Monday, February 17, 2020

Morality and legality

The strange thing about us humans is that we first put in place systems and procedures to serve a purpose and then promptly forget the purpose. Thereafter, we either start worshiping the systems we have put in place or think of the systems and the purpose as antagonists warring with each other.

This case of morality and legality is a prime example of that behavior. What are laws but a way of codifying the existing morality of society? And the entire process of a legal system is to drive society to live by that morality, ensuring punishment for those who fail to do so. And, yet, we keep talking about morality and legality, as though the latter is inimical to the former.

The vagaries of human interactions are so many that the law, indeed, cannot perfectly encompass all of them. So, yes, there are cases where what is illegal may not be immoral; and what is legal may be immoral. Even in the best of systems that humanity can put in place. The fact IS that perfection in this will always elude humanity, as in most other things to do with Society.

The bigger problem lies in where the current morality of Society itself is not 'moral'. Most of the inequities in Society's treatment of classes, communities, genders may be considered moral, sanctioned by tradition, but in their inherent unfairness be, in fact, immoral by an absolute standard, if indeed one can conceive of a common absolute standard of morality to exist.

Therein lies the biggest area where legality becomes an enemy of morality. IF the law perpetuates the inequity, the law itself can be said to be immoral. At least to those who face the brunt of the unfairness, it would be indubitably immoral and, therefore, requiring to be changed.

There is also a problem where the law runs ahead of Society's accepted code of morality. When the law makes things illegal, which Society at large still considers moral, the law will be SEEN to be immoral. The worst problem arises when the people who are there to enforce the law themselves are not convinced of the morality of the law. THEN, enforcement suffers by default, the law only remains on paper while it is flouted in practice.

Nothing is more dangerous to the stability of Society than to have laws selectively enforced. For, then, the respect for the 'rule of the law' goes down, leading to partial or total anarchy.

When the legal system is not merely reflecting the current morality of Society and is intending to change the morals, it is important to spend time and effort on educating Society about the need for a change in the morals. Most especially, and as a priority, to educate the law enforcement authorities.

Laws, even when properly enforced, can only control the behavior of people. That is necessary, certainly, but not sufficient. To truly change Society you need to modify attitudes. To modify attitudes you need to educate, not just attempt to enforce.

Failing that well-meaning laws will remain just on paper, flouted with impunity or paid lip service to or adhered to only in the fear of getting caught.And THAT's how a country can have a wonderfully egalitarian legal system and continue to be classist or racist as a Society.

Come to think of it, that about seems to describe the whole world - except where there is not even that wonderful legal system in place!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The law is an ass?

Humanity has a strange relationship with laws. Being a basically chaotic species, it would be impossible to have stable societies unless we have laws that provide a modicum of predictability to the daily affairs of life. So, first, we strive to put in place laws and, then, bend every effort possible to cast off the restraints that the laws impose on us. When we are unable to do what we want to do, we scream that the law is an ass.

As, indeed, it can be at times. I mean, I am all for non-smokers having the right to not be endangered by secondary smoke, for example. What I cannot understand is how making very long train journeys totally non-smoking is a great help in that. A chap who can do without his tobacco for 40+ hours is a chap who can quit smoking, after all. So, the net result is that the law is broken, even by those who would like to be law-abiding, and non-smokers subjected to the hazards in all the toilets of such trains. One would have thought that setting aside a corner in the train for smoking would make more sense in ensuring adherence to the law - much like airports have seen the sense in providing a space to smoke in. But, no, the law has got to be asinine.

This strange relationship that society has with the law has its variants. As I saw when I shifted from Tamil Nadu to Delhi for work. Tamil Nadu, especially the TamBrahms, have this attitude that 'Anything that is not specifically permitted is prohibited' - or, they did in my times. And Delhi...Delhi is the prime example of 'Anything that is not specifically prohibited is permitted.' Which meant that an injunction to not pluck the flowers did not mean that they could not uproot the grass; an injunction to not walk on the grass meant that it was OK to turn cartwheels on it. No wonder that, when laws are made, they have so many sub-clauses trying to cover every single possibility of what exactly is prohibited. (AND still they miss. Like, you say that you cannot sell spectrum and make profits, and people sell a company for profit when the only asset in that company is spectrum)

The fact is that the bulk of humanity interprets laws somewhere between these two poles. Of whether what is specifically permitted alone is doable or whether what is not specifically prohibited is doable. In a sense, there are those whose morality limits itself to the letter of the law and those whose morality defines itself by adherence to the spirit of the law - and that morality itself being as strong or as weak as the desire for what is seen as prohibited.

Plus, of course, the risk of getting caught and the cost of getting caught. There are those who stick to the eleventh commandment for all their morality - 'Thou shalt not get caught'. There are those who weigh the consequences AFTER getting caught, in addition to the risk of getting caught. And, if the gains are high enough, the risk of getting caught low and the consequences are paltry, shall proceed to break the law with impunity.

The highest of the high operate in a plane of their own. They can close to eliminate the risk of getting caught and manipulate the costs of getting caught, so the laws that they don't break are the ones where the breaking yields no benefits.

And, yet, humanity will, in one voice, prayerfully seek the 'rule of the law' while bending effort to breaking any and every law that does not suit them. Except the vanishingly small minority of those who think 'Anything that is not specifically permitted is prohibited'. If, indeed, any such still exist!

When the humanity that seeks to make laws is asinine, the law HAS to be an ass!

Monday, February 3, 2020


There is this problem with writing anything, anywhere. (Or drawing or painting or singing or...) You write the damn thing because you sort of enjoy the writing; you put it out thinking that you will not care a damn if anyone likes it, you did it for the joy of it after all; and, hello, the moment it is out you are looking up every other second to see if someone liked it, someone said something (nice, of course. You never expect anything nasty till one of those trolls come around to let you know that they exist) about it...

And, when I do it...

"Why don't I ever get anyone to read any of my posts?"

Yes, there is this other problem, this time about me. Not content with getting trolled online, I go seeking my friends so that I can get personally trolled.

"That's because you don't know the first thing about human nature."

"What do you mean? I..."

"Well, tell me, in any conversation what gets the most attention and interest? Information or gossip?"

As one of the foremost practitioners of sleeping in class, I was obviously not going to choose information, was I?

"Right, gossip! And what really counts as gossip? Telling people good things about the 'gossippee', if I may call him so? Or telling them dirty secrets about the chap?"

Was this guy an idiot? I mean, come on, who wants to listen to the good points of someone else? If people WILL spend time on doing that, they should be doing it about me. Naturally, I want someone telling me why someone else is an asshole, so that I can feel comfortably superior to him.

"Well, good things about another guy only counts as information, not gossip."

My friend looked at me with surprise.

"Ah! You know that? Surprising. Then, knowing full well that people hate information and like gossip, why the hell..."

"But I don't give information..."

"You write things that expect the reader to think. That counts as information because it is certainly not gossip."

"You mean..."

"If you wrote calling people names, now THAT would interesting reading."

"But, come on, you expect me to wake up of a morning and just call someone or the other names? How..."

"Now THAT is why you will never succeed in becoming viral. You don't know the first thing about making yourself interesting."

"So, tell me how."

"It can't be just someone. It has to be some celebrity or someone who is known to everyone in your target audience."

"But where will I get those dirty secrets to..."

"Look up the news daily and see what you can get outraged about. Some celebrity, some politician, some government official somewhere is bound to do something which you can get outraged with. And, presto..."

"That's it? I just wake up in the morning, all set to get outraged about something or the other, and look for reasons to do so?"

"In a nutshell, yes. If some actor, say, remains silent on what you think they should support, outrage about it. If someone says something in support, outrage about why they did not say it before on other issues. If someone opposes, obviously you can get enraged. Simple."

Let the World watch out. Here I come, all primed to conquer social media with my outrage!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Say Nothing - Politician

You can hardly talk about succeeding by saying nothing without bringing in politicians at some stage or the other. Yes, there may be those politicians, mythical beings almost, who say some concrete things and even, horror of horrors, DO some things but they are altogether too rare to warrant talking about.

Start with the election speeches (Where else?). Other than, of course, the usual diatribes about how the opponents are the very personification of the seven deadly sins - greed or sloth or whatever as per choice - the rest of it goes somewhat like this.

When we come to power, we will eliminate poverty, bring down inflation, eliminate unemployment, make India an attractive destination for investments, ensure the security of its citizens, yada, yada, yada.

Land of milk and honey with roads paved with gold to boot. There will be silence about the fact that the Bezoses of the world will say, "I really love the fact that you will keep inflation down and eliminate poverty and all. But it will not be attractive to us if you raise my taxes, put in pesky labor rules, or get in the way of my driving small businesses out"; your citizen, including government servants, will say, "Yeah, Nice! Keep MY taxes down and protect MY jobs and salaries, while you are making India an attractive investment destination or trying to keep down inflation"; your economists will say, "Good, find the money for paying welfare to keep down poverty, while ensuring that the fiscal deficit stays low or else inflation will go through the roof." 

ANY mention of HOW you are going to balance all these things and you are dead. Talk specifics and you will raise a whole storm of protests. "Is THAT what you think is poverty elimination?"; "Your ideas of what makes an attractive investment destination are...huh...quaint"; "These people are clueless about economic realities"...

Essentially, once you talk specifics it is all 'I dont want the milk, cos i am Vegan, that honey is probably sucrose, and if the roads are paved with gold, what's the value of that stupid yellow metal?'

You see, what is merely DESIRABLE in other areas is ESSENTIAL for a politician. To call someone a 'Say Nothing' politician is an redundancy. IF you are a politician, the first qualification is a genius for saying nothing in a lot of words.

That, of course, applies for all that follows. When you do something WHEN in government it is always in the 'larger interests of the Nation.' If you are in opposition, whatever the government did is either 'malafide', 'ill-conceived' or 'faultily executed'. Of course, you say it in a lot more words, without ANY specifics, than I can find...if I could, would I not be in Parliament instead of churning out stupid blog posts?

What? Getting angry with politicians? What's the damn point? I mean, yeah, perhaps you change a few into actually saying something concrete. and what will YOU do? It has always been easy for you to assess who has spoken well rather than who has worked well. For the latter, YOU need to do a lot of work to get the relevant information and assess it. So, the moment one politician changes into saying and doing concrete things, you'll abandon him and elect the next guy who is an entertaining speaker.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is IT in a nutshell! It is the 'Say Nothing' brigade that will always rule the world!