As rape-cum-murders and voyeurs watching gruesome videos of crimes on porn sites become more rampant, society needs to mull over the reasons for such moral decay and later augment its institutions to restore ethics
It sends chills down my spine when I think of the fateful night of November 27. As usual, after a heinous rape case makes the headlines, the country wakes up from its slumber, shakes its head in sympathy and expresses outrage, shock and anger.
The nation enters into a zone of empathy and the oft-heard statements are, “It could’ve been my daughter, my wife or my sister; it could have been me; maybe I should avoid coming back home late at night; maybe I shouldn’t send my daughter to another city to pursue her education; maybe she shouldn’t drive a two-wheeler, maybe she should learn martial arts; maybe she should just die in the womb.”
Such gender inequalities in this process find both confirmatory bias and social legitimation, which again become a cause for concern.
We Indians are highly sensitive, emotional and emphatic people, yet we are the ones with a transient memory. We vehemently vent our angst and frustration with a few candle marches, displaying our momentary spur of rebellion and then get caught in the daily humdrum of our lives.
However, the fact remains that our society is facing moral decay! While on one hand the majority of the nation was mourning over and petrified by the unfortunate rape and cold-blooded murder on the streets of Hyderabad, on the other hand, the name of the victim was searched more than eight million times on a porn website by voyeurs and perverts.
Where most of us might again eloquently pour out our vexation, exasperation, anger, through a few social media posts, rallies and marches, the “illusion introspection” deflects us from pondering upon the de facto cause of such savagery.
It diverts us from perusing social patterns by conveniently passing on the buck and putting it all down to the State’s inefficiency. The State ensures a “public prosecutor” bearing in mind the underlying assumption that the act is a breach not only of legal but also of social laws and the defendant poses a threat to society.
Then how can society behave like a passive observer that is dependent upon the State’s discretion, by shifting all the responsibility to the State? The idea of what is morally “wrong” and “right” has been intricately discussed in Indian society. Our society talks about ethically right, morally right, socially right even universally right conduct and notions in much more detail than any other civilisation.
These weren’t just topics of discussions by a few intellectuals but were principles understood and practised by the masses in their daily lives. The philosophy of dharma (often intentionally confused with religion) was one such concept. Our society inculcated a sense of ethical, moral and social values through various social institutions such as family, education and even occupation.
The State should be encircled, held responsible and asked all the inconvenient questions. However, what is also important is for members of society to wake up and own up to the issue of moral decay. Politicians and the State’s other institutions must be held accountable but not just when such saturation limits are crossed.
The State should have been questioned by society even when it removed moral science from school curriculum; the State should have been interrogated when it took upon itself to decide society’s curriculum, pedagogy and syllabus, even when it took control of our social and religious institutions.
Decadence and depravity in any society is not just the concern of politicians, to be discussed and deliberated upon to form corrective policies. It is for the society to introspect, discuss and correct.
Sadly, society has let the State systematically encroach upon much of its authority and responsibility, consequently leading to the weakening of social norms and sanctions. When was the last time we discussed in our families social values, moral consciousness, ethical conduct, the idea of collectivism, the thought of the peace mantra Sarve bhavantu sukhinah?
There has been a systematic demolition of prominent institutions which in various ways maintained the moral density of society. Society, after ceding its powers to the State, started behaving like a beneficiary of its pity and benevolence. However, society cannot shed all responsibility and just pass the buck to the State.
Its members need to question their role in the decadence that has crept into society. While the nation ensures uniformity of legal norms and sanctions on all its citizens, why do the deterrents against committing crime have varying effects on different individuals? We need to ask ourselves a simple question, whether our fathers or any other men we admire, would have ever committed such a gruesome act even if there was no fear of punishment for rape? The answer in most cases would have been a resounding “no.”
However, the perpetrators of the barbaric act still did it, with seemingly little or no fear of strict legal norms. Therefore, as a sociologist, I would argue that the power of social norms is often more persuasive than legal norms. The aforementioned argument therefore again puts the ball in the court of society which needs to carefully examine its role, its moral decay and the power that it has ceded to the State.
This does not mean that society must develop its mechanisms to ensure justice, it would be in complete binary opposition to the argument presented here. What society needs is to introspect over reasons for such moral decay and later augment its institutions to restore ethical density.