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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oh My God

Last week, my sister, who lives in Calcutta, got stuck in a massive traffic jam on the way back from school. The reason she was stuck was that a bunch of people, who unlike my sister, never did go to school, were protesting against an article that The Statesman had reproduced from the UK's Independent. The protesters claimed that the article had insulted the Prophet.

Now, as you chaps would know, this is somewhat of a recurring phenomenon. Every few days Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs or barbers pop up out of nowhere claiming that their religious sensibilities have been hurt. And, more often than not, our government either capitulates or goons beat up everyone up in sight so that there’s a de facto ban on whatever these chaps were protesting against.

Now, there are a number of reasons why this should not happen.

Firstly, we have the London bus argument: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. However, in all honesty, this is a futile argument not only in India but in almost all parts of the world including most of the western countries. Also, I am a bit sick of the Dawkin fanboys and their I’m-more-rational-than-99%-of-the-world expostulations.

Secondly, we have this: clock:time::religion:God.

A clock helps us to tell the time but a clock does not define time. So, if my clock is two hours slow or has stopped, it doesn’t mean that Time is two hours slow or has stopped. Time is impervious to the clock.

Similarly, at best religion can be way for us to understand God, but nothing that mortal men and women do on this Earth can ever affect God. A fair argument, if you ask me.

Therefore, it’s quite preposterous to think that an octogenarian (or is it nonagenarian?) painter can insult the very embodiment of Shakti or that a newspaper columnist can insult God’s chosen Prophet.

Incidentally, I’ve discussed this point on online forums (yes, I have too much time on my hands) and I’ve been met with one stock response: “Would you not feel hurt if somebody insulted your mother? It’s a similar case when our God is insulted.”

Now, the thing is that, while my mum is somewhat of a remarkable woman (she can teach History to a bunch of unruly girls and make the best chaanp ever) she is hardly a god—in fact she’s, unfortunately, quite mortal. She is neither omniscient nor omnipotent and, in what is cinching proof of her imperfectness, she likes to listen to ABBA.

Hence, it’s not a similar case at all and if you do dis her and I should and would feel a bit pissed.

Last and, well, least we have free speech. This has, unfortunately, taken such a beating in our country that I feel it futile to waste time writing about it.

Having enumerated (some of) the reasons as to why this stuff should not be done, it is instructive to try and understand why these things are done, nonetheless.

In one word, the reason is identity. Religion, in our part of the world, and, in fact, in most parts of the world, is an intrinsic part of our identity. It’s who you are. In effect, insulting symbols of your religion is taken, almost instinctively, as a personal insult.

So, when the chaps in Calcutta were ostensibly protesting against a columnist insulting the Prophet, what they were really protesting was a newspaper columnist insulting them.

In fact, a corollary of this would also explain the Rama Sena’s actions (as opposed to the more commonly held sexuality argument). The Ram Sena (and the other Senas, Sanghs and Parishads) primarily consists of people who would charitably be called lumpen. Here Hindu culture, or their definition of it, gives them a lovely little make-believe world to hide in. A world in which they are actually better than the pub-hoping sahebzaadas zipping around in their fancy cars. That these people are largely Hindus in the first place matters little, because by the new terms of engagement, the Ram Sena chaps are the “better” or “truer” Hindus which makes them leapfrog in social status over the harlots who frequent bars and what not.

So, what do we do to remedy the situation? Well, quite frankly, I don’t know. Yes, we could make people richer; the whole cut-at-the-root-of-the-discontentment rigmarole—admittedly our best bet. But, sometimes, even that doesn’t help—the eagerness of the residents of Punjab to murder their own daughters is proof enough.

However, if you do think of something, scribble it onto a pink chaddi and send it to Muthalik. In the meanwhile, I suggest we follow Mark Twain’s advice:

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."

32 comments:

Indyeah said...

brilliant post...and I loved the message even if I too argued for the 'lets not insult other people's gods theory...':)

yup!in a world where men and women were just a tad more understanding of the concept of religion and of god,it would be heaven or whatever heaven would be like (if it exists that is)...

but till then ,this seems to be the case..''what they were really protesting was a newspaper columnist insulting them.''

and the Mark Twain quote brilliantly sums it up..

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."

yep!as I said somewhere in a comment..we all live in our insane worlds thinking ourselves sane and that the other is more insane than us...

Kislay said...

"A clock helps us to tell the time but a clock does not define time. So, if my clock is two hours slow or has stopped, it doesn’t mean that Time is two hours slow or has stopped. Time is impervious to the clock.

Similarly, at best religion can be way for us to understand God, but nothing that mortal men and women do on this Earth can ever affect God. A fair argument, if you ask me."

Absolutely brilliant man . Rahul is right about you . You are quite a thinker . Bravo .

Kislay said...

Rahul , your batch mate .

curious indian said...

99% that was bit on higher side !! and that too in lala land of blogosphere . Well I think thats what we want in good dose around the subcontinent a little bit of atheism.That's not going to stop these prtoests but atleast you don't have to listen to arugument " like insulting your mother ".Even the commies of our gods own country had turned to god

Biju Mathews said...

Excellent thoughts! I liked it here when you pointed that, "...So, when the chaps in Calcutta were ostensibly protesting against a columnist insulting the Prophet, what they were really protesting was a newspaper columnist insulting them."

A very good quote, "When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."

Keep Blogging!!

Phoenixritu said...

Loved the quote. I think we all suffer from too much emosanal attyachar. WE think THEY insult us and poke fun at OUR Gods. Dammit, since when did God become ours or theirs???? We need to relax

Indian Home Maker said...

Absolutely amazing post.
I can only say I agree with everything you have written here, I try to say the same thing but never manage it so well!!

Usha said...

Nothing less than perfect!
Keep blogging!

Satyajit said...

Protests of these kinds at a higher level are politically motivated but for the average guy on the street vandalizing and blocking the road it is all about the free biriyani and Rs 50 at the end of the day.

At some level we all want "our" religion (ourselves) protected. Leaders feed off our fears by saying..."today they said this. if we let them get away, tomorrow who knows".

വടക്കൂടന്‍ | Vadakkoodan said...

Good post.

"clock:time::religion:God"

Good one; if more believers realized this...

And about commies of gods own country turning to god: There aren't many commies left there - they might be calling themselves commies, but they are like any other politician.. They choose candidates on the basis or religion, cast and what not.. By the way, we say that god sold our land to devil as it became unmanageable. its not gods own country anymore :)
(sorry hades, couldn't resist the temptation to answer that)

Quirky Indian said...

I must have arrived at the wrong blog.....where's my daily dose of bullshit?

Seriously though, well said!

Cheers,

Quirky Indian

Rakesh said...

Yup, I echo Quirky, Where's our dose of bullshit and pun???

Btw, this clock:tim = religion:God argument, is this your own or you heard it somewhere??? Its brilliant.

But I thought you'll have a better argument against "If I insult your mom, wouldn't you feel bad" Not that I'm agreeing or disagreeing to anything, just knowing your clarity in thought I thought you had all the right answers.

Tarun Goel said...

Too good. Everyone is beating everyone, you have beaten all of them :D

A Hint of Me. said...

Nice one.
This "clock:time::religion:God" and the explanation was super

Curious Indian said...

Well about commies they are as crazy as bat most of the times.But atleast they make an attempt to stay out of the religious affairs. Thats something of a rarity in India's political space.

nobody said...

This is absolutely amazing dude!

You keep on amazing me again and again! I bow to you hades!

Hades said...

@Inhdyeah: Thanks for liking the post.

… I loved the message even if I too argued for the 'lets not insult other people's gods theory...

For the record, that was not one of my points. My bad if my article gives this impression…

My own personal view of the matter is to give as much free speech as possible as possible. However, I do acknowledge that sometimes there is a thin line between free speech and malevolence.

@Kislay: Well thank you Rahul :). Also, to be a bit honest that argument is not originally mine. Although, I don’t remember where I first read it, but like you, I was bowled over by it.

@Curious Indian: It is my view that atheism is just not tenable. I’m afraid, for better or for worse, humans are just not built that way.

@Satyajit: Yes, a fear psychosis helps and is an essential tool.

@ Vadakkoodan: Yes, the commies have been “corrupted” but from my own personal experience (having lived in Bengal) I’d say the commies are still better than most of the other parties when it comes to social matters.

Unfortunately, their economic policy will ensure that people will not need other people to kill them—they’ll die of starvation anyways.

@Rakesh: No, its not my own, I’m afraid.

Curious Indian said...

I am not saying everybody has to be an atheist but atleast somebody who matters. Atleast a few Jonatahan Edward's(British gold medalist who after preaching all the good things about church decided that it's all hogwash) so that there is an alternative way of thinking available. Religious has a purpose which in any scenario is not clear to people of our country

Siddharth said...

nice blog man.. you are writing really well!! keep it up!

shail said...

Brilliant post! BTW, the cinching proof of your mom's imperfection is mine too. I listen to Abba among others.

Le Mystique said...

Free speech comes with a bit of responsibility as well.


Secondly while I liked the alternative look at things, and I am in not in favour of getting voilent in any manner to protest something, I do believe that there is a fine line between honest discussion of things and making fun of a different idea/philosophy/religion/school of thought.
Discussion is always fine.

Indyeah said...

:)
Yeah it wasn't the way you wrote ..it was more where I was coming from..
*brace yourself* :)Its a long trail..(and er...if you have time on your hands that is)


a discussion started here(on Nimmy's blog)

http://nimis540.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/freedom-of-expression-and-moral-police-in-islam/

went on here(Nimmy's post again)

http://nimis540.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/limits-on-freedom-of-expression/

then carried on here (my post)

http://ofsongsforthesoul.blogspot.com/2009_02_08_archive.html

and then here(my second post)

http://ofsongsforthesoul.blogspot.com/2009/02/freedom-continued.html

and then Quirky Indian's below

http://quirkyindian.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/of-freedom-of-expression-and-the-right-not-to-be-offended/


so you can imagine this is the first thought that comes to mind these days..:D

*sigh*
So I got fed up ...all of us got fed up of the topic...we avoid any long discussions like the plague these days...


I have had to enable comment moderation after this..coz of the trolls I was getting...*more sighs*

freespirit said...

My mum likes ABBA AND Vengaboys...!!!

Anyway coming to the point, sheer brilliance man...yo bullshit AND you think?! I believe completely in freedom of speech, but sometimes listening to our leaders makes me want to gag, tie and deport them to somewhere far far far far away(preferably not on the planet)!

The Hipposaur said...

Ever considered changing your blog id to something to the tune of the times of sanity/a saner voice? No bullshit here, Hades my man. Keep writing. Keep opining.

Preeti Sharma said...

Great post. Very appropriate quotes. A lot of people will perfectly empathise with this post.

nitwit nastik said...

nicely articulated...although I don't agree with everything you had to say..me being a wicked atheist and all..LOL!!

I wrote a few posts on my blog on exactly the same topic..here are the links..

http://nitwitnastik.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/death-knell-for-freedom-of-speech/

http://nitwitnastik.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/free-speech-the-other-side-of-the-story/

and I agree with your comment that "Therefore, it’s quite preposterous to think that an octogenarian (or is it nonagenarian?) painter can insult the very embodiment of Shakti or that a newspaper columnist can insult God’s chosen Prophet."

I wrote a post pointing out the same

http://nitwitnastik.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/58/

Thor said...

Firstly, we have the London bus argument: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. However, in all honesty, this is a futile argument not only in India but in almost all parts of the world including most of the western countries. ...

Is there any reason why you think that the argument is futile or is it just that thats the way it is?

Coz personally, i dont believe in god and i dont think that that argument is futile.

And hence I would love to know whay you think its futile. :)

Rhett said...

I agree with that rigmarole. Often there is a lot of high-flying elevated thought among intellectuals w.r.t. those religious goons and such. I think that rigmarole is the last word.

Hades said...

Thor,

Atheism has been around for literally thousands of years and it has a paltry umber of adherents. I don't see why, all of a sudden, it should become viable as a replacement to deism.

Thor said...

I am sure we can have a very nice discussion on this toic, but it will be too cliched i guess (considering the multitude of opinions and arguments flying back and forth)...

:D

"Nullius in Verba" said...

I have seriously come to believe, there is only one solution - just two parts to it -
1. Law and order
2. Excellent primary schooling - on law and order to start with :)

Law and order defines, people's rights and protects them (not suppress them, kill them, burn them, rape them)..

Primary education puts that order right when you are growing up. Disturbingly, nowadays religious or spiritual exhibitions are making inroads into primary education..

And you know, you just need one leader to put these two rights up on the constitution without any clause whatsoever.. and our babus will take it through.. they are good at doing whats written :)

EXCELLENT! EXCELLENT! blog ..

Hades said...

Thanks, NiB