Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rained Down Senses

How many times have we appreciated a particular rain sequence from a movie? In certain movies rain forms the essential back drop and also plays a role in intensely depicting the feelings of the protagonist or any character from the movie.  Not to forget that rain has also been used as a proxy for a ‘head to toe’ drenched heroine, that titillates audience’ senses and ensures ringing cash registers. I am sure some or most of us have enjoyed and appreciated such rain sequences in movies.

Today, we stay in times that are about scarcity of resources, that are about struggle to be at the right place at the right time to get just about sufficient resources and consider ourselves to be lucky. What were once considered to be abundant and birth right of every human have now become scarce or are available at a premium. Water has become one such resource. Life without water is unimaginable. Foreseeing tremendous stress on availability of potable/drinkable water, various forms of water conservation methodologies have been proposed in the past two decades. Mindless and unplanned expansion of population is only going to put further stress on the available water resources. Such has been the fear over availability of water that China has occupied Tibet to safe guard its water requirements and they say if there ever is a WW III, it is would  be to safe guard water requirements.

With such a stress on this resource, almost unnoticed and unquestioned our Movie industry continues to use artificial means to depict rain, flood and drench heroines with water. Have we ever wondered how many liters of water would have literally gone down the drain which could probably have been sufficient to fulfill the water needs of many of our water starving cities? Just sample the extent of water wasted by some of the movies:

Titanic – 60 million Gallons

My Name is Khan – 2,400,000 liters 

Tum Mile – 3,600,000 Liters 

Dabangg – 180,000 liters

Godzilla – No data

Jurassic Park - No data
Even the much loved movie in Bollywood, 3 idiots had an elaborate rain cum flood sequence, though I was not able to locate exact number of liters used for filming those scenes, but nonetheless, a wastage anyway (Wonder what Aamir Khan has to say about this – Satyamav Jayate?). Imagine, many such movies were made over the years, across world. How much millions of liters or gallons of water that possibly could have been used for more noble purpose, have been wasted just to entertain us!

Can the film industry think of a better way of filming these sequences? Or can the audience stop expecting such rain sequences in movies and choose, sanity over pleasure or titillation?


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Just is Still Complicated

Justice and Punishment are they one and the same. In order for Justice to be done has punishment got to be given? There are three objectives that the current system of justice tries to achieve:

  • Retribution
  • Deterrence
  • Reformation

As was discussed in the past two blogs [Just is Complicated | Just is as Complicated], with much arbitration and debate a punishment is given to a person indicted in an undesirable act or crime. In the process of awarding such punishment, the objective of retribution is to some extent met however; it is the objective of deterrence and reformation that this process fails in.
In the previous two blogs I tried to explore the question of Justice with the assumption of either we are born evil or we are born ‘as good’. They both led to interesting outcomes. I now think, after further contemplation that, we are born neither good nor bad. The whole matter is about conflict of interest and intent.
  • Interest of an individual vs. Interest of another individual
  • Interest of a State vs. Interest of an individual
  • Interest of a State vs. Interest of another State
  • Interest of a corporate vs. interest of an individual
  • Interest of a corporate vs. Interest of another corporate

So on and so forth. It is during this conflict of interest that we seek arbitration of a third party hoping through their unbiased and neutral stand point they might be able to decide whose Interest/Intent appears as most noble and justified. There are some widely accepted moral mores and ethics of human behavior which are to some extent influenced by religion and something that is not easy to be defined in exact terms. These, somewhat tacit, morals and ethics form the base of many law formulations and attempt to resolve conflict of interest or intent.

This could lead to quite a confusing notion of Justice. Taking an extreme example, wars are not illegal. In an armed conflict, killing of opposition’s army personnel is not illegal. However any attempts of killing civilians or torturing captured soldiers is considered a crime. If the moral and ethics drive our idea of justice then, any form of killing should have been illegal, hence war should have been illegal and hence Armed forces should have been illegal and hence the Government that maintains them should have been illegal! 

I think what emerges is that in an institutionalized justice system. It comes in only when a conflict of interest is reported, till it is reported and not legislated against, all acts are legal and absolutely moral and ethical. Hence I think retribution is relatively easy (note the word relatively) compared to deterrence or reformation.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just is as Complicated

A friend of mine tore into me for my assumption of ‘we are born evil’.  Hence I make an attempt here to understand justice this time assuming we are all born ‘as good’.
So say, we are all born as good, yet there are crimes in society, how would one explain crimes in a society where all are born as good? I guess two possible explanations could be offered

  • Circumstances force people to commit acts that are undesirable or what is said to be crime
  • Circumstances present choices to an individual between the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do

o   We are all born good so we should always choose the right thing
o   Some of us are not entirely good and might choose the wrong thing
o   Hence acts in society that could be called as crime

If, circumstances are what push a good person to choose the so called wrong thing shouldn’t the society collectively take the responsibility of creating such circumstances? Is it appropriate to punish someone who is just a victim of circumstances that were created by the society? Can that be called Justice? If he was born with a genetic disposition to choose the wrong thing, should he be punished for choosing the wrong thing or be treated for it like any one else is for other genetic ailments?

In society we often demand more rules and laws to ensure that even when circumstances present a choice of doing the right thing or the wrong thing, all the people born as good, always choose the right thing. Indicates that, all people born ‘as good’ need to be coerced to continue to be ‘good’.
The question then is about, can people born ‘as good’ punish the one who under the pressure of circumstances chose to do ‘the wrong thing’? Let’s say a person born ‘as good’ under the pressure of circumstances commits an act of murder, now other people also born ‘as good’ decide to punish this choice made by the person. Let’s assume he is awarded the capital punishment.  Won’t this mean that collectively a group of people who are born ‘as good’ under the pressure of circumstances decided to do the ‘wrong thing’ namely, killing the person who chose to do ‘the wrong thing’. Can we call that just, acceptable or civilized? Can two wrongs make a right? Interestingly, 18th Century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, said ‘we are born with a conscience and a sense of fairness. Human nature is good until corrupted by society.  

So how much responsibility is the society willing to take collectively? Can there be true Justice?

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Just Is Complicated

Are we humans born evil? Are we born with an incessant need to commit crime? Are we all born criminals and reformed by society? If we are born as criminals then committing crime is but a natural outcome then why do we punish those few who do end up committing crime? Even if punishment is justified who has the right to punish? Can a group of born criminals be entrusted to punish somebody? Can somebody who commits an act following his natural self, be punished? A bunch of born criminals entrusted with power through some suspicious means punishing an individual for committing an act following his natural self, be called justice?

One might question the reason behind my assumption of ‘humans born evil'. I can only point towards our Society’s belief in legislated laws to maintain law and order in our day to day life indicates all humans are born criminals waiting for the first chance to commit crime unless reined in by laws. Hence often there is demand for stricter laws and stronger implementation of the same. 

The very idea of punishment is an interesting phenomenon as well. Leading thinkers of all ages have questioned justification of punishment and also about who has the moral right to punish? Also how to decide what is an appropriate punishment? When a person is wronged by another person, any attempts by the wronged person to inflict a similar pain on the perpetrator is considered undesirable, unjust and a symbol of uncivilized society. However, after a fair debate and arbitration, if a similar pain is inflicted by the judicial system, it is considered legal, just and mark of a civilized society. Even any attempt by a wrong doer to punish himself is also considered illegal. Thus Justice is a complicated affair without even having to discuss about Capital punishment!!

A whole system cracking down on an individual at times appears to be crueler and unjustified an act than an individual seeking revenge against another. A wronged individual can seek revenge albeit, after a judicial system approves of it and also takes the responsibility of carrying out the agreed revenge. The popular 20th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche supported this form of punishment and meting justice, he said ‘Justice and the institution of law essentially take revenge out of the hands of the offended party. If I am robbed, it is justice, and not myself, that has been harmed, and so justice must claim revenge. Thus, Nietzsche suggests, the concept of justice can only exist in a society that has established laws that can be transgressed: there is no such thing as "justice in itself."
In the wake of the news of the suicide committed by one of the main accused in the, now popular, Delhi rape case Dec 2012, I would like to inspire people to reflect upon our human behavior, society and the concept of justice.

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Friday, March 1, 2013


Who or What is the Government? Is it the bureaucracy? Is it the cabinet? Is it the Prime Minister? Is the President? Is it the Constitution?

 We would all agree, I suppose, that the Bureaucracy and cabinet are nothing but a set of musical chairs with the occupants changing, moving and shifting. They are entrusted to execute duties of a Government but are not Government unto themselves. Then what is the Government? The Prime Minister or the President are not The Government either, they are at best leaders, protectors or saviors of one. Then, is the constitution the Government? Certainly the Constitution of any country lays the foundation of how the Government should function but again is not the Government per se. Even if it was, the Constitution, at the very core, is nothing more than a Concept, a concept proposed by the founding fathers of any state and ratified by consensus. So, I conclude that, Government is nothing more than just a concept! The rest of the paraphernalia we call, the ministry or bureaucracy or armed forces is only to protect and give continuity to this concept. 

Undoubtedly, this is a very powerful concept that we all believe in and willingly submit to. Our link to this concept is similar to the thin rope that prevents an adult elephant from escaping. Because the Government is just a concept, it is open to many interpretations. Some form of interpretation has led to violence and atrocities which are, in a way, acts of terror. Instances of people being accused for sedition or getting arrested for FB posts, or for more benign acts are victims of this act of terror. Why do we surrender our authority to Governments when we don’t know what or who the Government is? Why do we, so called common man, surrender our empowerment so willingly to the safeguards of a Concept? 

A concept, can’t give legitimacy to people. It is people who give legitimacy to a concept. Like all of us have given to Government and entrusted it with enormous power my surrendering our individual powers. Without the legitimacy, the taxes that we pay are in no way different than rents paid to mafia. Here, I think, there is merit in the idea of Voluntary Taxation regime where, I should have the right to protest by refusing to pay tax or have the option to pay taxes only for a particular cause. If I am being forced to pay taxes, I fail to see the difference between Government and a Mafia. Anyway no matter what Mafia still exists due to flaws in the existing Concept.

The moot point is that, it is ‘WE’ who matter, it is ‘WE’ who give power to Governments and it can never be the other way round. Government is just a concept, morality and ethics don't apply to a concept, it only applies to people who form that concept like us. We have the power to make changes. Unless we standup and make those changes ourselves nothing concrete will happen. I am sure we don't believe ourselves to be criminals waiting to commit crimes if not supervised, and can decide and act as per what is the right thing to do.

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Random: March 2013