Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Pathology Of The Powerless

This morning we saw Amit's post on Delhi's shame.

A young woman was molested, and her family beaten up, in the heart of our capital.

Later, we read this Times of India headline: Woman gangraped in running train in Bihar

Another story: Man rapes housewife in Mumbai

What's going on here? Why is our society breaking down?

As most sensible people understand, rape is not about sex; instead, it's about power. Who, then, has the need to demonstrate power regardless of consequence?

What's happening, we think, is that some Indians, men mostly, are feeling a great loss of mojo. It's a fast changing world where old equations no longer hold -- Indian men, who've traditionally made all the rules, now are caught up in transformations they can hardly understand, much less make rules about.

These men, increasingly powerless, are lashing out in the only way they know how. Regrettably, Indian women are bearing the brunt of their emasculation.

Don't misunderstand us. This is not to offer root cause rationalization for unacceptable conduct. We seek no sympathy for these people. Frankly, we believe India is not harsh at all in dealing with such men. Indeed, some of our neanderthal leaders have even tried to blame the victims of these men's malice.

What we are saying is that, if our thesis is correct, there is more transformation on the way -- hence more powerlessness and more of the contemptible lashing out we're witnessing. Morality itself is vanishing in front of our very eyes. If we do not begin addressing this now in a strategic manner, rather than merely as law & order treatment of individual incidents, we are in for a world of hurt.

That there will be powerless men is a fact of life. But surely, our society can find intelligent ways to defend itself against them. That we are failing in this is a serious problem.

One reason we have a problem is that our police system is completely broken -- criminals don't fear it, the innocent are terrified. We are not blaming the policemen & women themselves -- they do a very tough job in impossible circumstances; rather, we are infuriated with our political system that prevents the police from doing the right things.

The resolution to this is that we, the people, need to demand a great deal more investment in police -- in training, technology, incentives, morale, and values. Only then can we can make deterrent examples of the powerless evildoers among us.

Another reason for our problem is the nature of our religions and, ironically, also a loss of our faith.

Our religions are either too non-prescriptive on morality or are too prescriptive in astonishingly archaic ways.

Still, they alone can instill moral instincts in our people; our society's cynical assault on faith does not help. Many of our smartest and very eloquent writers mock faith as superstition. Faith may be superstition to some, but even they must concede it can be a very practical superstition. If our masses, many of whom are losing their moral bearing, can absorb morality via faith, why destroy this very important mechanism?

This is a very complex issue, and we don't claim to have all answers. However, this very upset blogger thinks it may just be possible that a combination of harsh deterrence and renewed social morality (likely through religion) can begin denting this really shameful problem India now faces.


doubtinggaurav said...


I will have to disagree on this.
The rapes are not signs of power transfer, or changing equations or things such as this, it's a case of lawlessness, or to be more accurate "state withering away".
The angle you took was rather feminist (I don't know if a male can be feminist). I have a different point of view, every society has it's share of perversities, you can say "bad apples" . In normal times, in healthy societies,such tendencies are discouraged by moral instruction, by ethical discourse and by legal enforcement.
The result is that the these tendencies are contained (but never eliminated, no society has been to overrule our baser "animal instincts"). However in a stagnant society, morals and ethics loose their position, the only thing that remain is brute power of state. As long as this power is in hands of people with certain ethics the society remain safe.
However, as soon as the power is transfered to unscruplous persons, the real destruction starts, society and subsequently states unravels and anarchy ensues.
India is a stagnant society for most parts. It didn't happen overnight. It started with Mahatma Gandhi synthesizing sprituality with politics and later on socialists cynically dismantling our tradition of spritual discourse, trying to substitute it with materialism.However, this was elitist "top to bottom " model, Indian public never took liking to materialism, having their ethos in spirituality .This has resulted in present state of affairs, in which slogans have replaced the arguements or for that matter sprituality.
India started with Nehru who was a benevolent dictator,since then power have been usurped by demagogues, who want power for it's own sake and since we accepted a mothballed ideology, we were never in position to prevent the decline.
Now only law that holds is law of raw power.

The rapes, murder and general acrimony that occur in our society then, is result of brutes usurping the power and not because of Indian males feeling insecure or "loss of mojo".
Today Banglore and Ahmedabad are easily most dynamic and modern cities, however no one hears of these heinous crimes, owing to the fact that people ruling there have a marginally better
level of ethics


Anonymous said...

doubtinggaurav I agree with you entirely.
BTW some people cite the increase in skin show in the media (newspapers,movies,TV) may play a part in this issues etc...
What do you say about that ? Does it have any effect ?

libertarian said...


Completely agree that rape is a horrendous by-product of a power struggle - it's certainly not about sex.

Have to disagree that religion can help in the matter though. I'm fairly certain that pagan peoples as well as today's atheists and agnostics have a pretty definite moral compass - the ability to tell right from wrong - not much different that mildly and strongly religious folks. I don't know if religion enforces that in a systematic way or not - to the extent it does, it serves a very useful purpose.

I'm convinced that societies that do not have a significant influence of women outside the home are destined to be extreme, warlike and generally without balance. Seems that Saudi Arabia, and increasingly, Pakistan, are prime examples of testosterone run amok. And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, the society loses half it's workforce.

The historical trends are strongly against women being marginalized. Capitalism and communism just happen to be on the same side on this one. Both need women for their productivity. I believe these rape incidents represent the painful adjustment for many men that women won't just be "pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen".

doubtinggaurav said...


No I don't think so.
Though I am not particularly fond of quality of programming, but I am not incited to rape anyone.


I disagree with you.
My earlier points stand.
As far as I recall there are certain parts, even in USA, which are not particularly safe for women ,or for men for that matter.


Indobj said...

Religion, along with enforced morality, brings many more things. Accepting things on faith is to do so without knowing why you are accepting them, the problem with this being that a lot many unethical things could be made to swallow by the passive people who accept things on faith. Religious leaders and politicians can easily exploit the people as they have been doing already.
The solution, as far as I see it is to inculcate a sense of morality pertaining to common sense, such as "Do not do unto others what you would not want them to do to you!" People self-destructive enough to still go ahead with the atrocities are to be shown no mercy for they have made their choice. This requires a transparent police and judicial system. Though not easy, it is definitely not impossible either.

froginthewell said...

If you look at chimp society there is reason to believe that rape is all about sex :

1. Female chimps get to mate with males of their choice ( typically alpha-males ) by tempting them. This kind of control works because male brains are wired to be visually excited ( not because females are inherently more beautiful ).

2. The males get women of their choice by force.

The great religions and the corresponding societies, realising that both these manipulations are unfair :

1. Used morals and laws to fight rape.

2. Prevented female manipulation by dress codes and the like.

Now we are moving to a society where females are allowed to manipulate ( using biology ) men as much as they want, and men are completely defenseless. Moreover, all the media etc. glorify a kind of slavery to women. This should be a factor behind the increase in sex crimes. This is also why in a typically sexually liberal country like Britain, men are very much the slaves of women ( I would rather prefer to live in Iran than Britain ). There can be no other reason why the media there keep thrasing men : see this, this and this . This should show that there is apriori no reason to believe that there are more rapes in India than the US.

I think the reason why this theory about power was developed was the fear by feminists that ascribing rape to sex might lead certain people to justify it calling it natural.

Even if there are less rapes in the west ( as is the case with "public rapes" ) that can easily be attributed to the better law and order system there.

So I think the only fair solution is to go back to a society with very stringent dress-codes, but at the same time equality between sexes.

blokes said...

froginthewell-well said- and even ifwe extend the rate of rape to 3 times what is mentioned, it still makes it a lower number in India than what is out there. media loves sensation and sex sells. and yes, being a woman and having used public transport most of my teen years, modest dress has ensured safer travel.

Skeptic said...

While these incidents are horrific, not sure if I agree with Primary Red's analysis.

What's happening, we think, is that some Indians, men mostly, are feeling a great loss of mojo. It's a fast changing world where old equations no longer hold -- Indian men, who've traditionally made all the rules, now are caught up in transformations they can hardly understand, much less make rules about

I don't have data on this but my guess is that rape is more widely reported now than it was earlier. I don't like their conclusion but am of a mind with some of the evolutionary psychologists (Pinker et al) ie, that rape's always been around. What I find remarkable is that in a sexually repressed society like India, we don't have more rapes.


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