You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘society’ tag.

Food

Finding food to eat is the responsibility of a person. Nature is abundant in edible, nutritiuos food items. Sometimes it may require efforts to cultivate and process it. A person who reasonably exerts himself can satisfy his/her needs sufficiently.

bharatiya samaj sustained on the activities of people belonging to four varna based on their natural inclination. Inherent talent towards handling, producing and processing materials was termed vyshsya varna, and people who showed inclination towards it were considered vyshya. They produced and provided food and other materials for the entire society. In turn, people inclined to act to uphold righteousness administered society justly, people inclined towards spiritual pursuit spread wisdom they realized during the course of their pursuits and people inclined towards emulating others helped the other three.

The society thus catered to the taste and ability of each individual, providing avenues for individual growth, while simultaneously also provided the supportive environment required for sustenance of the person. Like in a living body where head identifies the source of food, legs takes it to the location, hand brings the food to mouth that delivers it to stomach that digests it and gives energy to the whole body. Each constituent performed the task it was most suited to perform and contributed to balanced sustenance of society.

When this balance is disturbed, for example, if mouth starts eating solely to indulge its sense of taste, if food is taken by hand excessively and ingested, the stomach would be thrown out of gear. If that happens and stomach shuts down, the body parts will be starved of energy. Then each body part will start seeking source of energy individually. Since they do not have the capacity to process food items to produce energy, instant energy sources will be sought out.

In the case of society, when the constituent part that should discern the truth and guide society indulges in selfish aggrandizing acts, misleads society, and ventures to consume voraciously, directing the administering part to indiscriminately appropriate resources, more than necessary and more than what can be processed, the processing power of society is left in disarray. This then leads to search for instant source of energy.

This was what happened in western societies. The aggrandizing behaviour of western empires developed the taste for selfish indulgence among those people who should have been providing correct guidance to society. The society that was disturbed as a result sought sources of instant energy. Instead of taking the trouble to grow food painstakingly over a long period and then processing it, they started eating ready source of energy- meat. They started eating other living beings and justified it, stating that they have a ‘god-given-mandate’ to indulge in such behaviour. Later they extended that ‘mandate’ to justify robbing, enslaving and killing other peoples, labelling them ‘heathen’, ‘pagan’, ‘indian’, ‘kaffir’, ‘negro’, ‘barbarian’, etc.

varnashrama

The case in Bharat was different. Here the people followed varnashrama dharma correctly. The role of head, to give guidance to the body, including identifying of appropriate food sources and tasting food to ensure it is fit to eat, without overindulging in sensual pleasure, was correctly followed.
The brahmana subsisted by begging alms, living frugally, pursuing the purpose of his life for which he was naturally endowed- realization of atman. The kshatriya, under the guidance of brahmana administered society justly, preventing excessive exploitation of resources. The vyshya produced and processed food items and other materials as necessary for society and sudra helped all three in achieveing the goal of sustaining society.

varna of each individual was based on his/her inherent qualities rather than the varna of parent, as evident from the fact that veda, mahabharata and bhagavad gita were compiled by Vyasa, the son of a fisherwoman, Satyavati, and Parashara, whose mother was also sudra. Ratnakara, a jungle robber, abandoned that occupation, sought realization, became Maharshi Valmiki, and compiled Ramayana. varna is also not static, a person who primarily seeks brahma jnana, a brahmana, may occasionally show kama, the primary moivator of sudra varna, like Parashara did in company of Satyavati.

gau

Bharat attained material prosperity based on vyshya activity, producing food and other materials of use. gau, Cow, was the source of milk, which was used to make curd, butter, ghee, etc., which formed integral part of diet. Milk was also used for medicinal purpose. Cow dung came in use for various purposes, including as cooking fuel and building material. Bullocks were used for agriculture. Artifacts found in Saraswati river valley sites, dating back to 5000 years and beyond, indicate prominence of cow in society. Cows were thus integral part of vyshya household, and by extension, that of the society as well, for society sustained on what vyshya produced.

Congruent with the dharmik inspirations that underlie bharatiya samskriti, cows were not treated as ‘animals to exploit’, but were cherished, and as milk givers, were given due respect, as a mother.

Killing such a being and eating was out of question. For three reasons- one, society produced enough food stuff, through occupations suited to the natural inclination of individuals, to meet all its needs. Two, killing cow would cut off source of milk and other necessary items. Three, and most important, killing a being required sufficient cause. Satisfying palate is not sufficient cause in a society that value dharma.

Cows are also peaceful, harmless beings, lovable. purana narrate many instances where cows play important part in society. Episodes of Kamadhenu and Nandini are well known. Sri Krishna is also known as Gopala- one who takes care of cow, which was his occupation during his growing up years.

In the veda, the word gau also means illuminating rays of wisdom, and is revered and sought by brahmana.

In both its meaning therefore gau is respect worthy. Those who consume, instead of nurture, gau, eitherway, are imbeciles wreaking destruction on themselves and society.

Disruption

Bharat thus maintained the necessary balance in society and prospered, repelling attacks from foreign aggrandizers such as Alexander. However, Ashoka, who grabbed power killing siblings, had insatiable appetite for territory and self-aggrandizement. Having usurped large land area killing millions of people, he imposed upon society a socio-political version Buddhism making rock edicts that were self-promoting than spiritually uplifting, glorifying himself as “devanam piya“- “beloved of devas”. He never relinquished the throne like Sri Buddha did, had many wives, and the youngest of them, Tishyaraksha, whom he married in his old age, he later killed.

Buddhism identifies incorrect craving, kama, as cause of suffering and abandoning it as way to enlightenment. kama is the main feature of sudra varna. Buddhism that prescribes eightfold path to develop good kama and reduce bad ones had applicability in the case of sudra, but offered little to the other three, for which main factors were dharma, artha and moksha. This lack, particularly, regarding upholding of dharma, fighting for it if necessary,- the main feature of kshatriya dharma, made application of Buddhism across the board, on all society, inappropriate; in fact, as it turned out, quite harmful, since it disrupted societal balance.

The society, that had a few years back successfully repelled the rampaging Alexander’s army, in the following years saw ingress of Shaka, Huna, Kushana, Turks, Mongols and Pashtuns into those areas where ‘Buddhism’ flourished, such as present day Pakistan and northern parts of India. These people came with their own way of life, different from bharatiya samskriti, and the resultant dilution of dharmik values imbalanced the society further and paved way for islamic invaders and later european colonizers, to establish primacy over the land.

Present

A society where varnashrama dharma is violated, where people who have no inclination to realize atman engage in guiding and influencing society for selfish benefit, people who have no inclination to uphold righteousness engage in administering society for selfish gain, people who have no inclination to handle materials engage in producing materials for selfish profit, and where the rest emulate unworthy people, it becomes like a dysfunctional body, where the mouth seeks to indulge in taste alone, where hands grab more than it requires, where stomach seeks fast digesting food that instantly provide energy without need for much efforts to digest it, and leg seeks to rest indolently.

In such a situation, the head, grown insensitive to other body parts, may start biting at them. The greedy, grabbing hands may injure other body parts. The stomach may start consuming itself and prolonged indolence would incapacitate legs.

Such a being, out of its mind, with limbs out of control, stomach cancerous, and fast approaching self-destruction, is dangerous to other beings.
When that being is powerful- grown powerful on ravenous consumption of others, like western society is at present, the danger to rest of the beings and Nature is so much more.

Regaining Balance

In the purana, whenever asura quality went out of control, necessary correction was made by checking it and balance was restored, taking guidance from the dharmik wisdom transmitted by bharatiya parampara.

Sometimes it may seem that dementia and cancer afflicting a body have reached advanced stage, is pervasive, and that it is near impossible to retrieve the situation. In those times Sri Krishna’s advice is relevant- actualise karma in dharmik way, without attaching to results, unaffected by success or failure.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन ।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि संगं त्यक्त्वा धनंजय ।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते ॥
भगवद् गीता 2.47-48

Advertisements


There is a perceptible rise in public awareness regarding spiritual matters. The rise in communication mediums, primarily internet, have contributed to that.
Concurrently, communication mediums, notably Television, Magazines, even Newspapers have also contributed to spread of manipulated information to serve commercial interests.

Nevertheless, the urge to seek and realize truths of life is on the rise among the people all over the world. While this causes many people to examine their belief systems and seek deeper truths and meaning in their life, many others are also prompted to go beyond their conditioned belief systems and seek truths in other sources. Such endeavours are resulting in increase in adherents towards diverse belief systems and practices such as yoga, Nature reverence, gnosticism, pre-christian native indigenous belief systems of Americas, Europe, etc.

Such rise in consciousness influences the wider public in like manner. Sustained rise in such explorations may provide a counter to the consumerist consciousness that prevails human society today.

Such rise and fall of higher consciousness among public may also be cyclic in nature. Somewhat similar to the change of seasons.

Like the rains providing nourishment to growth in Nature, rise of spiritual consciousness nourishes spiritual growth.

Similar to the rain water that runs off, and is lost if not harvested and stored, the spiritual realizations that occur during the times of rise in spiritual consciousness need to be stored in clean protected manner for subsequent use in times of lesser abundance.

As in the case of natural springs that provide water throughout the year, some places, kshetra, are perennial sources of spiritual inspiration and often become centres of pilgrimage.
Just as the capacity of a spring to supprt large populations is limited, depending on its size, and may need to be augmented by rainwater harvesting, the spiritual inspiration provided by such kshetra need to be supplanted by preservng spiritual realizations experienced during times of abundance for later use.

Just as in water harvesting it is important to ensure that the containers used are clean, and protected from pollutants, similarly, it is important to ensure that the mediums used for preservation and dissemination of spiritual truths are clean themselves and protected from ingress of pollutants.

The vedas have been such containers of adhyatmika jnana filled by numerous unknown rishis millenniums ago, that has stood the test of time providing pure spiritual wisdom to thirsty seekers and inspiring them towards realization. The precise manner in which the vedas were formed and transmitted ensured that their spiritual wisdom were preserved and remained unpolluted. puranas, shastras and other texts of bharatiya samskriti also served similar purpose. One common feature to all these texts is that it is the message of the texts that is of paramount importance over the period of occurence, location or even the author himself. So much so that, in the case of the most important of all texts- vedas, the rishis who originally realized the vedas remain unknown.

The puranas stress on the underlying dharmika, adhyatmika jnana transcending limitations of time, locality and authorship. Even the personalities portrayed in the puranas are superceded by the principles and values that they uphold. Thus it is righteousness- dharma, that governs actions of Sri Rama in Ramayana. Mahabharata, through gita, encourage transcending of personal identities and advocate action for actualisation of karma without concerning about results.

This independence from limitations of personalities, authorship, location and period helps preserve adhyatmika jnana in bharatiya samskriti perennial and pure, like water stored in sterile containers protected from contaminants even though handed over through generations.

This aspect is absent in many other cultures, that have suffered as a result, where either the water-
(a) was not stored well in times of plentitude- spiritual wisdom was not handed down to subsequent generations in intact manner that could sustain for long,
or
(b) was contaminated by personal touch- personality/ies dominated/superceded the message,
or
(c) fixated in locality and thus became inaccessible- limited to geographical area,
or
(d) was exposed to the elements at one time that made it stale- got associated with a period of time, enmeshed in the customs of that time, and thus became dated.
or
(e) was wasted by the careless- destroyed/distorted by materialistic aggrandizers.

In times of spiritual plentitude the received wisdom need to be retained and preserved well to tide over the inevitable times of scarcity as well as to give direction to future generations.

The unknown rishis of yore have shown the way, creating the vedas and developing a samskriti that acts as a container to protect and preserve the spiritual wisdom received through generations, quenching the spiritual thirst of millions through millenniums.

Preserving of this samskriti, its adhyatmika content, and augmenting its harvested wisdom during times of availability without contaminating, are the responsibility of contemporary inheritors of bharatiya samskriti.


Legalization of Prostitution in India

A decision whether or not to legalize organized prostitution in India can be arrived at in one or a combination of the following four ways.

One- Majority Decision. Seek majority opinion of the people. Through referendum involving the entire population. Taking the opinion of the people’s representatives is an option. However, this issue not having been discussed at the time of elections, the opinion of the current representatives may not be fully representative of that of the people.

Two- Based on anticipated advantage. Analyze empirical data from societies across the world where prostitution is legalized to find out whether such a step provided benefit for society, government and to the prostitutes.

Three- Based on ethics. Answering the question- “Is this the correct move ?”
This question demands application of mind and serious thinking unlike in the case of parsing of data or punching of personal preference in voting machine.

Four- Based on the fundamental purpose of life. Does it help achieve it.
The fundamental purpose of life needs to be clear in this case. That is for the society to arrive at, collectively.

The first option is the most easy. The advantage is that it absolves everybody from responsibility for the decision, including the people themselves.

The second option needs to also analyze the applicability in India of systems prevalent in those societies from where the data is sourced, considering the differences between the two societies, particularly the size of the nation and demographics, in addition to diversity in culture and extant belief systems. Forceful implementation of policies that may be incompatible with societal characteristics, as sometimes done in communist and other such autocratic states, is neither endearing nor enduring.

The third option demands the society to be more responsible, more accountable towards all its constituents. It demands an outlook going beyond narrow identification with individual self and understanding the interrelationship between all constituents of the society including Nature in which it functions. It also calls for comprehending the effect of current decisons on the shaping of society and subsequent generations.

The fourth option requires the society to be evolved, to understand itself comprehensively, which would give it sense of direction regarding its purpose in relation to that of the entire creation. bharatiya samaj was knowledgeable in this aspect at one time.

Legalization means accepting prostitution as a legally supported profession. The following issues need to be considered while taking the decision.

Objectification

First is the question whether prostitution can be considered a profession at all, in the sense that a profession provides an avenue for livelihood while also developing the personality of the person, giving him/her a sense of responsibility, direction and control over life, self-esteem and dignity.

There is a viewpoint that prostitution is like any service industry where customers pay to get satisfaction.
That maybe so in few cases of call girls known as escorts.
However, a large number of prostitutes are brought into the field through abduction, coercion, trafficking and/or due to poverty and unemployment. While many adjust to that way of life under duress, many others may wish for a different way of life.
Majority of these prostitutes get their visitors from among daily wagers, labourers, drivers and other lowly paid professions. In may of the cases what these visitors seek is sexual release, at the end of a hard day wherein they worked like automations, rather than any demonstration of ‘professional’ skills by the prostitute.

Even in the case of more affluent customers, often the driving need is sexual satiation and what they seek is an object, one that titilates senses.

This ‘objectification’ is central to prostitution.
It dehumanises, and thus prevents prostitution from making the grade as a profession.

Involved Decision

The second point is a question- are the people who recommend legalization doing so from a detached standpoint, like they are in an insulated sterile environment from where they observe and decide upon the fate of the prostitutes and their visitors ?

Do those who advocate legalization include wives, who are not averse to having their husbands avail of the services of a ‘legalized’ prostitute when she is not able to perform due to pregnancy or illness or old age ?
Do the husbands among them approve if their wives enjoy the services of a legalized gigolo on occasions when he is too tired to perform ?
Are these people comfortable with one or both of their parents visiting ‘legal’ prostitutes ?
Will they allow their sons and daughters to avail of such ‘legalized’ services once in a while to satiate libido? What if their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law want to avail of such services ? What about their grandchildren ?
What if some of their close relation want to enter into the ‘legalized profession’ for lucrative reasons, will they be happy with it ? Is that the kind of society that they would like to live in ?

Theoretically some may answer affirmative to the above. But when reality strikes, it is likely to be quite unpalatable, even revolting, for most.

Humanity

The third point is about equating the prevalence of unlawful prostitution with bootlegging and gold smuggling that occured when liquor was prohibited and import of gold restricted in the past and the subsequent expoitation of the situation by organized gangs.

This equating is flawed because unlike liquor and gold, it is human beings that are involved in prostitution. Point being that, while liquor is distilled from materials and gold is dug from the ground, prostitutes are sourced from a broken family or by breaking a family.
While a prostitute may financially support some of her parents and siblings, she will be denied a family of her own because very few people are willing to have their spouses working as prostitutes.
Moreover, if the case is that a woman has to prostitute herself to support her family, it shows a failure on part of the society and the government for not providing avenue for employment. Legalizing prostitution does not provide escape route for society and government from that responsibility.

Self-Esteem

The fourth point is that the prostitute often has to perform acts that she is not comfortable with, for the sake of continued employment. So s/he conditions herself into acting in ways that violate her sense of self and erodes self-esteem on a regular basis. Approving prostitution means that a portion of society is condemned to live with deficient self-esteem perennially. This is not comparable to job-dissatisfaction experienced in other fields, it touches the core of the person.

Employment in certain jobs such as toilet cleaning, cannot be compared with prostitution because there are enough tools available that removes the need of personal contact.
Besides, the premise of the comparison itself is flawed because, in personal life every person cleans him/herself on daily basis to ensure hygiene, but does not clean another person unless that person is an invalid or a child. In which case again there are ways in which direct personal contact is avoided where necessary. Moreover, such acts are invariably reciprocated to the doer in times of need.

Equivalent to prostitution would be the daily cleaning by one person, of many others, who are quite capable of taking care of themselves, through direct personal contact often going beyond mere cleaning, without any reciprocation by those others.

The comparison is further flawed because sewage removal is an invaluable service that benefits the entire society whereas prostitution caters to indulge the personal whims of a selfish-minded few invariably at a cost to their own families and that of the prostitute.

Child-Prostitution

The fifth point is that, despite organized prostitution being illegal currently, brothels run, trafficking goes on, exploitation occurs and child-prostitution thrives.
Legalizing of prostitution will form more avenues for bringing in under-age teens into prostitution by way of forging age-proof certificates.

Setting Precedent

The sixth point is that inability to curb harmful behaviour is not acceptable justification to propose for legalization of the behaviour. When government or law enforcement agencies give such excuse, they declare their incompetence, which has potential to set detrimental precedent. It also reveals irresponsibility towards duty. Further, such attempt to legalize the illegal portent willingness to prostitute legal conscience.

On a similar note, the deterioration of human values, apart from the obvious adverse effect on health, associated with liquor consumption and use of tobacco is well known. Sustained use of both affects the human being, his family, the society as well as future generations.
However, because its effect is more subtle and over a longer period than drug addiction, the government that approves its sale escapes accountabilty. The ostensible reason for the approval given is the apparent inability of law enforcement agencies to curb sale of spurious liquor which leads to deaths of consumers. However actual reasons may also include the profit margins that liquor barons enjoy, which they may willingly share with interested helpful persons in power, apart from the accrual to treasury through taxes. These liquor barons may also arrange for certain deaths through spurious liquor to provide timely helpful reasons to initiate removal of prohibition.

Societal Responsibility

The excuse of incompetence in law enforcement throws up questions regarding other ills in society such as child labour, which is prevalent despite being illegal. According to statistics released by the government, available for the year 2001, there were some 1.26 crore child labourers in India in the age group 5-14 years. That number alone is more than the total strength of the entire armed forces troops of China, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka combined, including the reserve. It is more than the entire population of Israel and Switzerland combined. Other agencies puts the figure much higher. This figure however does not include the large number of children who are employed as domestic help in households, restaurants and tea shops- employments that were notified as child labour only in 2006, and those employed in begging in the streets.

A parallel exists between the difference between a child actor working on movies/advertisements with a child employed as domestic help in a household/ restauraunt/begging in streets, and the difference in employment of a call girl with that of a street prostitute.
While employment of children in movies and advertisements seems to have been silently approved by the society, much like in the case of high end escort services, legalizing of prostitution, like employment of children as domestic help in households, restaurants or begging in streets, is untenable.

Society has an obligation to provide children with education opportunities and avenues for developing their personality. Similarly, society has an obligation to provide prostitutes with employment opportunities that develop self-esteem, dignity and provide a family life.

Alternatives

There are a few other ways in which society and government can approach the issue of prostitution.

1. Generation of alternate employment opportunities for prostitutes. Society and government, both are responsible for this. Many NGOs are already working towards this goal.

2. Improving of working conditions of the daily wagers, labourers, who work much like automations throughout the day on uninspiring jobs, that drives them to seek temporary release in the evening in the sexual act or in liquor-generated stupor. This is also a major responsibility of both government and society. It can be partly met by distributing employment opportunities across the country equitably which will remove the necessity for migration to city and separation from families. This will entail the shifting of driving motivation of governments from capitalistic expansionism to long term benefit of society. Focussing on promoting agriculture and cottage industry, instead of being fixated on the lucrative IT/ manufacturing industry related SEZs, is another way that may help reduce farmer suicides as well as provide employment to labourers.

3. Inculcating values in society, in the younger generations, to see themselves not as evolving animals, but correctly as spiritual beings. Let them understand that their anscestors were the sages who created the vedas, who realized themselves as brahma, who considered vasudaiva kutumbakam and sought shanti in all the worlds; not monkeys.
Let them understand that their heritage is not of animal behaviour, but of spiritual realization. That may help a different perspective towards living.

Conclusion

Each individual and the society that s/he forms part of is a composite whole. Both affects the other. If some people are considered as objects for sexual satiation of some others, it fundamentally affects the character of the society and shapes subsequent generations. Societal approval for such behaviour have serious repercussions.

*****

Post Script

Netherlands legalized commercial organisation of voluntary adult prostitution on 01 October 2000, with the aim of freeing prostitution from criminal elements, tackle exploitation, trafficking and other undesirable forms of prostitution.

Recent developments after 8 years of the legalization: –

Half of Amsterdam’s prostitute windows must be closed to save Europe’s most tolerant city from criminal gangs and an excess of sleaze, the mayor has told The Times.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5400641.ece

Eindhoven’s designated sex work zone is due to close by 2011. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are slowly shutting down their red light districts, but Eindhoven is unusual in pioneering material incentives to tempt women into thinking about an economic alternative to prostitution.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/whore-miles-plan-for-dutch-prostitutes-who-behave-952479.html

In Iceland this year(2009)-

A new law makes purchase of sex illegal in Iceland.
Before this change in legislation, selling and buying sexual services was legal in Iceland.
Iceland is the third country to outlaw the purchase of prostitution. Sweden was the first country to ban the buying of sex in 1999 and Norway followed suit earlier this year. In Finland, a ban on purchasing sexual services from victims of human trafficking was introduced in 2007.
Opinion polls have shown that up to 70% of the population supports banning the purchase of sexual services.

http://www.jafnretti.is/jafnretti/?D10cID=ReadNews&ID=523

Update: Smt Sunitha Krishnan, anti-trafficking crusader, gives a talk on TED. She has also blogged on the issue of legalising prostitution http://sunithakrishnan.blogspot.com/2009/12/should-prostitution-be-legalised-should.html

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6 other followers