One day, years ago, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I will never forget what they said.
They said that what happened to Anne Frank – all the tragedy that befell her – is the typical experience of a Jewish person in Europe at the time of the concentration camps.
It’s just that our minds cannot wrap themselves around the fact of so much pain and suffering.
We see Anne Frank as an individual, but it is unfathomable to us, that there were so many others who had it as bad, if not worse.
We can really feel it for an individual but not hundreds or thousands of people. Our weak little hearts just can’t handle that.
I’m feeling this way after reading the news for the past few days.
So many questions come to mind after reading the horror that is the Hathtras case.
Why does a crime have to reach this level of graphic detail for us to start talking about it?
Do the graphic details do us any favours? A cut tongue? Mutilation with an iron rod? Our brains fixate on this details and we lose sight of everything else – that the act of rape by itself was horrific enough, but we need it to be at this level for us to talk about it.
And also – where does this violence come from? Why is there a need to go beyond rape to break another human being? Where does the anger come from?
Then we hear denial and excuses – caste doesn’t matter, why was she out at night, it wasn’t rape, that there’s a reasonable explanation and many such things.
We, as a society have accepted it’s okay not only to rape a woman – which in itself is an enormous act of violence, but also to mutilate, to break, to murder – to destroy.
As for the ones responsible – do they feel bigger for having done it? Is there remorse? How do they look themselves in the mirror?
When we read accounts of people during genocides, one of the things we see is a certain de-humanization of the oppressed and victimized.
How have we got to the point where we start only reacting when there are broken bodies and death involved?
Only the most brutal of the cases go viral because compared to the violence of these sensational cases, regular sexual assault and single perpetrator rape doesn’t seem so bad.
We rage and storm about social media, we argue about the finer points of the case, somebody invariably says something outrageous and we rage and storm about that as well.
And while what we are doing is human – we are expressing shock and grief at things that affect us – things that disgust and revolt us – I can’t see how we can mend our broken social fabric.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the fact that a group of human beings felt it was okay to do this to another person, is a major problem.
It is a problem that no argument on social media can fix, no blog post (mine included) or speech or castration or jail sentence can fix.
The people who commit these crimes are not children that you can condition with a slap on the wrist.
They are fully capable of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions. An education and affluence or a lack thereof does not, in itself, cause violence.
It comes from our minds. And perhaps mob mentality – the most horrific cases we have seen of late, are gang rapes. Does the group dynamic allow for something that an individual crime would not? I don’t know but wondering torments next.
It’s ironic that we are around the corner from World Mental Health Day because this is kind of a sickness. It may not have a name but I can’t see how this could be anything else.
And we have varying degrees of it – from those of us (myself included) who need that shock factor for us to sit up and take notice, to those who defend the perpetrators, to those who actually commit the crimes.
A friend (and fantastic writer), Vijaylakshmi Harish, very aptly described this. She said in recent times, it’s like we, as a society, are being gaslit – we are in a relationship with a sociopathic power, one that denies things in spite of facts in front of our eyes.
And slowly we give up our fight and lull ourselves into complacency.
There is that famous anecdote – the one with a frog and a pot of water which I’m sure you’ve all heard. Drop a frog into boiling water and he will jump out. Put him into the water and boil it slowly, we can boil him to death.
In case it’s not clear: we as a society, are the boiling frog.
One thought on “The Violence in Our Minds”
It was almost 8 years ago that a similar fate befell Nirbhaya, and it took years to bring the perpetrators to justice. There is a saying “Justice delayed is justice denied.” If Nirbhaya’s family, who were urban and not disadvantaged, as far as I know, in terms of caste, got justice so late, do you think this is going to be any better?
The same media that brought this to our attention in the last 2-3 days will soon bore of this story and fill our ears with clandestine meetings between defecting politicians, or Bollywood and soft drugs, or some other inane story and we will forget Hathras, or a dozen other Hathras’ or Unnao’s and move on.
A society is reflective of its people and above all of its leadership. I will say no more than this. We are all guilty of allowing this to happen.