Society

Man is a (self-proclaimed) social animal. Some more than others. I feel more comfortable associating myself with the latter group. I do not enjoy social gatherings much, interacting with strangers. I am comfortable discussing random topics with my few close friends and family. However, these random topics often include discussing perspectives on various social issues. Here, I intend to curate some of those views of mine.

Language and spellings

Charu

  • Should blog typos be corrected?

Price of creativity

  • Should art have a price?

Exams, marks and IQ

  • Value of standardized exams?

Right and wrong

I came across this verse on Charu’s website,

“Jab laga ki humara vyavhar galat tha toh Geeta padhni shuru ki,
Jab laga ki usne humare saath galat kiya toh shayari likhna shuru kar di.” - Charu

(Translation: When I thought my actions were wrong, I started reading the Bhagavat Gita; when I thought I was wronged, I started writing poems)

This makes me ponder the very nature of right and wrong. Many philosophers have in the past wrote volumes of text on it, like Beyond Good and Evil (Friedrich Nietzsche), and the core thesis of most is morality is subjective. It is always relative to the person assigning the value. Oftentimes these values correlate well and come to be accepted as societal norms. Oftentimes these social norms gets codified as the law. But laws are amended over time, and laws are confined to the land in question.

We see people like Edward Snowden or Taslima Nasrin taking refuge in foreign lands. We see homosexuality getting legalized. We see different alcohol consumption laws based on age, religion, etc.

So it is not so easy to objectively define if your actions are right or wrong. Infact, let us divide it into 2 types: the legal distinction of right/wrong instituted by the governing authority, and that of a more personal question. I would categorize the morality from religous belief under the latter.

It is much easier to judge our actions based on the law. Yes, rape is a crime - it is wrong, by all standards of the current society. It wasn’t always like that though. It was a common war practice which the conquerors often used in indulge in.

Not everything is governed by the law. There might be sugar tax at places, but noone would take you to court if you ordered that extra potato fries after jotting down on your new year’s resolution of cutting down on fatty foods. But you would feel guilt. The first principle of breaking your own personal set of law. Incest for example is looked down. But is that part of the law you believe in? I personally would not have a double standard where a sexual relationship is right but not a formal partnership. Inter-family marriage is common in many places, called Maman Kalyanam (uncle niece marriage) in some communities in southern India. Is cheating on your partner ok? Is smoking cigerette secretly because your son doesn’t approve of it ok? Is downloading from torrent ok? There can be many such questions that can be posed.

Sometimes we do have personal double standards. We are ok as long as we are not at the other end. It is ok to cheat as long we are not cheated upon. This is one of the benchmark I use to set my personal law - do as you would be done by (the Bible).

The Bhagavat Gita. Yes, it is a religious book - extensively discussing many model dilemma of its protagonist Arjun. Even though I am an atheist, I like discussions on morality. At the same time - it should not be taken as a gold standard. The hindu dharma (philosophy) allows self-improvement, redefinition of morality based on time. Infact, the morals of Ramayana and Mahabharat often conflict. It is not a question of which one is right, but of that there is no right answer pervasive of space and time - morality is not a physical law. Just like quotes and poetic verses can be interpreted in many way, so can any moral omnibus.