Where Are We Headed?

Of late, it is becoming increasingly shuddering to pick up the newspaper and read it in the quietude of the dawn.

“A 16-year-old girl was stabbed multiple times and bludgeoned to death in northwest Delhi allegedly by a 20-year-old person in full public view on Sunday”, states the Hindu of May 30, 2023.

The irony of the whole catastrophe was: It happened in a densely populated and busy lane. And someone could even capture the incident on video which went viral on social media.

It had shown the accused “stabbing her more than 20 times and then attacking her head with stones, while passers-by watched, without trying to stop him”.

According to “the CCTV footage the incident took place around 8.45 pm” and the police got the information only around 9.35 pm” because of which, “the body remained on the street for nearly an hour”.

Unfortunately, the irony didn’t end there! This heinous crime stirred up “sharp political reactions”, says Hindu: Chief Minister of Delhi tweeted urging “L- G sir … do something”. The Delhi BJP President tweeted: “It is regrettable that the Chief Minister is trying to portray the brutal killing … as a law-and-order issue, whereas it is a case of love jihad”.

How have we become so apathetic? How are we to explain this social and cultural malaise that has afflicted us? Yesterday, it was somebody chopping a woman and storing her pieces in a fridge. Yet another day, a school teacher molested a student. More horrible than it is: a man stabbing his daughter 25 times over a family dispute. What will happen to our society if we let go of the current trend of morality becoming a secondary concern uninterrupted? What would be the damage?

No explanation can perhaps be offered to placate a traumatized mind over these appalling crimes. But we can certainly introspect! This leads me to Alasdair MacIntyre, the philosopher author of the book, After Virtue, who states that “navigating a way out of our current societal malaise requires us to resurrect an older form of morality”. For, the “institutions of morality established in earlier eras have been dismantled, and we are simply performing a mimicry of them”.

He goes on to say that the oldest vice – which Aristotle named pleonexia – actually means “acquisitiveness as such, a quality that modern individualism both in its economic activity and in the character of the consuming aesthete does not perceive to be a vice at all”.

He further states that modern friendship is mostly based on affection, while Aristotle’s concept of friendship is “a relationship defined in terms of a common allegiance to and a common pursuit of goods”. Aristotle also warns that friendship derived from “mutual utility and mutual pleasure” is likely to be less genuine.

Now, coming to the kind of friendship that one is witnessing of late on the roads in the form of boys and girls walking hand in hand, which rarely gives a feeling that it is driven by “a common allegiance to and a common pursuit of goods”. They appear to be driven more by ‘affection’.

And, once that affection wanes, the vice of ‘acquisitiveness’ and ‘possessiveness’ gets triggered in boys leading to all kinds of beastly acts, perhaps.

This simple truth demands that boys and girls may have to assess the ‘drive’ leading to friendship clinically and only after being confident of the common pursuits allow that to bloom. Else, problems are certain!

In this context, it is perhaps, girls who need to be more cautious in forming friendships. I am airing this feeling at the risk of being labelled a misogynist, for I have often noticed girls alone becoming victims of such vices. I have never heard of a boy ever getting hit by a girl at the termination of such friendships.

Secondly, even if a brave girl attempts to hit a boy, I am doubtful if her physic vis-à-vis a boy will ever support that act. Recall the present incident in which, the poor girl, apparently, could not even run away from the boy who was stabbing her—perhaps, such was the overpowering strength of the boy.

Thirdly, while discussing matters of this nature, I often get reminded of what that eminent neuroscientist, Dr VS Ramachandran once said: “We are not angels. We are merely sophisticated apes…”

Modern science also tells us that there is only 1.2 percent of genetic difference between human beings and chimpanzees. Don’t you think it’s not much of a difference? And, we all know what an angry ape does.

That aside, I also remember to have read somewhere a scientist saying that biologically we are wired to be angry apes. And imagine if such an angry ape, which is driven by the vice of acquisitiveness, fails to own up to what it is striving to possess, how mad it would turn and do whatnot?

It doesn’t however mean that all boys are bad, certainly not. Nevertheless, girls, being what they are, perhaps, need to be assertive right from initiating a friendship and always be on guard: “never to take the obvious for granted” and be prudently alert not to become a victim of such atrocities. For, protection from the onslaught of socially deviant prima facie rests with the ‘self’.

This incident also makes another subtle pointer: When it comes to the common good of the society, political parties engaged in governance need to ignore their identities and particularly, in matters of this nature where the common good of the society calls for resurrecting morality in the society, and work collectively towards the goal.

Indeed, this calls for a sane debate among the family members, for it could sensitize teens about human relations and the grace to be maintained in gender relations … …


More by :  Gollamudi Radha Krishna Murty

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