Bhargavi Narayan directs a gripping and funny play that illustrates some of the common mistakes couples make in a marriage – lack of communication, lack of appreciation, and couples not investing time in their relationships.

Watch it. It is one hundred rupees (and more importantly, one and half hours) well spent.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why driving in Bangalore is like war

I’ve been driving a car in Bangalore for six years now and have been at the receiving end of horrible drivers throughout. Why, I wondered do people thrust and parry on the roads!? And the answer struck me just yesterday; it is because driving in Bangalore is like war.

Here’s why:

First, the fight for every inch of space. Not unlike armies, drivers in Bangalore know the value of every inch of ground. And they are willing to risk life and limb for it. The auto driver who squeezes his handlebar in the small gap between your rear-view mirror (the left one!) and the electric pole; the two-wheeler rider who jumps on the footpath at the first sign of a traffic slowdown; the taxi driver who tries to climb over the median to avoid the U turn he should take; and by god, even the cow that lazes past a hundred mad honkers!

Next, might is right. In war, the stronger army makes the rules. On Bangalore roads, that privilege goes to none other than the mightly Volvo bus. Clad in red colors, Volvo buses move with the flourish of a Gulliver in a Lilliput china shop. Get close and you are squashed, they warn with just their colors. Incidentally, Volvos prove an old adage about India and Indians: Give an Indian even the least bit of power, and he/she is bound to abuse it. Examples abound, but I digress.

Let me get back to my theme. An important aspect of fighting any war is filibustering. Which is why country after country develops fancy ICBMs and nuclear weapons; the threat of massive action keeps  misguided adventurers at bay. However, the opponent must be assured that you will follow up your bluster with bombs. Bangalore roads are no different. The weapon of choice (after sheer bulk) is the horn. The louder and shriller the honk, the stronger is the threat of action; but it needs to be followed up by a quick thrust to the point of choice. Any delay convinces your opponent that you are all horn and no thrust leading him or her to ignore your filibuster. Which brings us to

Sizing up your enemy. Pakistan, for instance knows that despite all posturing, India does not have the guts to invade it. Similarly, auto drivers know that a BMW is not going to challenge them over a spot in the lane. Scorpios know that autos wouldn't challenge them, and Volvos know that no vehicle will challenge them. Sizing up your enemy quickly is key to success on Bangalore roads.

Bangalore drivers also follow another tenet of war: hitting your enemy at his weakest with your strongest weapon. Think of a two wheeler who overtakes your car from the blind spot. Or a truck that comes barreling down the wrong side of the road at high speed, or a bullock cart who takes up all the space on the road with its bulk, forcing you to get on the wrong side of the road to get ahead. Sun Tzu could take a lesson on the Art of War from our drivers!

Finally, like in war, both victors and victims lose. Both victors and victims end up with high blood pressure, mental fatigue and loss of useful brain bandwidth. The joy of having snatched a square inch of space from one opponent is killed by the threat of the next opponent who is upon you before you can even think of your victory! However, as in, families are relieved to have you back. That alone is a saving grace of the disgrace that we call roads.