The Only Ideology You Really Believe in

Source: RedGranite/Appian/Paramount/Youtube

Source: Red Granite/Appian/Paramount/Youtube

Throughout the course of your life, you go through many learning and unlearning experiences.

You are brought up with certain sets of beliefs and you end up figuring out a lot of things for yourself.

You are shocked and you are disillusioned. You think you know a lot. But then sometimes you move on in your own bubble, ignoring the rest of the world and the way it works.

So it is no surprise to see a lot of people confused about what they really want to believe in. It’s OK to have doubts.

I would like to think I have been one of them and still wonder if I am. You never can tell.

But it is dangerous when your confusion takes the form of convictions.

Whether it is the ever confused Islamist zealots looking for Shariah half heartedly, or champagne socialists too desperate to change the world, we have a lot of people who don’t know what they are talking about. Who would not even live up to their words for a single day. But not to say that there are not people around who actually live their beliefs.

A lot of people who are contradicting the very values that they live everyday.

But idealism is good. You need to dream. It helps you live. And there is nothing to judge about aiming for something that you are not.

But there is no harm in growing tired of it either.

There is no harm in coming to terms with the fact that you could try not to lie to yourself.

So what’s the harm of believing in how you live.

Because the only ideology you really believe in is your lifestyle.

How about switching your ideology to that?

A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions

Bergman’s The Seventh Seal & Death

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) Source: People.com

To commemorate the birthday of master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), who was more like a master playwright and stage director who happened to make pictures in my opinion, here are a few glimpses from one of his masterpieces that fail to leave my memory. Det Sjunde Inseglet or The Seventh Seal (1967).

If you study the history of cinema, and of art for that matter, you will find a great obsession with Death. From Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and from Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959) to James L. Brook’s Terms of Endearment (1983). And why not? Death fascinates us. We are obsessed with Death. Or maybe it is incorrect to call it an obsession. Maybe it is the only thing to talk about after all.

It is only fitting to talk about that with reference to The Seventh Seal.

With the brilliant performances of his remarkable players Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nils PoppeBengt Ekerot and Bibi Andersson, who I admire greatly from her part in Persona (1966), Bergman creates a masterpiece on the cinema screen to portray what probably no one else would be able to equal in the years to come.

If you have not watched The Seventh Seal, I highly recommend you should watch it before proceeding to read the post any further. But if you choose to do so anyway, then what you are about to watch are some of the most iconic images and symbolism in the history of cinema (such as the analogy of life and death with the white and black pieces of chess).

There is one scene in the film that clearly suggests what it is about than the rest of it and it also encompasses the struggle that the protagonist is going through, reflective of the brilliant writing of Ingmar Bergman, as seen in many of his other pictures such as Nattvardsgästerna or Winter Light (1963)

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He makes the audience realize, if not make them feel, how it would be like to be dying, and to encounter the horrors of death while you still have not succumbed to its force.

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One of the most iconic images in cinema history (Source: filmist.tumblr.com)

The final scene of the film examines the duality and the inseparable nature of life and death, of joy (and pain), of hope (and despair), of faith (and doubt) and of redemption (and damnation). Josef, the itinerant actor, his wife and son symbolize life in this film more than any other characters. Jöns,  the Scribe, is the skeptic in the Knight Antonius Block, reminding him of his doubts and the hollowness, and perhaps futility, of his prayers.

Yet, there is one undeniable reality that remains. Something no one can doubt or deny, believer or skeptic.

Death.