Wanna change the world? Change the mindset…

               

                “We are what our thoughts have made us, so take care about what you think.”

– Swami Vivekananda.

                Our thoughts shape our mindsets, which in turn influence our actions; our actions determine how society and the world at large is shaped. Every act of violence begins in the mind, so take care of not only what you think, but what your friends, your neighbours think; what your family thinks. When you think you have seen it all, out comes a crime so depraved in nature, so chilling in its details that shames you to your core! It makes you wonder whether the perpetrators belong to the same species as you. What kind of monster will walk into a classroom and spray 6-year olds with bullets? What kind of monsters will rape and torture a woman with an iron rod in a moving bus and throw her out to die? As the year draws to a close, and we try to make sense of the recent horrendous crimes, there is one thing that may give a clue on how to minimize them: Actively try to change the mindset of yours and those around you for the better. Even if one life can be saved or changed for the better, it will be well worth the efforts.

Gun-culture in the US

                 When I wrote earlier  “..And so the stalemate will continue and human beings will continue to be butchered…”, I never imagined that the next victims of a mass-shooting will be innocent 6 and 7 year olds in their classrooms. For the families of the 26 who died that day, the rest of the their lives will never be the same. The parents of the 12 girls and 8 boys will live the rest of their lives with a hole in their hearts. I have written about this issue earlier, where we looked briefly at how powerful the Gun rights lobby (including NRA) has been aided by money and power. But it is also the mindset of its supporters that enables the NRA to have such a clout.

Weapons of Murder

Weapons of Murder

                According to Wikipedia, USA has about 5% of the total world population but its residents own about 42% of all the world’s civilian-owned firearms. The homicide rate in US is 30 times higher than in other advanced countries. Gun laws vary from state to state. So in some states, it is perfectly legal to carry guns anywhere from school to church to a pub.

                A question on everybody’s mind is about Nancy Lanza, the murdered mother of assassin Adam Lanza. What was she thinking?  Teaching a mentally ill son to use guns, stockpiling assault weapons whose sole intent is to kill people – all these enabled the massacre that followed. An oft-repeated argument by Gun Rights activists is : ‘Guns don’t kill, people do’. True, it took a madman to kill children, but what definitely aided the process was possession of guns by the mother. The same day the Sandy Hook massacre occurred, another madman in China went on a stabbing spree attacking school-children with a knife. 22 kids were hurt, but every one of them survived. See the difference?

                I had mentioned this earlier too – As opposed to the rest of the world, keeping guns is seen as a right by a large number of Americans. A lot of this thinking comes partly from history, partly from tradition, partly from movies and games that glorify guns and violence. May be it is a time to reconsider those traditions, change that mindset. If not now, when?

                Many of us had signed a petition to the White House to immediately address the issue of Gun Control through stronger laws. You can go here and look at the petition as well as see the response from the US President Obama and from the Chief of Staff to the US Vice President.

Rape-culture in India

                Many of us Indians might take offence to this seemingly blasphemous title – What!? How can our great Indian culture be a rape-culture? Yet, that is what it is at present.

                Rape is but the subjugation of a person in a most depraved manner. It is not about sex. It is about humiliation, perversion, torture, violation, cruelty inflicted on a body and a soul. I am no psychiatrist to decipher what causes one to rape, but even I can tell you as a layperson that – Rape starts with the dehumanization of the victim by the rapist – the attitude that the woman or child or man(in rare cases) in front of me is ‘easy meat’, with lesser rights as a human being than I am entitled to.

                What I have termed as a ‘rape-culture’ prevalent in India is actually the collective mindset of people – A mindset that treats women as subservient to men. It starts at the womb really and continues till the grave.

                It is our mindset that allows new parents to kill their infant or unborn daughters instead of cuddling them and showering them with kisses.
                It is our mindset that allows more than 70% of women to face some form of sexual harassment; it does not matter whether the ‘woman’ in question is a 2 month old infant or a 75-year old grandmother.
                It is that mindset which enables 57% boys and 53% girls in India to think that a husband is justified in beating his wife, according to Unicef’s Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012.
                It is the kind of mindset that makes a highly educated doctor in Andhra or an IAS from Bihar or an engineer from Maharashtra ask for dowry as a sort of ‘fundamental right’, the ‘rate’ of dowry being dependent on the status of or income from the position.
                It is the mindset that makes India the 4th most dangerous place for women after Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation Survey.
                It is the same mindset that allows a politician to refer to another woman politician to speak in derogatory language thus – “चार दिन हुए नहीं आपको राजनीति में आये हुए और आज आप चुनावी/राजनैतिक विश्लेषक बनके घूम रही हैं! कल तक तो आप टेलीविज़न पर ठुमके लगाये फिरती थीं और आज आप नेता बन गयीं?” ( It’s just recently you’ve stepped into politics and today you’ve become a psephologist! Till yesterday you were dancing on TV screens and today you’ve become a leader?)
               It is the sort of mindset that makes an Indian in USA exclaim after the birth of his daughter – ” I’ll have to go back and settle in India now to teach my daughter proper values; with a son it would have been different!” (You see, sons in Indian families do not need to be taught proper values :-), the onus of carrying on Indian cultural traditions is always solely on the womenfolk.)
               It is the kind of mindset that makes everyone from politicians to police personnel to ministers to judges to your everyday road-ruffian remark after every single incident of rape/molestation thus – she must have worn inappropriate clothes; or she must be of loose morals; or she must have provoked the rape somehow; or she must have asked for it; or she must have been inebriated; or she must have been in the wrong company; or she must have been out at an inappropriate time. No dearth of excuses to hide the inefficiency and complacency and utter uselessness of the system, if there is ever one.

               There is a lot that can be done through legal and judicial means…and this goes for curbing both gun-violence and sexual violence. But the ultimate change in mentality must come from within us. Many of us would be able to come out of it in our lifetimes, but the vast majority will probably take generations to change this mindset. If the recent incidents jolt even some of us into action, if they result in a safer society in the long term one step at a time, then only there is some meaning in saying ‘RIP Nirbhaya, RIP Sandy Hook victims’. Finally, this is the song I dedicate to the memories of the victims:

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/portablematthew/3652202637/