Monday, January 27, 2014

The Cost of Silence

"What has AAP done for men?" screamed a man at me as i was sitting wearing my AAP cap at a nearby park. "I can see they have fought for women security," he continued, "gave free water and subsidized electricity for poor families, but tell me one thing that he has done for men. Our Indian laws are so strict against men that even a small misunderstanding could be dreadful". He must be in his mid 30s, wearing broad spectacles and a grey loose T-shirt, he was working for an Human Rights group to fight against wrongful atrocities on men. With an attempt to calm himself, he concluded - "I am game for a proper implementation of a mild law but poor implementation of a stringent law, that is anarchy".

On a different context, Anirrudha Ghosal wrote this semi poignant article in Indian Express. The article talks about this Police Inspector who used to believe in AAP but now finds himself disillusioned as he is posted to provide security at Kejriwal's Dharna place where Kejriwal himself is ranting against corruption in Delhi police. This cop is dejected as AAP supporters ridicule him, spit on him and amidst all the chaos, he laments that people are forgetting that cops are also humans.

I apologize that both stories are somehow connected to AAP, but that is just the bias that i have created in my vicinity. But other than this, what is the common part between these two anecdotes? Think about it carefully. Both these instances are  nuanced examples of tragedy of the commons. Herein, the commons is not the natural setting, or the environment, or a public resource. The commons here is the humanity which has been so corrupted that few remaining decent human beings are either fighting on lamenting on this tragedy. These decent human beings are the victims of their own race. I say these victims are now paying the cost of their silence.

In the classic example of Tragedy of the commons, when 10 farmers, with a sheep each, are sharing the same field and then the first farmer tries to double his production by bringing in an extra sheep. Now, rest of the nine has three options - First, to also do the same and hence contributing to the tragedy. Second to get together and protest against this tragedy and third, is to be silent, to ignore and move on. What has happened in this country is that after the first greed was committed, in time, a few farmers joined the first one while the rest kept quiet. This act of inaction also has a cost, a delayed cost. Now, when there is anger against the action of those greedy farmers, all farmers are bundled in together. To an outsider, all they see is 10 farmers, more than 10 sheep and the grassland in disarray.

Being silent stands for tacit acceptance. When the police inspector saw that his friends were taking bribes, he said nothing. No reports were filed against his colleagues, no objections were raised. He simply turned his head away. When he saw that bribes were asked for promotions, he simply put his head down and told himself - "I am happy where i am." or "Whatever happens, it will happen for good", can Bhagwad Gita be ever wrong? Similarly, whenever any man heard in his distant family that  dowry was being asked/given, he told himself - "This is none of my concern, it will not happen at my wedding".  Day after day, whenever he read about rapes in newspapers, he said - "I am helpless".  When Panchayats asked the rapist to marry the victim, he was shocked. Where does one draw line between pre-marital sex and rape. "Consent" you say? Is it consenting when the girl is drunk?One drink, two drinks or five?  Should we measure the blood alcohol level before asking for consent? Couple of times, he even vented his anger on Facebook or among his friends after two rounds of drinks. But these words were never followed by an action. All this resulted in a strict form of law, the Orvellian fascism, and now when the same law is abused, he is finding himself at the other end.  That the police can detain you for as long as they please, you realize that your fundamental rights can be trampled through legal means, you wonder now - how has it come to this? Similarly, when the integrity of the entire police department is being questioned, one of the bullet points in this is a question against your integrity as well. You say that this makes you angry?

There is a cost of our silence. No matter, in one way or another, we have to pay for it. We can only defer it as long as it does not come upon us. We all see people jumping red lights these days and it is slowly becoming a tacit acceptance. This is a red alarm. One day, i will be hit by a car that had jumped the red light while i was going as mine was green. That day, the fault will not only lie with the guy who had jumped the light, it will also be mine. For not saying against this culture. It does not mean that we have to act against all of them but not acting against anyone of them is simply not acceptable anymore.