A barbaric attack this afternoon at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and several others severely wounded.
“…in [what is purported to be] an apparent militant Islamist attack, four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.”
Reports from several reputed news sources claim the attack as being carried out by people claiming to be part of Al Qaeda, although this has not been entirely corroborated yet.
While multitudes [myself included] have come out in strong support of the cartoonists following the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, some media outlets seem to highlight the ‘fact’ that Charlie Hebdo persisted in its irreverence, subliminally implying somehow that they deserved it. A perverted apologism of sorts for a violent, ruthless attack.
Irreverence can go to extremes, and it has done so repeatedly. In its most modern form, it has all but regressed in its entirety to its original iterations: to use, manipulate and control masses, a tool for power, whether that power is political, monetary or plain old physical might.
That oft repeated quote still stands: “Religion is like a dick. It’s fine to have one, but don’t go waving it around in people’s faces…”
AND don’t go stabbing people with it.
I would like to openly aver that there may be personal bias in that I am personally against the concept of religion in and of itself, and of the opinion that it has done far more harm than good in society. However, it is not anybody’s place to state to another what they may and may not believe [a job extremists take entirely upon themselves, and have done violently in this case].
Extremists seem convinced somehow that their beliefs are the ‘truest’, the strongest, the most faithful to an imaginary sky being on which they base their entire set of values and morals. (To the woman in Central London who once told me atheists ‘have no morals’, we choose to found ours on a reason unrelated to fear of punishment, retribution, becoming a Christmas turkey et al.)
Is your belief so weak that pens and pencils can shake it, cause it to be insulted, irreparably damaged? Is your ‘all-knowing’, ‘all-powerful’ being, the creator of all humanity and everything in existence, the one for whom you commit these crimes, so fragile that words will hurt it? The same being that threatens to punish a being for eternity for being ‘evil’ needs guarding and protection from a few words? Less reminiscent of a god, more reminiscent of a schoolyard bully too chicken to get a taste of his own medicine. Is THAT your belief?
Is belief asking people to ‘multiply’ to ‘replenish their numbers’? To arrest, silence, kill those who disagree?
Censorship is a world issue; Indian cartoonists have in the past been arrested for what was interpreted as ‘seditious work’. Protests are currently on in India against a film that showed, according to detractors, the country’s biggest religion in a ‘bad light’. [It didn’t – it was a sardonic, much-needed take against godmen and the money-spinning, divisive business that is religion.]
Multitudes protested – on the internet, vocally, in their homes, which, while I personally disagreed with, is perfectly alright. Extremists took it further, with picketing, physical violence and threats.
No physical harm came to any being, however, which is a significant relief, but does not condone the attacks.
Extremism, specifically extremist religion, is a plague. A veritable cancer, seemingly attempting to eat humanity and peace from the inside out; by attacking people, education, free speech and thereby, rational thought.
People have protested from time immemorial, with religion as their goal, their instrument, tool, their means and their end.
To protest film, literature, thought or dissent. In an ideal world, Deepa Mehta would never face widespread protest, and neither would Rajkumar Hirani. Salman Rushdie would never have had to flee, and neither would M.F. Husain. In a sane world, nobody would die as a result of the rabid insecurity of extremist factions, and their cowardly, bloody violence.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves today that if our beliefs (whether in a sky being, a tenet, a school of thought) are as unflappable as we believe them to be, names will never hurt them. It is that belief that should be under question in the end.
To those who believe an absence of religion necessarily means an absence of morality, where is YOUR morality now? In the pointlessly spilled blood of 12 innocent people?
Today, instead of backing down to those who have proclaimed themselves defenders or protectors of faith, each one of us must make a conscious effort to defend something ourselves: the license for others to say things we may not like or agree with, but respecting utterly their choice to express it anyway. The freedom of expression includes the freedom to offend (and being offended is one of humanity’s favourite pastimes).
With these attacks, extremists hope, in silencing those who disagree, that others who disagree will silence themselves. Fear for self censorship. That the threat of attack will lead them to ‘fall in line’.
Today, write more than you did yesterday. Say something you were afraid to say. Speak up about atrocities against everyone. If you protest the Paris attacks, protest those threatening the freedom of expression in your own political and geographic arena. Each time you feel personally slighted or violently offended at a film meant to point out exactly that, check yourself.
Murder is never defensible, and this was not merely an attack on the 12 victims at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. It was an attack on the freedom of expression, of the expression of that opinion without threat. It was an attack on every one of us with a voice that wants to be heard without silencing itself in fear. It is now up to us to not be cowed down; in the words of the slain Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, to die standing, rather than live on our knees.
It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore. If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised. Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic. It’s something that never goes away. It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.
India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal. We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job. Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)
For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus. In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.
It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.
I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.
If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’. “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me, violate me completely’. Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’. Because that’s completely logical, obviously.
It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.) Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.
Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).
The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise), is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]
That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives. Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”. Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.
I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.
Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television. How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.
Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.
Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.
But we can’t seem to.
The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card. Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.
Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.
Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?
People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.
I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen) that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.
But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.
Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective, at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever. We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:
” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? ”
We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).
And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?
We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.