Thursday, March 05, 2015

How to prevent rapes in India

India, as I have often held, is a mostly lawless region where the powerful or the cunning can get away with almost anything.  The police and the courts are dysfunctional.  While the police is busy brown-nosing their political masters, the judiciary is stymied with horrific inefficiencies and badly designed laws.

This lawlessness obviously extends into sexual criminality which expresses itself in trying to gain sexual gratification without the consent of the woman.

Sexual gratification is an important human need, and it is worth exploring if there are special circumstances in India which lead to a prevalence of sexual crimes.

I believe there are indeed special circumstances related to sexual relations in India, and based on my (possibly flawed) understanding of these causes, toward the end of this article I will offer some suggestions on how to improve the situation.
  1.  Dating and premarital relationships are looked down upon, except in the highest echelons of Indian society.  Indians believe that sex is permitted only between married couples.  People do have premarital or extra-marital or casual sex, but it is surreptitious, dangerous and hardly fulfilling.  There are no private spaces.  Not even rent-able ones.  All but the top hotels refuse to serve unmarried couples, and there is always the fear of police harassment and unwanted publicity in case the couple is "discovered".  To paraphrase a well-known aphorism: If casual sexual activity is criminalized, then only criminals will have casual sex.  Hence, rape.

  2. Along with urbanization and formal education, the average age of marriage has steadily increased in the last 30 years.  This means that for 15-20 years after attaining puberty, a young person in India has to suppress/sublimate his/her sexual desires.  If we accept the scientific consensus that male sexual desire is far more frequent and insistent than female sexual desire, then no wonder women, when they venture out, feel like they are walking around hungry, rabid dogs.  Hence, rape.

  3. Due to rapid urbanization in the last few decades, a lot of single men have migrated from villages and small towns to big cities.  They leer at the urban women, who won't give them the time of day, and wonder why.  They feel castrated, frustrated, helpless, insulted.  Hence, rape.
     
  4. Most Indian women (especially in villages and small towns) are poor, undernourished or unfit (or if middle class and above 30, overweight), with bad skin or hair, and do not understand how to look good.  Considering the relentless exposure during the last 20 years or so to beautiful models and starlets on mass media, and to internet pornography, there is a wide chasm between romantic/sexual fantasy and reality for a young man in India.  There are just not that many attractive women around.  The few good-looking women that exist get a disproportionate share of unwanted male attention, and leave a lot of men frustrated with their rejections.  Coupled with an already skewed male-female ratio, this leads to even more of a sexual scarcity for men.  Hence, rape.

  5. Just as Indian women have no clue about their (lack of) attractiveness and have zero lovemaking skills (not their fault, it has been drilled into them that sex is sin), an overwhelmingly large majority (my estimate is 99.99%) of Indian men have no clue how to talk/interact/flirt/court with a woman.  Even their own wife.  Indian men lack game and are, for lack of a better word, beta.  Even the well-educated ones.  They can't for the life of them figure out why even ugly women keep on rejecting them.  Moreover, like their female compatriots, most Indian men are slobs and unattractive and have poor hygiene.  Were it not for the institution of arranged marriage, most Indian men would be forced to remain involuntarily celibate.  No woman would want such a man, unless forced.  (The ugliness goes both ways, but men are less discerning when they feel the pressure of their hormones).  Hence, rape.

  6. There is a social/religious/cultural/spiritual cacophony of "sex is desire hence worldly hence evil" in India which makes Indians flagellate their own selves for wanting sexual release.  The mass media is blaring this holy message on one channel, and AIB Roast and scantily clad women hungry for sex on another.  For both Indian men and women, sexual desire is full of conflicting feelings.  They want it, but are told that this is bad.  Moreover, Gandhi and Buddha didn't do it (after a while, at least).  So there is a lot of inward suppression of this desire.  But such suppression can only lead to neuroses and, if the circumstances align, explosions.  Hence, rape.

  7. Divorce is very hard in India.  Bad marriages are notoriously hard to get out of.  The marriage laws are heavily skewed in favor of the wife.  All kinds of false accusations are made in contested divorce cases.  Two people who hate each other in a marital relationship become even more bitter after going through the involved legal process.  And since they cannot legally marry someone else (bigamy is illegal, obviously) while being unhappy in their present relationship, their frustration mounts.  Hence, rape (marital, or otherwise).
And now I present my recommendations.  I sincerely believe that these, if implemented, will lead to a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes in India.
  1. Legalize and regulate prostitution in India.  Give all these sex-starved men an outlet.  Let them gain some experience.  Prostitution is already legal in India, but pimping and running a brothel or soliciting is not.  The police regularly harass both the prostitutes and their clients.  Human trafficking must remain illegal, but voluntary prostitution must be given special protection by the state, since it fulfills such an important social need in modern-day India.  There should be SPZs (Special Permissive Zones) with hourly love-hotel-rentals etc (like in Tokyo) and a safe atmosphere where privacy is guaranteed.

    Feminists, if they are truly against rape, must support legal ways for men to sexually gratify themselves.  The state cannot legislate away male sexual desire, which is what the feminists are trying to do.  Unless we want to fill our jails with millions of men.

  2. Implement a strict no-discrimination policy for housing rentals and hotels.  Hotels and PG hostels and landlords must not be allowed to refuse admission or rentals to anybody.  University and College hostels must get rid of their curfew and segregation policies, and slowly transition their hostels to be necessarily gender-neutral.  Obviously, parents will protest and there will be a stigma for those girls who "choose" to live in co-ed hostels or PG accommodations.  That is why sooner or later publicly funded educational institutes should simply outlaw segregation.

  3. Decriminalize "rape" based on promise of marriage.  More here.  Most rapes reported in urban India fall in this category.  This is not rape, not even cheating.

  4. Introduce the subject of grooming and hygiene and basic make-up as part of school education.  Build and operate inexpensive bath houses (with free soap and shampoo etc.), and inexpensive or free gyms with lots of stationary bikes and free weights.  Involve the religious charlatans, who have boatloads of money, to help.  And as S A Aiyar has repeatedly recommended, make available protein-and iron-fortified-flour for the poor.

  5. De-congest public transport and public spaces.  India needs better capacity planning.  People are willing to pay for train and bus tickets.  But there are just not enough trains or buses.  Overcrowding naturally encourages the bad elements to take advantage of the situation.  Reserved seating or compartments for women is a very short-sighted solution (and should be considered a stop-gap arrangement) to the problem of better planning so that overcrowding is avoided.  When it comes to public spaces, the situation cannot be improved without drastic measures since too much of illegal badly planned construction has taken place, but I believe better and efficient public transport facilities will lessen crowding within the cities, and also allow people to live in the nearby towns or villages and commute to work.

  6. Expedite police reforms.  Separate VIP security from police.  In fact, do away with VIP security in general.  Make it a fundamental right for a citizen to approach the police and for the police to register his/her complaint.  Unfortunately, this is still far from a reality in India.  Introduce stiff penalties for false complaints and for perjury.  Make criminal trials time-bound.  Punish prosecutors and investigators (like in other countries) for handling a trial badly.

  7. Make no-contest divorce easy in India and equitable for both husbands and wives.  If you are unhappy in your marriage, and the state forces you to stay married, all kinds of unwanted consequences ensue.
I am concerned that women and men do not feel sexually safe and free in India.  For the situation to improve, sociologists need to be involved, not man-hating feminists who scream "Patriarchy" whenever they hear of a woman's rape.  They must realize that before the rape occurred, the man (unless he's a deranged criminal, in which case patriarchy obviously is not relevant at all) was a victim too.  He must have been starved or otherwise prevented from experiencing a healthy sexual life.

Yes, punish him since he committed a crime. 

But unless you want more criminals, we must also address the unhealthy social environment.  The environment is unhealthy not because of patriarchy ( "... males predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property") but because of toxic attitudes toward physical beauty, sex and gender interaction held by both men and women.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Market and its Discontents

In the United States, "monetizing" an idea or a book or a sporting event or an art form seems to be far more important than in many other cultures.  And this attitude is spreading.

Today morning I had a sobering reminder of this aspect of market-driven culture.  I received a mass email from the website associated with the book "The Five Love Languages".  I had read this book many years ago and found it somewhat interesting.  I don't remember if I went to the website.  I must have and it must have asked for my email address for me to access and read certain articles.

(As an aside, I believe that most books offering advice of some sort can be usually condensed to a couple of pages without any loss in information imparted.)

I don't think I am the only one to feel disillusioned and manipulated when a popular book, recommended to me by a friend or a family member, turns out to be a means, and not the end, for the author or the artist.

On the other hand, I feel glad when a piece of art or a book is an end in itself.  There is purity in that.

I felt dirty after getting that email, and promptly unsubscribed from the mailing list.  I did not read the email very carefully.  It was probably asking me to visit the website and buy something.  That is perhaps the love language the author understands.

There are very few artists or literary people or philosophers left in the US who are unconcerned with making money from their creativity and intellect.  It is a tragedy.  The greatest artists in human history did not operate from a desire for popularity or financial success.  Their passion for their art or ideas was too great to keep within themselves.  Marx or Wittgenstein or Bach did not seek to book yet another hall with staggered ticketing prices for their "performance".

In that sense, I think the modern fetish for affluence and comfort is a disease.  It makes for poverty of spirit.  An artist trying to make money from his art sooner or later becomes a sell-out.

An artist must be content with a spartan life, to devote himself to his calling and not try to please the gallery so that they will throw money at him.

What is happening these days is that, by fluke or effort or by a stroke of genius, a work of art attains popularity.  Because it expressed something in a right way.  And then, quickly, the "instinct of the vulture" descends upon those associated with that artwork and they seek to cash in on the popularity in one way or the other.  Maybe via a sequel, by producing and marketing merchandise associated with the artwork,

..., or via having the post office to print photos of 'Spiderman 2" on its tickets. It used to be that great artists and cultural symbols were honored on a postage stamp.  It is a sign of the times that a mass market cartoon character's big-budget movie's sequel's advertisement is on the stamp that I bought yesterday.

There is something going on in the world today which is making the thirst for money more frenetic, frenzied and farcical.  And in this melee, the culture is getting degraded.  "What sells is what will be produced" is the logic of the market.

But "what sells" is a wrong parameter for the arts.  An art is a furthering of human creativity and the horizons of the human mind.  To do market research ("what they want") and then produce a work of art is absolutely the worst way to be creative.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino

This is a peculiar film.  Its appeal is hard to argue against, and it is harder still to ascertain the reasons for the said appeal.

The characters are all outlandish, cool in an urban-ghetto way, witty and never lost for the right word, and very, very opinionated.

Enough has been written about this film. I want to focus on a peculiar feature of this film which seems to have been missed in all the reviews that I have read so far. Remember that this film won the 1994 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

My theory is that "Pulp Fiction" is a film about the mundane details of American lifestyle and culture. It imagines some lurid story-lines to describe some common, crass, low-brow experiences in the United States which may seem perversely delightful to a literate audience. Watching Pulp Fiction is like being at the zoo.

The film contains self-conscious references to the following entertainingly kitschy aspects of American culture:
  • Los Angeles
  • A heavy dose of unusually profane language
  • Plenty of drug use
  • American fast food.  In fact there are many monologues and curious plot-twists about cheap food in the film: cheeseburgers (especially the quarter-pounder with cheese!), milk shakes, fries, "Sprite", diner breakfasts, "blueberry pancakes", pop-tarts, ...
  • Big cars and the American love of automobiles
  • Brawny prizefighters
  • Dumb girlfriends
  • An ironical reference to war veterans gloating over their stories
  • An exposition that American names are meaningless ("Butch", "Bonnie")
  • Motels
  • Choppers.  Not just any regular motorcycle, the American travesty that is a "chopper"
  • Over-the-top fetishes (the "gimp")
  • Face piercings
  • Suburbia: lawn hoses, "graveyard shift wife", big garages, "gourmet coffee"
  • The "nigger" culture of gangs, gambling and drugs
  • Having cereal for dinner while watching TV
  • An overindulgence in gadgetry: e.g. the useless CCTV at home
  • Shallow decor (the inside-out restaurant)
  • The "twist" dance and rock-and-roll music
  • Bible-thumping while doing everything the Bible forbids
The film made fun of Americana in a lighthearted, entertaining way.  All the characters in the film are moral and intellectual imbeciles and it provided a morbid kind of pleasure to watch these street-smart bozos messing up.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Un-Charitable Activities

God-men (and God-women, for that matter) of India are well-known for their social and charitable activities.  They have vast empires of educational institutions, low-cost hospitals, herbal medicines and condiment shops, etc.  They also participate, or help start, afforestation drives, water-body cleaning operations, drug de-addiction centers, etc.

Many people therefore understandably consider the God-men as noble souls who are doing so much for the poor and helpless and the suffering.

There are many glitches in this sweet narrative:

1. These activities are frequently used to get grants of land and other benefits from the government.  India might be secular in theory, but in practice politicians want the God-men to be on their side during elections.  They therefore find it easy to grant favors to them.  All religions are subject to an equality of appeasement in India.

Of course, the land and tax benefits are not coming from the political party's coffers, they are coming from the public.  It is a genius move to do campaign spending from others' pockets.  And given the charitable and religious nature of the project, nobody dares object.

If the government doesn't grant the favor, God-men and their organizations have been known to just take over the land.  Just like that.  If the authorities try to evict them, there is the threat of riots.  "How dare you defile the scripture/idol/holy-ground?"  Religion gets a free pass where normal business would get roadblocked.  Establishing a large hospital and a medical college not only gets the God-man a steady stream of revenue, he usually gets to build these institutions without huge upfront costs.

2.  It is not the God-man's altruism which makes him do it.  In fact, it isn't even his own money that is spent on these activities and "charitable" projects.  It is donated money, donated effort, but it is the God-man who gets to bask in the subsequent applause and adulation.  (As an aside, charitable in this context usually means that one's contribution to it is considered as charity and may be tax-deductible, not that the God-man is being very charitable in operating it)

Is the God-man to be applauded for spending at least part of the donations on such projects, and not keeping all the money for his own amusement?  This is a complicated question.

Firstly, the projects are not started with venture money (so to speak) already in place.  Most of these projects are funded along the way.  That means, the projects are designed to attract future donations.

Secondly, the existence of such projects guarantees good PR for the God-man, employment of his cronies, and long-term engagement of a significant number of people.  The God-man regards his investment, if any, as a business expense to increase his, ahem, market capitalization.

Also, for all his purported compassion, the God-man's comfort and pleasure come first.  Rest assured that a God-man who doesn't have an air-conditioned mansion to himself won't be in a big hurry to install ceiling fans in the village school.  Moreover, God-men don't usually go build primary schools and clinics in the poorest regions.  They instead go for the more lucrative business of higher education (and make no mistake, these are cash-flow-positive businesses) and hospitality (special rooms with extra facilities for non-resident-Indians!) near big cities.

3. It should be considered a colossal failure of governance and the democratic process that people, instead of participating meaningfully in the elections, and contributing to their own well-being via paying taxes and getting a return on that, choose to instead give their hard-earned money to a charlatan who then does with it as he pleases.  The government is still at least somewhat accountable to the people.  The God-man is beyond reproach, beyond questioning, beyond audits, beyond requests for information.

The state is happy about this state of affairs.  It has an easy out from providing basic services like education, sanitation, environmental protection, healthcare, as many of these activities are instead taken over by these unaccountable dictators.  This perpetuates poverty and disenfranchisement.  People no longer think that they need democracy or that the government is effective or worth criticizing, and the politicians are only too happy to agree.  It doesn't take long for a society to go from "God will save us" to "Only God can save us."

4. The fundamental business of a God-man is to offer solace to the distraught, and to do this, he has to encourage and continue an attitude of superstition and belief in the mystical.  Yes, people need solace in times of distress, and they might therefore need faith, but why does India need so many God-men?  Even if a belief in God is bogus, it can still be an individual matter not requiring any money or a greedy middleman.  Why is God big business in India?

I believe it is because people are desperate, and illiterate, and easily manipulated.  And their desperation is milked by propaganda and unscrupulous God-men.  Charitable activities are a part of this propaganda.  And because these merchants of solace diminish a demand for real governance, literacy and genuine, institutional changes, the desperation and helplessness and mental slavery continue.

A God-man is like a drug dealer, as Marx said in other words.  The fact that a drug dealer also operates another business, say a garment factory employing some poor people, should not make us venerate him.  We should, instead, realize that his empire depends on keeping people addicted to what he is providing.  We should keep in mind his primary business.  People paying the God-man for their fix, and the God-man only using a part of that money for himself, is no cause for admiration.

Or wait, it is probably admirable as a business strategy.

PS: Check out items 3, 49 and 50 in the list of "104 humanitarian works" being undertaken by Sant Ram Rahim and his organization.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sinister Side of Spirituality

Spirituality is generally misanthropic in that it finds normal human pursuits of wealth, prosperity, romantic love, attachment to family, formal education, social status, etc. as misguided.

Spirituality has a close cousin in environmentalism in that it finds human progress as a catastrophe for the planet, it disregards rigorous science in favor of feel-good theories and it advocates a return to more earthy or native lifestyles; being vegetarian, going organic, practicing yoga (as an aside, I wonder how "yog-aa" has become the normative pronunciation in recent years) and alternative medicine, etc.  They have a romantic view of primitive cultures, and consider them healthier, no matter what the facts say.


The sinister side of this world-view is this: spiritualists and environmentalists gloat over every new disaster that befalls humanity.  Human suffering, whatever the cause, is proof to them that radical change is needed and that their perception that the world has gone haywire is correct and justified.

They might feel "compassion" at others' suffering, but this compassion is tinged with "understanding" and condescension.   A part of them is exceedingly glad whenever a seemingly unmanageable disaster strikes a region.  Be it a tsunami, an outbreak of an infectious disease, a widespread food contamination, a newly discovered side-effect of a much-used chemical, a conviction of a CEO of a successful company, a failed spaceship launch, and so on.  They feel vindicated and happy when the "other side" messes up.

To be happy when people are happy, and to be sad when they are sad, is antithetical to spirituality.  Spiritualists inwardly glow and gloat when others are sorrowful, and they are miffed when others are joyous and dancing around.  Similarly, environmentalists feel happy when they hear yet another news that a particular GM crop has been banned.  And they feel agony when a scientific paper lays out evidence that the GM crop is indeed safe and makes economic sense.

This kind of criticism can be levied at any philosophy and world-view.  But it is especially noteworthy in relation to spirituality because spirituality is, ostensibly, all about love and freedom.  But in practice, it frowns upon vast sections of humankind and finds their passions and desires as worthy of condemnation (code-worded as "non-judgmental understanding").  And environmentalism, for all its rhetoric, may be cruel in its effects (ref: the campaign against vaccines).

When someone suffers a heartbreak, for example, the spiritualist finds it an opportune moment to talk or reflect about what "real love" is and why "romantic love" is doomed.  When there is an industrial disaster, the spiritualist finds it to be just another symptom of a "dark age" in which material pursuits have overtaken our "higher" impulses and how Gaia is protesting in agony.  A devalued currency is proof to them that monetary theory is hogwash and that everybody should revert to barter.

For a spiritualist or an environmentalist, disasters are good news.  It affords them a fresh lease of self-righteousness and piety ("I'll pray for them").  Their confidence in their esoteric theories is renewed.

After all, if worldly people are happy and content, they must be wrong.  So, the suffering of worldly people is very welcome to them.