Moral Policing

I saw this post from themadman

And that set me thinking.

I think all moral policing is, deep down, a form of insecurity. From a culture in which sex was a part of life, to be celebrated as much as other things, we seem to have regressed into prudery and hypocrisy, claiming that any small incident is liable to “destroy Indian culture and values” and sitting on some fanciful moral high ground.

I think that the more we pretend that something doesn’t exist, in public, the more we are obsessed with it in private. There must be a reason why we are amongst the most populous nations in the world. This has not been achieved by adopting an attitude of pious, virtuous denial of sex.

As far as “superior Indian culture” goes, I think that it’s only when we are not confident in our identity that we have to proclaim it out loud and allegedly protect it. If we proclaim that Indian culture is a magnificent edifice, why are we so scared that a kiss between Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty will destroy it?

Another culture I know which was similarly prudish (and which may have passed it on to us) was the Victorian English culture. But the English have moved out of it…and we haven’t. It amused me, several years ago, to see the adaption of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen as a television serial. It was amazing that Victorian values ruled in Indian society and were valid….the notion that a girl’s “virtue” is something to be preserved at all costs, or she would face ruin and ” a fate worse than death”, for example.

Michael Crichton, in his novel, “The Great Train Robbery”, talks of Victorian hypocrisy, where touted values were not reflected in people’s actions. The facade of paragons of virtue often hid a multitude of unhealthy ideas and obsessions.

Ancient Indian society acknowledged the courtesans as women plying a trade like others, and also acknowledged the fact that these women could sometimes be just sex workers…or sometimes be women of substance and power. Now the same situation exists everywhere but we try to close our eyes to it. Even when the chief minister of a State comes to power on the strength of her relationship to someone, the actual situation is known to everyone but is never referred to openly or honestly. We shirk calling a spade a spade….everyone knows the facts of life but no one should talk about them!

I can only invoke two similes…one, an open wound heals, and a closed-up wound festers; and two, it is the house whose windows are open to the four winds which has healthy, fresh air; the house where the windows are always closed against dust and noise and other “pollutants”…soon has a stale, fusty atmosphere.

Perhaps the Victorians and the Edwardians foisted their pruderies on our society; but that doesn’t explain why, more than 50 years later, we seem to be regressing more and more into them, and are busy trying to protect the “pure Indian culture” against every imagined onslaught and slight. And it doesn’t explain why some of us take on the responsibility of being our brothers’ keepers.

But that’s the way we are. As I remarked before…someone told me my daughter and her boyfriend shouldn’t hold hands in public (kissing?! Forget it!) because they were not married. And a few years later, they told me they shouldn’t hold hands in public…because they were married!

I will end with a last simile…the sapling that is protected too much from sunlight and wind may wither and die, and never grow into the magnificent tree it should be.

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