just psychobabble

reprints of articles published in magazines

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Helping Srilankan Tamils

Now that the war in Srilanka is over and done with, it is time to plunge into some relief and rehab work for the Tamils. Psychiatric Services and Research Foundation is networking with other individuals and organizations to offer medical/pscyhiatric aid to the victims. Anyone interested in some voluntary work can chip in their share. All forms of help are most welcome:)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

election special

The Election is round the corner and we need to choose the right leaders to represent us. After all we live in one of the largest democracies of the world. And in a democracy, we get to choose the person that we would like to represent us.
What kind of person would you like to represent yourself? Somebody with your kind of attitude, intelligence, ideas and dreams or someone who is very different from you? Of course, most of us, would like to choose representatives who are intelligent, culturally rooted, fearless, well-mannered and trustworthy.
But how can we test the candidates and find out if they have such qualities? Well, psychiatry has devised some real smart tests to find out if your candidate is good enough to be elected. Let’s just apply these tests for fun and check out our candidates:
The most important aspect of intelligence is the ability to think in an abstract manner. Abstraction is the ability to conceptualize things that have no form and to find deeper meanings in things. In some classic intelligence tests, the testee is asked to tell the similarity between an orange and an apple, a pen and a pencil, a table and a chair, a poem and a painting, a seed and a man, etc.
Immature individuals with less intelligence usually say the differences, such as “The orange is yellow, the apple is red. You need to remove the skin of the orange, whereas you are eat an apple with its skin.” Or “you sit on a chair, but you don’t sit on a table.” In all such cases, the testee is only able to tell the ways in which the two items are different.
Individuals with slightly higher levels of intelligence talk about the functions of the objects. Or their merits and demerits. For example, “A table is to write on and a chair is to sit on. The poem is written, but the painting is drawn. The seed is small, man is big, man eats the seed” are the usual explanations given.
It is only those individuals with high intelligence who immediately notice the similarity. They promptly say, “An orange and apple, they are both fruits. A pen and pencil are both stationery items. Table and chair are furniture, poem and painting are both works of art. A seed and man are both living things”
So you see folks, it is only the intelligent mind that can make abstractions and see the ultimate similarity among two dissimilar items. It is only an intelligent politician who will say, “Hindu and Muslim, they are both humans”, whereas a dumb politician would probably cite differences instead of similarities.
So check out your politician, if s/he says “Every life has equal value, irrespective of its caste, creed, colour, gender or affiliation,” then you can immediately know that s/he is intelligent enough to be your representative. But if your politician is dumb or reckless and says crazy things like, “If somebody lifts a hand against Hindus, or thinks they are weak, there is nobody behind them, then I swear on the Bhagavad Gita that I will cut off that hand". Or "All the Hindus stay on this side and send the others to Pakistan”, then we know the guy is not even leader material, whose ever great grandson, grandson or son he is.

Several eons ago, what now is called India, was actually a part of Africa. The land mass broke away and drifted up the oceans. It docked itself below another landmass called Asia; the sea in between the two land masses cooled, rose high and froze into mountains. Today we call these mountains the Himalayas. From the top of the mountain, the ice melts and forms the Ganga, considered to be a holy river. But underneath, the Himalayas contains the bones and shells of all those sea animals that got trapped in the mountain ranges.
What we consider as one country today, was actually part of another country before. For example in Asoka’s time, Kalinga was not part of Magadha. He had to wage a war to annex that territory. But both these kingdoms are today part of another bigger sovereign state called India.
Before 1947 people living in Lahore, considered themselves to be Indian. But after 1947, their nationality and identity changed. They were no longer Indian. A new country had emerged. It was called Pakisthan. And so the people in Lahore, had to change their nationality to Pakistani. But they were the same people, living in the same area. Just their label had changed. Nothing else.
Let’s also consider this. Until about 6th century AD, most Indians were either practising Jainism or Buddhism. Vedic religions were not popular then. But after the 7th and 8th century the same people who practised Buddhism and Jainism gradually converted to newer religions such as Saivism and Vainavism. These same people after a few centuries, converted to Islam due to the invasion of the Mughals in the north and the Arab traders in the south. Some others converted to Christianity after the influence of the British, and Portuguese invaders. Under all these various religious labels, the people have always been the same. Just their faith changed. That’s all.
We do not know what the future has in hold for us. New labels get created all the time, in the name of region, religion, language, creed, community and what not. But underneath all these different labels, all humans are the same. We all came from the same ancestor; we all are of the same blood.
If your politician is aware of this rich Indian heritage, and understands that different faiths can peacefully co-exist here, then he is fit to be your leader. If he is some half baked upstart who talks about “Maharashtra is only for Maharashtrians, all your people from other parts of India, get out of this city,” then you know he is not the right candidate for you.
A true leader must be able to face conflicts and handle difficult situations deftly. S/he must be able to negotiate peace and patch up fragments. S/he must be able to take critical situations in her/his stride and move on with the business of running the government smoothly and efficiently.
There may be a tsunami, an earthquake, or a major difference of opinion among the population, some may support one line of thought and other may oppose it, there may be tension and stress. But a true leader must be able to go to the battle field and face the circumstances bravely. If your candidate is known to take such courageous steps, then s/he is the one for you. But if the said candidate is someone who pretends to fall ill and gets admitted in some hospital for some fictitious illness that needs no treatment, yet undergoes some major “complicated, life threatening surgery” when severe conflicts rage in his territory, then you know, your candidate is not even brave enough to face challenges. S/he is probably not even fit to represent you. Her/his health is so precarious that you ought to find a healthier representative to do the difficult job of leading the nation.
Governance is very serious business. It involves a lot of media attention. Not to mention the money, the strings of power and the infinite possibilities to better the quality of life of the hapless voters. Any individual involved in such an important business must have some morality, ethics and basic manners.
Check out your candidate and find out if s/he has adequate integrity? Any immoral acts? Dishonesty in personal or public life? Promiscuity? Criminal record? Does the person tend to lie through his/her teeth and cover up deficiencies with sweet talk and oodles of charm?
How does the candidate talk about his opponents? Does s/he treat them with due respect, dignity and courtesy or does s/he treat him/her with disdain, contempt and mockery?
Gentle banter and leg pulling in the name of good clean humour is all okay. But does your candidate get down to mudslinging and behave petty? Does your candidate offer praise where it is due and tone down criticism even when it is deserved? Does your candidate know to play the game in the spirit of the game, or does s/he behave like a spoilt brat who cannot take no for an answer.
If your candidate is morally upright, ethically sound and well mannered, then s/he is the right choice to represent you. But if the candidate has serious flaws then you might have to reject his candidature. No point in having someone so worthless represent you, is there?
When difficult circumstances arise, then would your candidate stand for the truth, come what may? Is his/her integrity beyond all doubt? Does s/he keep up her/his words? Is s/he known to be nepotistic? Does this person curry favours for his/her own kith and kin and makes sure that his/her family gets all the benefits of powerdom?
Even Fidel Castro, the famous communist leader of Cuba, did not want to let power slip into the hands of nonfamily. When Fidel was sick and bedridden, he quickly transferred all his Presidenthood to his brother Raul Castro. Not to an able outsider. Not to any other efficient comrade who had fought grave battles for him. When it came to power, even the popular communist hero, who was against all private ownership decided to hand over charges only to his own blood brother.
Even in our own country, we find blatant exhibits of nepotism - most politicians field their own children into fresh elections. If their children are not of contestable age, then they settle for their submissive wives. If there is no wife, then the politician would typically settle for some dumb, subservient wife-like man to play puppet. All that matters to them is, by some means to hold on to the power within their reach.
If your candidate is so selfish and nepotistic, then how well would s/he serve you as a leader? So do consider the nepotism ratio before you decide to cast your vote for your candidate.
Well, people, these are some of the fun tests that you can apply to check out the votability of your favourite candidates. If you find someone who fits the bill at least by the long shot, then go ahead and make him your representative. If you think there is no one good enough to represent you, then mention that to the polling officer. This election gives you the liberty not to vote too! Thank the EC for small mercies!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Mangalore Pub Incident

Surely you must have heard of the Mangalore Pub incident that happened a few weeks ago. Few girls had been to a pub and that was sufficient to annoy some guys who called themselves, Sri Ram Senaiks. The troopers just walked into the pub, pulled up the girls, called them bad names, slapped them, pushed them, taunted them and literally sent them crying out on to the streets, barefoot and all.
And here we are celebrating yet another International Woman’s Day. Well, time to take stock of the situation, and try to understand why such things happen to the Bharatiya Nari even in the year 2009?
To be fair to the Sri Ram Senaiks, pubbing indirectly means alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is unhealthy beyond a point, and is quite objectionable. But then Indian men have been drinking alcohol for so many years now. On any street in Tamilnadu, you’d find drunken men weaving their way to the nearest TASMAC shop for more booze. Why did the Sri Ram Seninks just ignore these men who drink? Don’t they care for the Bharatiya Naras as much as they care about the Naris?
Even considering that the SRS guys have great care and concern for the women of this nation, why did they barge into a pub? And why did they bash up the girls lounging there? Is it because they believed that women drinking alcohol is against the Indian ethic? If that is the case, then one only has to read the ancient Indian scriptures, such as the Rig Veda. Almost every stanza of the Rig talks about the bliss of the Soma Juice and it is obvious that Soma juice was drunk by both the men and the women of the Rig times. Down south, the famous Tamil poetess Avvaiyar has sung songs in praise of a king who offers her good wine to drink. So, it is not like alcohol and women never mixed in the Indian ethic. Ancient Indians were quite aware of the fact that alcohol has no gender barriers.
That does not mean that we can endorse alcohol as the next national drink. We know for a fact that irrespective of the gender, alcohol like anything else is dangerous in excess. But it does sound sexist and chauvinistic to prohibit one half of humankind from going to pubs, just because they happen to be of the female gender. Even the famous Indian heritage, ancient as it is, never had such gender bias, ever.
So, the real Indian Heritage has nothing to do with gender discriminatory alcohol ban, then what else could have caused the Mangalore Pub incident? Could it be that, girls meet boys in the pubs and that is against the Indian Heritage? Again the answer is no, because the Indian culture is full of festivals and celebrations that are designed to the girls and boys of marriable ages together, be it Holi, Vasant Utsav, Indra Vizha etc, which were the Indian equivalents of Valentine’s Day. Indian tradition has always held love and sex in very high regard. So much so that, Indian temples have explicit images of love making scenes, all aimed at the yet uninitiated youth. Pubbing is only a post modern form of the same old boy meets girl routine that has been sung about repeatedly in all our ancient literature. So, obviously pubbing is not against the Indian ethic.
Then why else did the SRS guys get so mad with the girls in the pub? Because they were skimpily dressed, and that is against the Indian ethic? Again the answer is a big no, because ancient Indian women were even more skimpily dressed than the present day girls. All the paintings of ancient Indians, right from the caves in Ajantha and Ellora in West India, to Sitrannavaasal in South India, show the women as bare-chested beauties with minimal clothing. It is a fact that women in South East Asia; Indians, Ceylonese, Malays, Sumatrans, Javanese and Polynesians had all been bare-chested until a few centuries ago. Present day Asians are all very modestly dressed when compared to their ancient day compatriots. And yet, they get abused in the name of Cultural Preservation, why?
Is it because, these girls had been whiling their time in the pub when they could have spent the time in more useful ways? Is that what is so anti Indian heritage? Is that what made the Sri Ram Seniks so mad with rage? Again, the answer is a no. Consider, Shankuntala, consider Sita, also do consider Anusuya, these women, Indian, ancient and good girls that they were, were so jobless, that all they ever did for most of their lives was to lounge around the prehistoric trees, pining away for their lovers. It is nothing new and nothing anti Indian, in fact, if our literature is to be believed, whiling was the only time pass for the ancient Bharatiya Nari and so that couldn’t possibly be the reason why the Sri Ram Seniks bashed up the Mangalore girls.
So why did they do it? Why did they abuse hapless girls and traumatize them for life?
Well, search as we might, the answer cannot be found in the tenets of the Indian Culture, for it has nothing to do with the culture of any particular country. All over the world men, aggregate into mobs and attack women, all in the name of preserving their cultural roots and religious beliefs. In Germany, women who were employed at par with the men were burned alive in the name of the God. It was then called Witch Hunting, and it was considered pre-approved by the religious men. Women were burned in public and no one raised a protest. For anything done in the name of god is considered morally right, even it is obviously wrong.
In Algeria, twenty years ago, women who used make up were beaten up and gnashed on their faces, as artificial makeup was considered sacrilegious, it was held to be against the word of God. All of us who have read about ancient Egypt would know that make up was nothing abnormal. It was considered to be a part of the daily routine in ancient Egypt. Yet, when the religious fanatics of Algeria, claimed that makeup was taboo and hence punishable, people just believed them and simply watched as many young women were mutilated for the offence of beautifying themselves.
In Afghanistan, the religious men went one step further. Leave alone beautifying, just exposing natural body parts such as the face, hands and feet, of the women was considered sacrilegious. And so Afghan women had to cover themselves up in burkhas that made them formless and faceless.
Why do men indulge in such behavior? Why do men in so many parts of the world, try to curtail the autonomy of the women, in the name of religion? All the religions of the world preach peace, equality, tolerance and love for all. Yet why do some men, twist religion and make it seem like the woman is subordinate and needs to be forever under the man’s control?
Well, the answer is not religious, it is genetic! Strange as it may sound, it is common knowledge in the world of genetics, that one set of genes can try and manipulate the other in order to increase its chances of survival. For example, some desert spiders practice cannibalism. The female spider eats up the male after he has finished impregnating her. It may sound mean, cruel and immoral, but the truth is: the male spider’s life time gets over immediately after he ejaculates. He would anyway die, that’s how nature has designed him. Living in a desert would mean food scarcity. The pregnant lady spider would need a lot of nutrition to make her little ones grow. Where could she get this nutrition from? The male would any way die, some other insects would anyway make a meal of his body, so what not the spideress herself? It is only going to benefit his own kids….and so it makes complete genetic sense that the lady spider gulps down her mate. This is a genetic strategy to improve the survival of one’s genes.
Now what has that got to do with the Mangalore pub incident, you may wonder? Well, it is just that, the male and the female of any species, is always fighting a genetic battle. The male cannot reproduce on his own; he needs to use the female’s resources, her body. But the female does not donate her body to further the male’s genes, unless she is sure that she will get only the best of the genes. This sets a competition among the males. Each male would have to prove to the female that he is the very best, only then will she choose to offer her body to spread his genes. Darwin called this Sexual Selection. And in all species of life on earth, it is female who selects the male, for her body is more precious, because only that is capable of procreation.
All the species of males, try to get selected by the female. They grow long tails, beautiful antlers, tusks, plumes, feathers, fins, some even go to the extent of glowing lights to attract the female. The female, plain and inconspicuous as she is in most species, carefully measures up the males and finally chooses the best of the lot. And so the fittest gets to survive.
This system works well for all species of life on earth. But the human males are different. They are intelligent, and so they have always tried to find a way out of this problem. As long as the female does the choosing, she would have a genetic upper hand over the male. And Nature has provided the female with a razor sharp brain to sniff the best genes in a jiffy. The real best Alpha man is secure in his confidence, he is sure to win her favours, and so he just lets her be. But those Omega men, who are less than the best are forever insecure, for they know the female would never choose them. And so they devise ways to usurp the women’s power, by making sure that the woman never uses her formidable brain.
In all the cultures where the men are backward and fear their own failure, the first thing that they do is deny women, their right to education and the right to interaction with others. With no education and no interaction, the women, quickly lose the sharpness of their brains. They then depend on the men for knowledge and guidance. Without the brain, the woman becomes a mere body and the man who retains his hold on knowledge, now has the power to manipulate her into submission. Ordinarily the woman would object, question or protest such subjugation, because her instincts would scream that this is all against her own survival.
To quell her protest, the male uses religion as a weapon. “In the name of god, this is how you should behave…..” the man thus conveniently misuses the concept of the Almighty, to enslave the women. If a stray woman refuses to submit, the male then uses violence, insult and torture, to terrorize the women. Thus shocked into submission, the woman then becomes putty in the hands of the men. And typically such men, ban contraception and quickly start spreading their genes in great numbers. Eventually all the bad genes aggregate, and despite all the men’s effort to spread their lines, such closed civilizations fall, and are easily captured by mightier civilizations. And typically all mighty civilizations are the ones where women enjoy autonomy. For only when the women are free to select the best genes, would the best genes thrive and aggregate to make a mighty civilization.
In every culture, there are Alpha men, great and free thinking and Omega men, mean, dumb and nasty. The Alpha men attract the woman without any effort. And so such alpha men treat the women as equals. But the Omega men, cannot attract women on their own, so they invent an imaginary Apha man, some male god, with all kinds of superior endowments, and use him as a lure to attract the women.
The real smart women, who use their own minds, who have their own money, and freedom to do as they please, as for example lounge in a pub in some city, are all dangerous in the eyes of such an insecure man. For such smart women would see through his tricks, look down upon him and reject him. Not only that, she would probably tell all other woman, about his dumb tricks and then all the women would join together and collectively reject his genes. The only way out, is to shut her mouth by maiming her physically, or better still psychologically. And the best way to do it is to terrorize her.
This is what happened in the Mangalore Pub. In any other closed country, where the government is religious, public is apathetic and the media is weak, such an incident would have indeed worked the trick. The women would well have been subjugated. But thankfully, India is a free country, with vibrant young minds that refuse to buckle under pseudoreligious pressures. And so we are here, analyzing the incident, not its consequences.