Straight Angle™: October 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is legal murder a retribution to an illegal one? 

I am asking this question after hearing and seeing the news about the judgment in Priyadarshani Mattoo's murder case. And I am particularly unhappy that the judgement was hailed as "Justice" and a pointed reference made to the fact that it is capital punishment.

I had never been a votary for capital punishment. As I said here and here, death cannot avenge death. As I kept listening to the news and the commentaries being made in the media, I can't help but feel sad that we as a Society had long lost the concept of tolerance and we are no better than barbarians. I am not saying what Santhosh Singh did was correct or right- far from it. I strongly condemn his actions. I also know that condemnation would not be enough. But to avenge one death with another is hardly the way to go.

I was completely appalled to hear words like "Now, Priyadarshani's soul would rest in peace", "Justice delayed is not Justice denied"- What is Justice for these people? If you mean punishment by killing is Justice, then I would rather say we are not a civilized society. Why should we let the soul rest in peace by killing another one? If what Santhosh Singh did was wrong, is it any more right what we do? He was convicted 15 days before and there was no news of Justice delayed or Justice delivered. The media wanted him to die and only when they got the punishment, they pronounced the verdict as Justice.

We use our legal systems to pronounce who deserves to live and who doesn't. If we say what Santhosh Singh did was wrong, then how do we reconcile to what we are doing, as a sane, mature civilized society? Killing him with legal impunity. I would rate this as a more cold blooded murder than the one that Santhosh Singh did. To pre-determine a murder, to execute it to the precision of a executioner- this is what we are doing as a Society.

I want to make it clear again- I am not saying that punishment is bad- what I am saying is, Capital Punishment is wrong- morally. I wonder if the same news reporters and channels would say "Justice delivered", had the punishment been something of a life imprisonment for 200 years or so?. There can be a thousand wounded hearts wanting retribution for all sort of injustice. So if all of them prefer to answer in terms of death, then will it be fine or will it be justice then too? What lets us assume the role and power of deciding on an individual's right to live? I accept what Santhosh Singh did was a heinous crime- my point of contention is that, we are not any less heinous by hanging him to death!

Here, the media had already decided on what should be the punishment and they were only too happy to see it coming along. If this is the retribution for rape and murder (supposedly deserving death), then how can we ever condemn violence for retribution (assumed or otherwise). I can see the media's wish written all over, when there were words like "Soul rest in peace", "other victims can look forward to justice". What is the point that we are making? That we need to be reminded that our judicial system needs to hang someone to let others know that they too will be hung?

Hadn't we already hung Auto Shankar? Why hadn't it deterred others like him from committing a similar crime? If we think that we can deter crimes by punishment, we are obviously wrong. If that is the case, there should be no crime at all, for we had been hanging criminals for quite sometime now. What are we letting ourselves believe. I see a very basic flaw in our logic. We condemn revenge, we condemn violence, we condemn killing. But all these are fair and fine when done in the name of Law.

So, we legalize murder- Our way of rendering Justice!

Update: I am having an online discussion with a bunch of friends on this issue and the sort of observations that had come ranges from:
  1. I agree to the punishment.
  2. I agree that capital punishment is bad, but in this case, that is the only punishment possible.
  3. I agree that capital punishment is bad not because we are killing him, but he would have to undergo a harsher punishment all life than be killed at one go!
These are responses not from any uneducated person. All of these are from people highly educated and in decent positions in Society. I am really appalled at the sense of revenge that we have (on behalf of the victim). While I completely understand their sympathies with the victim, they miss the point that what they are doing is exactly the same thing that they are opposing!

There were responses to the effect that even our Gods were killing (Rama killed Ravana, Krishna killed Kamsa etc, etc). Now, that leads me to think, have we ever made a God that doesn't threaten us with death or destruction for wrong deeds? Or is there any God that doesn't punish? and for that matter does God have the right to take ones life for the crime that he/she does? Can there be a God that doesn't punish a person and still remain a God- Wait..I am digressing.

Now, there were responses to the effect that we can't waste tax payers money on putting criminals like these in prisons and feed them till death! This lack of sensitivity to a person's life and the assumption that food, shelter and clothing are the only needs of a human being baffles me. There were also responses to the effect that we don't have a better option than death. This is even more saddening- We seem not to have a better option than killing a person for a rape and murder case.

This reminds me of the CNN-IBN coverage of the story, where the news reader kept repeating the point that this case is a "Rape and Murder" case, whereas some committee had suggested that there can be no capital punishment for only a rape case. Hardly makes any difference. And add that to some panel members comment that rapists should not be pardoned. Is it because, unconsciously and/or subconsciously we still place a heavy premium of the sexual purity of women? Had it been a molestation of a man by the same person and subsequent murder, would we still call for capital punishment? [To be updated as I get more thoughts and more responses]

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Book Rain! 

Is this a season of books or what- that too of some of my favourite authors - First it was Richard Dawkins with his "The God Delusion", next is Steven Johnson with his "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World".

I just happened to read his interview for the Salon Magazine[Forced Ad viewing required]. I wouldn't rate it as exciting- but nevertheless, it is interesting. The first book of him, that I read was "Emergence- The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software". The moment I started reading that book, I knew I was holding one of the most interested topics that I had ever had!

That book along with The Selfish Gene and The Meme Machine, had broadened my view on science, anthropology and to a good extent religion, philosophy and God! The Selfish Gene was introduced to me by Prof. Sankaran, who has a great interest on things like Emergence, Society and Science. Once I got that book, the remaining books were a logical extension of the theme that interested me the most. I started reading more books on such topics, which let me to Immanuel Kunt's "Critique of Pure Reason". It did help me that I was at TAPMI then and had unrestricted access to the treasures of such classics that were freely available in the Library.

Now, the more I look into the ways that Cities and other Social structures have developed, the more I understand that Men, after all isn't any different/great from the so-called lower creatures. It does is a matter of pride that we were able to make fighter planes and nuclear bombs, but it still isn't convincing to me that we are any greater than any other animal on this planet.

If you need more convincing proofs, do take a look at this article.[General Warning: A Ten Page Article that requires considerable patience].

I liked especially one line- "The city of the dead antedates the city of the living"-[Lewis Mumford]

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just some arbid thought! 

உடல் மண்ணுக்கு உயிர் தமிழுக்கு - இதை உரக்கச் சொல்வோம் உலகுக்கு,
இனம் ஒன்றாக மொழி வென்றாக புது வேலை எடுப்போம் விடிவுக்கு,
நம் வெற்றிப் பாதையில் நரிகள் வந்தால், விருந்து வைப்போம் விண்ணுக்கு.

பிறந்த பிள்ளை நடந்து பழக கையில் வேலைக் கொடுப்போம்.
பிறந்த குழந்தை இறந்து பிறந்தால் வாளால் கீறிப் புதைப்போம்.
யுத்தச் சத்தம் கேட்டால் போதும், முத்தச் சத்தம் முடிப்போம்,
இரத்தக் குளத்தை நிறப்பி நிறப்பி, வெற்றித் தாமரையை பறிப்போம்.

எங்கள் மண்ணைத் தொட்டவன் கால்கள் எங்கள் நிலத்தில் உரமாகும்,
எங்கள் பெண்ணைத் தொட்டவன் கைகள் எங்கள் அடுப்பில் விறகாகும்.

Was listening to the above lyrical from Iruvar. I guess I was in my 11th standard then and a fierce Tamil nationalist in that [Guess all the political ("spoil"tical) meetings happening around had their own effect]. Whatever, there was a time when I enjoyed listening to this bit much more than anything- felt this gave a raw gut and an energy to do something. But now, when I listen to the same song, I find it revolting and highly inflaming. Though it gives me the same hair-arousing feel even today, I don't enjoy it as much as I did then!

The lyrics and the accompanying music aren't anything I would like now- rather I would prefer the "Narumugaiyae" and "Poo Kodiyin Punnagai" bits these days. When I intercede the moments of Tamil political and cinema history with the film, I would assume that these are the lines spoken by the "Tamilchelvam" during the anti-hindi protests (I hadn't yet seen the film myself and so I dont know who actually mouths these words on screen).

For non-tam readers(if there are any), the above lyrics roughly translates to:(Here, Tamil refers to the race and not just language)
Mortal body to Earth- soul to Tamil, lets announce this to the world!
Let's take the weapon to Unite the race for Tamil's victory,
And will treat the heavens with the cunningness that obstruct our strife!

Lets use the spear for teaching a child to walk,
If a child is born dead, let the death be of Martyrdom,
Let the struggle precede love in our life,
The bloodiness of Victory shouldn't deter us!

Foreign Legs that fall on our land would be to nourish it,
Foreign hands on our women, would be the fuel for our homes!
I still am unable to really digest the gruesomeness of the translation. But this is what would have been the contextual equivalent- if I had been able to do some justice to the context and meaning of the prose- It didn't sound this gory as it sounds in English! :)


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Scott and Me! 

Pic Coutesy: Dilbert

Many a times, I find Scott Adams to come up with a perfect cartoon for whatever I wanted to convey. This cartoon, exactly captures what I want to say right this moment.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Oh Sweet Child of Mine! 

She's got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky!
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I'd stare too long
I'd probably break down and cry!

She's got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain!
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I'd hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by!
What are you now, O! Sweet Child of Mine..some 80 Kgs?- But for sure, you take me to that special place! and I do really hate to see an ounce of Pain..But I don't know if..Does it Pain?


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Blog full of questions! 

Have you ever thought about the form that we attribute to Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism? I hadn't thought about it till, but suddenly the other day it just occurred to me that almost all our Gods seem to have multiple heads, multiple eyes, multiple hands, but not a single one has multiple ears, multiple noses(or no nose or no ear), multiple legs(or no leg) and so on. Ever wondered why?

This particular line of thought intrigued me a lot. I tried to recollect any number of Gods that I knew of- I couldn't find a single God with multiple legs or other body parts. Why is the hands and head so important than other body parts? And another parallel yet similar themed question is, why is that all Gods are more Human than Animals or Trees or even Alien life form? Does that show a lack of Imagination on the part of people who created the figurines or simply a "Hero-turned-omnipotent" metamorphosis of a human being?

Why is God always shown to wear gold, which incidentally is held in high regard by human race? Is it that Gold gains its status because of its association with God, or did the God got the gold because gold is held in high regard by humans? If it is the second, then it might mean that Gold is more powerful than God!- if it is the first, then why is Gold alone taken to that high position?- after all gold wasn't the first metal to be discovered!. Why is no God fond of silver or bronze or brass or glass or other metals?- Will there be platinum jewelery for God in the future if platinum gains over gold?

There are some exceptions to this normal observation of Gods having animal features like Ganesh or Hanuman. But even these Gods were humans when they were born and only later they got their animal features as TINA factor took in, or by some curse. There are some others who argue that Hinduism has got Snakes, Eagles, Cows etc. But the point to note is, that all these are only gods and not God. The God would invariably be a Human form and ofcourse, none of these Animal Gods are known for their beauty! ;)

I do often get a doubt as to whether the Dasaavataaram(Ten Incarnations) is anything but science..Is it that Evolution was said as a series of Incarnations of God? I mean the first one starts as Fish, which is a sea-borne being, moves on to Tortoise(an amphibian), then a wild boar(a marsh land animal) , a dwarf, half animal-half man, a nomad, a king on the move, a planned strategist and an executioner - Well, it is easy to read between the lines and impart meaning into a possibly playtime story turned epic. This line of thought is very similar to what Richard Dawkins say here as,
I think religious belief is a scientific belief, in the sense that it makes claims about the universe which are essentially scientific claims. If you believe the universe was created and inhabited by a supreme being, that would be a very different kind of universe from the sort of universe that wasn't created and does not house a creative intelligence. That is a scientific difference. Miracles. If you believe in miracles, that is clearly a scientific claim, and scientific methods would be used to evaluate any miracle that somebody claimed evidence for.

Suppose, hypothetically, that forensic archaeologists, in an unlikely series of events, gained evidence -- perhaps from some discovered DNA -- which showed that Jesus did not really have an earthly father, that he really was born of a virgin. Can you imagine any theologian taking refuge behind Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria and saying, "Nope, DNA evidence is completely irrelevant. Wrong magisterium. Science and religion have nothing to do with each other. They just peacefully coexist." Of course they wouldn't say that. If any such evidence were discovered, the DNA evidence would be trumpeted to the skies. [Reproduced from Salon - Requires forced view of an ad]
There are quite a lot of forceful points that he makes there in that interview..One point I particularly liked was,
I would say that parents should teach their children anything that's known to be factually true -- like "that's a bluebird" or "that's a bald eagle." Or they could teach children that there are such things as religious beliefs. But to teach children that it is a fact that there is one god or that God created the world in six days, that is child abuse.
How very true!- It indeed is child abuse...we usually concern ourselves with only physical abuse, that many are unaware of the mental abuse that we put our kids through- by short shunting their thoughts- by giving them "facts", by disguising our believes as truth and our characters as virtue... I understand we do all these because we think that it is the best, but it really begs my understanding, on why should we think it is the best for our kids.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Whose life is it anyways? 

I am writing this after been subjected to 2 days of absolute insensitivity and arrogance of the so called Society. I had always wondered on this concept of Society- the effect that it had(s) on individual and the simple ignorance of individual on the effects the society has on him. Whenever I ask someone to define "Society", more often than not, it's a vague definition and when I ask them to identify what society is made of, it's a complete puzzled look that I get as reply.

Society as defined by Dictionary.com is,
  1. an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.
  2. a body of individuals living as members of a community; community.
  3. the body of human beings generally, associated or viewed as members of a community: the evolution of human society.
  4. a highly structured system of human organization for large-scale community living that normally furnishes protection, continuity, security, and a national identity for its members: American society.
  5. such a system characterized by its dominant economic class or form: middle-class society; industrial society.
  6. those with whom one has companionship.
  7. companionship; company: to enjoy one's society.
  8. the social life of wealthy, prominent, or fashionable persons.
  9. the social class that comprises such persons.
  10. the condition of those living in companionship with others, or in a community, rather than in isolation.
  11. Biology. a closely integrated group of social organisms of the same species exhibiting division of labor.
  12. Ecclesiastical. an ecclesiastical society.
  13. –adjective of, pertaining to, or characteristic of elegant society: a society photographer.
So, who all make up my Society? - Does the auto rickshaw driver who takes me to office makes my Society? or how about the grocery store owner down the street? or my roommate? or my relatives or my parents...Though it can be argued that all make up my society, it is often the case that many in the list have a non-existent to at the most negligible influence on me and my life. So in the end it's just a handful of people around you that decide what you do.

However, there are instances, when this theory goes for a toss- like what had been happening for the past 2 days...first come the "Karnataka Bandh", which was ostensibly to send a message to neighbouring Maharashtra on the Belgaum issue. I do agree that there might be issues with a particular place going to the other state and you loosing out on that piece of real estate...but to jeopardize an entire state for a day, all offices closed, normal life disturbed, economy brought to a stand still- what are we achieving?? Now, it doesn't seem to me that Maharashtra suffered- it is Karnataka that had lost because of the strike- lost days of work, money, and add to all these hardship to people living in Karnataka.

The heights of all this is when this society forces me to abide by its wishes- denies me my choices, my basic rights and curtails my discretion. Take for example, the move by the cable TV operators in Bangalore who went on to blacken out all non-kannada channels. Now, who are these people to decide what should I see? Who gave them the rights to decide for me? I pay for the cable service I get and I expect an uninterrupted service of my choice. I cant be held at ransom like this, at the whims and fancy of someone masquerading as the society, being my master.

The saga continued today in Mangalore. There were some communal disturbance, and as again it was declared a holiday for my company. Now, there is no news on what prompted the scuffle, and there is no clear information on what is happening. But the end result is that the entire day had been wasted with no productive work done. There was no visible disturbance in streets, while I cannot deny that there was any disturbance at all. What I strongly condemn is, disrupting public life for personal issues comes from the veil that the Society offers- now anyone can take advantage of such a system and claim to represent the society and the society has no way of denying him or proving him wrong.

This is where the entire idea of Society puzzles me....when at some point it seems like powerful to deny me my choices and options, at the other hand it is powerless itself with a person who chooses to take it for a ride. Society has the power of influence only on those who choose to accept it...for those who don't..well, its a mute point!

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Swarnasrikrishnan/Male/28. Lives in India/Tamilnadu/Chennai, speaks Tamil, English, 

Malayalam, German, Hindi(??). Eye color is black. I am a god. I am also optimistic.
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Swarnasrikrishnan, Male, 28, India, Tamilnadu, Chennai, Tamil, English, Malayalam, German, Hindi(??)

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