Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prisoners of conscience

"Assasasination is the extreme form of censorship" - George Bernard Shaw.

"Bura mat dekho,Bura mat bolo,Bura mat suno".

This was the message given to us by Gandhiji's famous 3 monkeys.(Mizaru,Iwazaru and Kikazaru,by the way.Just fyi,in case your 100 Mb space has run out.)And yes,his message IS being implemented.Religiously.But we are forgetting what he really meant by it-See the bad and the good,judge for yourself-what is bad,and filter it out.YOU choose your path.Even the Father of the nation made mistakes.Even he,at some point,stole from his father,and then,realised his folly and vowed never to do such a thing again.He burned his fingers once-and never played with those crackers again.What I'm saying is that if you completely shut out the bad,and choose to blind yourself against its existence,how will you know it's bad?Because it is human nature - when you see something new,you are curious to discover it,in spite of being oblivious to its vices.Only when you make the grave mistake of discovering its ugliness,do you decide to steer clear.Forever.Because,like a wise man said,very aptly-What doesn't kill you,only makes you stronger.

When we graduate from this college we are supposed to be ' adults ' -people who can think for themselves,and make the right choice - to speak up and stand up against what is wrong.That is the way it always was,and that is the way it should be.Even as kids,we had certain rules and regulations which were not meant to be broken-and that is fine.But one must remember that even then,when our parents warned us against something wrong,they'd tell us once,they'd tell us twice.But the third time,if we still went ahead and did it,they wouldn't stop us.Because you LEARN from the mistakes that you make.You GROW from the mistakes that you make.A person who has never got burnt while playing with fire does not know the agony of being charred.A person who,on the other hand,has played with fire,knows not to go near it.This may sound like a very cliche example but it has a very relevant meaning.This does not mean that all of us jump into a pool of flames,but to take the decision ourselves,whether or not to do so,in spite of being warned.Because in the end,you have only yourself to hold responsible for that decision-and isn't that what adulthood is all about?

Yes.I believe it is important for every teenager to go through some sort of pain when he is crossing the bridge from adolescence to adulthood.I think it is important..important?No.NECESSARY- for every teenager to go through something-be it rejection,or heartbreak,maybe even a smoking phase,peer pressure,.......the list is endless.

Because it is THIS that shakes you,jolts you out of the harmonious symphony that you were waltzing to,and makes you face the music of this dark ballad called life.

Don't they realise that by pulling wool over your eyes right now,in an attempt to 'protect' you,once that wool is stripped off,you'll be BLINDED by the penetrating light?And why..?Because living in the dark has deprived you of the right to see what light is like.From experiencing it in all its harsh,naked luminosity.

I understand that prevention is better than cure.But the 'disease' for which you are taking these preventive measures needs to be justified.Just because some guy somewhere made 'SOME' MMS video,it does not mean everyone is going to do it.Which is similar to saying - just because your roommate gets a mild fever,or a cough,that doesn't mean you quarantine him,or make him wear a mask and walk around.Well,unless it is swine flu,where such measures can be justified(Again,a huge debate,according to some ).

Wearing helmets when you ride a bike-this is completely justified,since road safety is something that cannot,and should not,be tampered with.Or say,ragging.Taking action against those who do so IS justified,because it is 'having fun' at someone else's expense.Even the 12 am deadline for girls,(come to think of it,we have a lot of freedom here compared to other colleges)is justified-mainly due to parental concerns.BUT - when guards glare at them with suspicious,accusing eyes for - hold your breaths - oh my god..holding hands..(!!)it makes me maybe time to have that 'birds and bees'conversation with my mom again.

Things like banning gaming sites-though that really doesn't help-CS,DOTA,AOE (and all that jargon I don't understand) are still played in the hostels,and become a source of entertainment for many,serving as a break,before exams,and as a break,after them.Is it REALLY necessary?

Consider another example-something that shakes even the Kumbhakarana of your wing out of his deep slumber,before you can say ..well..Kumbhakarana . Pop quizzes - they are held with the basic purpose of ensuring that people attend classes.But what it really is,according to me,is how many people can manage to crawl out of bed,scamper to class,and...sleep there.At present,in most cases,it is more of a question of being physically present in class because of the weightage given to these pop quizzes rather than being present for learning anything.Though I understand the incentive behind it,it doesn't quite serve the purpose.And the whole idea behind it is very high school.I would like to clarify - I am not justifying or supporting students bunking lectures;I am just saying that they should be given the freedom to decide what's best for them and how to go about it.Because at the end of the day,we are mature enough to know our priorities-and for those of us who are not as yet,then it's about time that we do.But,like it is often said,a bird only learned to fly once it is pushed out of its nest,isn't it?So if a person does not want to come to class,forcing him to come there is not going to suddenly bring about an immense love for the subject.It WILL bring out something else - a stifled yawn.

Imposing DAC on students caught smoking in hostels and throwing them out for a semester - Let me just say - I don't endorse smoking in any way;but as long as the ones doing it are doing so in full awareness of their actions and its repurcussions,let them be.But if it starts harming an individual,or a group of individuals,then the authority should be exercised.But even that,is a little unlikely,because,at least as far as I have seen,smokers also possess a certain 'smoking etiquette'; and stop,if someone around is uncomfortable.And if that doesn't happen,well,that is where the 'supervision' aspect comes in.

One might argue that a certain amount of discipline needs to be maintained on campus-but strangely enough,there is never a problem when some of the professors do so.All the signs on campus say "Smoking is strictly prohibited in this area".I squinted as much as my eyes could allow me,but nowhere did I see any '*' saying 'Conditions Apply' - about who is allowed and who isn't.Why is that?Also,I have
seen some students throw away stubs right outside the gate,since they know,that once they have crossed that 'lakshman rekha'(the college gate,over here),they can get into trouble.In some cases,it is not out of respect for the rules,but as an act of DEFIANCE.Funny,how as long as they're outside,it's fine.Even if it is RIGHT outside the gate.All in all,it is not preventing them from smoking in any way.So why these
double standards?

Firstly,if a rule exists,it should apply to everyone.Secondly,why not make it easy for everyone and remove such a rule?Because the way the human mind works,as we all know,it always craves for something that it is denied,no matter how trivial it maybe.You know it all-you've heard it all before-'we want what we can't have' and 'you only appreciate the true worth of something when it has been taken away from you' and all that jazz.Because hate it or love it,that is how the cookie..or should I say,'cigarette packet',crumbles-and falls to bite the dust.OUTSIDE the gates of our college,of course.

A solution to that would be having 'smoke huts' in some part of the campus.They are there in various other colleges..alright..alright..if it makes you happy,various "Engineering" colleges- as well-Yes-EVEN the sacred,mother-of-all institutions-every wannabe engineer's dream-the IITs.I don't think it has caused any major problem there,so far.So why not?It gets rid of the double standards,and it is only for those
who want to-it is not harming anyone else in any way.

Still not convinced?There is an extremely popular and practical example of this which might change your mind -

I am sure you all must be aware of the 'legal drugs' policies of Amsterdam.At some point,it may have occured to you as absurd,or irresponsible on the Government's part.But the policy makers aren't stupid.A lot of brain has gone into making and allowing the implementation of this policy,which,according to me,is sheer brilliance.The whole idea behind it is that - every human being may decide about the matters of his own health.Another idea which guides Dutch laws in their drug policy is a conviction that hiding social negative phenomena does not make them disappear - on the contrary it makes them worse, because when concealed,they become far more difficult to influence and control.An example of which was seen in the 'war on drugs' started by the US President Richard Nixon in the 1970’s,which resulted in the state employing enormous, expensive organization enforcing strict drug policy and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of its citizens, often for just minor offenses. It also made all drugs a forbidden fruit, which increased their attraction.(**)

But this not mean that the whole of Amsterdam's population is lying around zoned out all the time.They have divided drugs into two categories-hard and soft.Hard drugs as cocaine, LSD, morphine, heroin are forbidden in the Netherlands as in any other country. Soft drugs,on the other hand,like marijuana and hashish,are legal as far as
it is limited to PERSONAL USE.As a result smoking of cannabis even in public, is not prosecuted.Even selling it, although technically illegal under the still valid Opium Act (dating from 1919, cannabis added as drug in 1950), is WIDELY TOLERATED provided that it happens in a LIMITED AND CONTROLLED way (in a coffee shop, small portions, 5
grams maximum transaction, not many portions on stock, sale only to adults,no minors on the premises, no advertisement of drugs, the local municipality did not give the order to close the coffee shop).But large scale growing, processing and trading in marijuana is still forbidden,as in any other country,(**)

The result-is for all to see.According to statistics,2.9% of Americans aged 12 and above have experience with cannabis and 5.1% have used in the past month. These figures are twice as high as those in the Netherlands.It seems this has manifested itself even on the consumption of hard drugs-The percentage of the general population who have used cocaine at some point is 10.5% in the US, five times higher
than in the Netherlands.(***)

On the other hand,prohibition of alcohol was imposed in the US some years ago.That period- from 1919-1933,rather than showing positive effect,as one would normally expect,saw increased criminality-and had to ultimately be withdrawn.(**)Isn't it surprising,that such a 'noble' step could have such an adverse effect?An extreme deviation from what it was intended to?

This not only proves my point but also brings me to the realisation that 'assassination' is not necessarily physical.As long as there are laws being imposed that 'assassinate' people's freedom,their spirit,their rights,their thoughts,their independent actions,they would try to break free from them-which is why you WILL have a hundred odd people in Ahmedabad die due to consumption of spurious alcohol.Which is why you WILL have students marking proxies in lectures where attendance is mandatory.Which is why you WILL have people smoking in their rooms in hostel.

What I am trying to put across here is that there has to be a 'restriction' to the 'kind' of restrictions being imposed.There has to be a distinction between SUPERVISION and AUTHORITY.Between WARNING and CONTROLLING.And as absurd as it may sound,(but if you think about it,valid nonetheless),between DEMOCRACY and DICTATORSHIP.And the fine line between each one of them.I understand that the transition between adolescence to adulthood is one which is very unstable and a lot of things could go wrong during that phase.But we NEED to be given a certain benefit of doubt.

On our part,we can help by becoming a LITTLE more judicious about what to do,and to what extent we do it.Let us be aware of our actions,without imposing our beliefs on someone else.Realise what NOT to do,and not to let anyone else's beliefs be imposed on us.That would be true maturity.If we talk about the restrictions being imposed on us,we also have to realise WHY they are being imposed.Only when both parties work in collaboration,would we find utopia,even in imperfection.Let us not become,and let us not force someone else to make us become - Prisoners of conscience(*).

P.S. - There is a possibility,that,(let me stress,)IF this piece reaches the 'wrong hands';some aspects of it maybe 'questioned',leading to ..'not-so-pleasant' circumstances.But you know,it wouldn't matter.In fact,I'd welcome it.Embrace it even.Because it would simply strengthen my point-

"Assassination - the extreme form of censorship".


(*courtesy Wikipedia)Prisoners of conscience (POC) is a term coined by the human rights group Amnesty International in the early 1960s. It can refer to anyone imprisoned because of their race, religion, color, language, sexual orientation,belief, or LIFESTYLE so long as they have NOT USED OR ADVOCATED VIOLENCE.It also refers to those who have been imprisoned and/or PERSECUTED for the NON-VIOLENT EXPRESSION of their CONSCIENTIOUSLY-HELD BELIEFS.

(I think the capitalized words speak for themselves.)



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