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Showing posts from November, 2010

Rape and Victim-Blaming Mentality

Some days back Dure asked me a question 'What is the difference between the man who rapes an 'indecently clad' woman and the man who doesn't, when both are in a position to do so and get away with it?'. I think that the difference consists of the following components:
1) The degree of lust that the two experience
2) Their capacities for aggression and violence
3) Their capacities for impersonal sex, and the ability or desire to have intercourse irrespective of the partner's emotional willingness.
4) Their sense of morality, and how much their morality can affect their conduct.
5) Do they live in a Rape Culture? A culture in which sexual violence is common and prevalent, especially against women.
6) What perception of women do they have in their mind? Do they consider them as equal to men, deserving equal rights? Do they consider them as sex objects?
The question is not about rape in general, but about rape with the specific motivation of sexual gratification. …

A Confession of an Anonymous Lover

X: My love would be considered blasphemous in its full extent, worthy of hellfire if you believe my Islamiat book. Ironically, I have to hide this from him. Remember when I told you falling in love was the greatest religious experience I ever had? I told him something similar back then, and he reprimanded me along the lines of 'what would you know of religious experiences? Don't talk about religion, you don't know anything about it.' So since then, I stopped. It has worked fairly well in keeping a lot of arguments at bay, though it's weird loving someone more than they have allowed you to tell them.

Psychiatrist's Dilemma to Social Limitations

People who are aware of their right to have a choice but are denied so by the society in which they live, such people often end up being depressed (or having some other form of mental illness). This presents a tough challange for the psychiatrist, because the social etiology is clear-cut in most of such cases. The patient in question is actually a normal person in a messed up society. The mistake in this case would be to ascribe the psychological problem as being patient's inability to cope with the problem. To adopt that view would be an indirect justification of the messed up society. It would be like saying "There is nothing wrong with the society. The problem is with you. You couldn't cope."
This puts the psychiatrist in a dilemma. He cannot change the social structure in which the patient lives, and treating with drugs would bring some limited symptomatic relief but it wouldn't be a cure, and in psychotherapy, he can't really tell the patient to cope wit…

Social Limits to Personal Freedom

Existentialists like to believe in the absolute personal freedom, that we have a choice in everything we do in life, and that even when we are forced to do something, we are choosing to be forced. I have written about it many times before, for example here and here. Philosophically, yes, it seems that we do always have a choice. But there are social limits to this personal freedom, and these occurs in two ways:
1) The consciousness of personal freedom requires a certain social structure that would permit its development. More precisely, the awareness that one has a choice and that one has a right to a choice develops only after one is exposed to this philosophy. An illiterate girl born in a strictly conservative family where gender segregation is strictly enforced and where it is accepted by all that girls ought to be married off without asking for their approval, she probably wouldn't even realize that she has a choice and would accept that this is the way things are... unless she…

Now is the Time...

“Now is the time for simplicity. Now is the time for – dare I say it – kindness.”
Wit
Intellect fails to offer comfort when death, and perhaps life too, are no longer abstractions and something that we are experiencing and going through. Something that we are suffering. Metaphysical puzzles that had intrigued us before suddenly open up to be absurd, complex but meaningless. That is when you need love and compassion... simplicity and kindness... and a gentle awareness that God has not abandoned you.
A brilliant movie. Highly recommended for all souls.

Fundamentalism

Me: I was thinking on what you said about fundamentalism the other day. Can it be said that fundamentalism is not exclusive to the-religion-that-must-not-be-named but that it is part of the problem?
Aati: No, I don't think it specifically is part of the problem of the fundamentalism. You and I, and Hirsi, all have a common limitation: when we think about religious fundamentalism, we tend to think about the religion we were most intimately exposed to. There is no instrinsic difference in 'quality' or nature between a Christian fundamentalist, Jewish fundamentalist, Hindu fundamentalist or Muslim fundamentalist. They all consider themselves soldiers of their respective gods.
Religion or any belief system that is rigid and refuses to be tempered or accomodate differences, is part of the problem and no attempts at solution can be made without addressing it. Historically where certain governments made atheism part of their national policy and needed to establish power and loyalty…

Dilemma

Q. What do you think about the blasphemy law.
Faiza Hameed: Uncertain and ambivalent :( I respect the Prophet (PBUH). My faith won't be complete without it. But should I expect other people (their religion not withstanding) to feel the same association? You can't force people to love or respect anybody. Especially, if you say along with it: you must think this way or off with your head. This isn't respect ... this is a threat. And in matters of love and faith, threat tends to have a short life span. I personally think all religious figures should be respected. If somebody (who doesn't necessarily have to be an anti-state element ... genuine misgivings relating to religion can and do arise) with a difference of opinion comes forward, the clashing view points should be debated upon.
I like to consolidate my religious beliefs and see them as a united whole, not pick isolated doctrines out of context. But like so many other things, this has proven to be quite a quandary. Th…

When Nietzsche Wept: Eternal Recurrence

"Imagine this thought experiment! What if some demon were to say to you that this life -- as you now live it and have lived it in the past -- you will have to live once more, and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and everything unutterably small or great in your life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence... Imagine the central hourglass of existence turned upside down again and again and again. And each time, also turned upside down are you and I, mere specks that we are.... let this thought take possession of you, and I promise you it will change your forever!.... I urge you, then, to consider the implications of eternal recurrence for your life -- not abstractly, but now, today, in the most concrete sense!" [Nietzsche] "You suggest," said Breuer, "that every action I make, every pain I experience, will be experienced through all infinity?" "Yes, eternal recurrence means tha…

Social Morality and Goal

Dure: The book [Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam] convinced me that physical intimacy is beautiful. Me: It's a beautiful discovery. Dure: Why are we always taught that it's shameful and lame? Me: It's the morality we live in and are exposed to: sex is beastly and immoral. A shameful act to be kept hidden and not talked about. It's stupid and outrageous considering how much harm it does. Dure: Why is it that the Western way of doing things always turns out better? Do you think there is a truth to the 'success of Western propaganda in Pakistani youth' theory, or are their systems and ideas really better in every regard? Me: I think they are better. At least more humane. But everything comes with a price. Sexual liberation has its own problems. Suppressing sexuality is an effective but very cruel method of preventing that. Unfortunately, that's the approach our society took. Dure: Individuality, then, is the solution, not structures. Right? Me: If individual well…

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 3

* "... there is a gulf -- a huge gulf -- between knowing something intellectually and knowing it emotionally.... This is where philosophy falls short. Teaching philosophy and using it in life are very different undertakings." [Breuer]
* "... we are more in love with desire than with the desired." [Nietzsche]
* "... life is a spark between two identical voids, the darkness before birth and the one after death." [Breuer] "Life -- a spark between two voids. A nice image, Josef. And isn't it strange how we are so preoccupied with the second void and never think upon the first?" [Nietzsche]
* "I mean that one can't love a woman without blinding oneself to the ugliness beneath the fair skin: blood, veins, fat, mucus, feces -- the physiological horrors. The lover must put out his own eyes, must forsake truth." [Nietzsche]
* "And a woman? What about her meaning, her freedom? ... I can't choose freedom when my choice enslaves others…

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 2

* "Though I care for my wife and my children, I don't love them! In fact, I resent being imprisoned by them. I lack courage: the courage to either change my life or to continue living it. I have lost sight of why I live -- the point of it all." [Breuer]
* "I can't cure despair, Doctor Breuer. I study it. Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you will always find despair." [Nietzsche]
* Freud looked at Breuer in astonishment... "Despair? Why, Josef, you're atop the very crest of life!"... Breuer winced. How could he admit to having wagered his whole life only to find that the final prize was, after all, not to his liking? No, these things he must keep to himself. These are things you don't tell the young ones.
* "Maybe," Breuer replied, "there doesn't have to be a next step? Perhaps simply revealing himself would constitute such a major achievement, such a change in his way of life, that…

Want

Me [to Aati]: You know what I hate about envy? How it makes me want things I don't even really want!

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 1

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Back-cover description: In nineteenth-century Vienna, a drama of love, fate, and will is played out amid the intellectual ferment that defined the era. Josef Breuer, one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, is at the height of his career. Friedrich Nietzsche, Europe's greatest philosopher, is on the brink of suicidal despair, unable to find a cure for the headaches and other ailments that plague him.
When he agrees to treat Nietzsche with his experimental "talking cure," Breuer never expects that he too will find solace in their sessions. Only through facing his own inner demons can the gifted healer begin to help his patient. In When Nietzsche Wept, Irvin Yalom blends fact and fiction, atmosphere and suspense, to unfold an unforgettable story about the redemptive power of friendship.

I am reading this intriguing thought-stimulating novel these days by Irvin Yalom about the fictional encounter between two of the greatest minds of human history -- Breuer and Nietzsch…

A Moment of Judgment

"My aim was to create a scene that was perfectly morally ambiguous, and in which the reader might quite justifiably side with either Andrew or Sarah. Andrew isn’t such a bad guy. What he fails to do on the beach is what most people would probably fail to do, myself included. Once Andrew realizes he’s made the wrong choice, it’s too late for him because the moment has passed and he is condemned to spend the rest of his days regretting that he failed life’s test. Sarah is lucky, really. She’s not inherently more moral than her husband, but just at that one critical moment she happened to do the right thing. This means that she can look back on her actions on the beach without too much guilt or shame. She can move on with the rest of her life while Andrew must enter a terminal decline. It’s ironic because Sarah’s infidelity is the reason the couple find themselves on the beach in the first place. And yet her premeditated affair goes unpunished by life, while Andrew’s momentary failu…

Cultures and Human Rights

To hear that all cultures are "morally equal" and that all deserve the same 'respect' is something that really nauseates me. Even more than being false, it is harmful. All cultures are not equal, because not all cultures treat human beings with the same respect and dignity without discrimination; not all cultures provide its individuals with universal fundamental human rights. A culture that violates human rights is inferior to a culture that protects human rights, and I am not going to offer my unconditional respect for any culture that does the former. Of course, the tricky part begins when people begin to claim that human rights are also culturally relevant. Something like: "Your culture has your own version of human rights, and my culture has my own version of human rights, so you can't judge my culture based on your version."
First of all, such a conception of human rights goes against the very idea of universal human rights, that there is a set of …

The Happy Man

"It is not the nature of most men to be happy in a prison, and the passions which shut us up in ourselves constitute one of the worst kinds of prisons. Among such passions some of the commonest are fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. In all these our desires are centred upon ourselves: there is no genuine interest in the outer world, but only a concern lest it should in some way injure us or fail to feed our ego.... The happy man is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures his happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they, in turn, make him an object of interest and affection to many others."
Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Control

There is so much in our lives that depends upon conditions over which we have no control. The innate potentials and skills we are born with, the personality traits we come to develop, the apparently random events surrounding us that determine our "luck" and lead to our success and failure. The situation hasn't changed much since the time humans lived in primitive tribes: Life is still unfair. Fickle gods still control our circumstances. And we still need prayer and gratitude to cope with all this.
I guess I don't really have a "point" to make. Just writing down some impressions on my mind.

Dengue Break

I had been down with Dengue Fever, and I suppose it also provided me with a much needed excuse to take a break from blogging :) I have been restored to health now, so here I am again.