One of the biggest problems with Indian culture is our insatiable need for morality. It’s not enough for people to be polite, sociable, and to live their own lives. No, people must be morally upright. Not only must people be morally upright, they must also be morally responsible for everyone else. If we see anyone wandering down a dangerous path, we are morally obliged to correct them and to keep the values of our society safe.
The Indian value system is quite binary. Women sacrificing for family – good. Men keeping wayward women in check – good. Pre-marital sex for women – bad. Pre-marital sex for men – also bad but very understandable and forgivable. Respecting elders – good. Family values – good. Self-interest – Bad, Bad, Bad and worse still for women. Indian values – good. Western values – bad. Homosexuality – Western ergo bad.
There are two unfortunate consequences of this sort of social ideal. The first is that courts perpetually sound avuncular – they admonish women for not adjusting, they admonish abusive husbands for not being kind to their wives, they tell off corrupt officials. I’m starting to believe that the Indian judicial system takes this long because judges need to pass not just legal judgments but also moral judgments making it twice the work.
The second consequence of our moralizing is what I’m most concerned about. Thanks to our need for preserving our values all educational institutions assume moral guardianship of the “impressionable minds” in their care. Teachers at all levels from pre-school to PhD advisors are expected to watch out for their “children”. Engineering colleges in Chennai, for instance, behave as though their primary goal is to segregate the sexes and the secondary goal is to train engineers. These colleges have guidelines for how female students are expected to pin up their dupattas and how often male students are expected to shave.
What is the purpose of education anyway? Is it to cram facts and figures into minds and train people to be mindless drones or is it to empower them? When are we going to teach people to actually think for themselves? How are people ever going to learn to think for themselves and find their own value system if we keep them boxed in? As if expectations of “good behaviour” weren’t enough moral police are now trying to control what gets taught in universities. Books are banned. Movies are banned. Criticism of “hinduism” is banned. Freedom of speech only seems to exist for those who can be the most outraged.
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