Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why Can't We Do The Right Thing And Accept That We Made a Mistake

The Tarun Tejpal case had me thinking for some time now about somethings that always bothered me. About how subtly power is used in our society - at homes, in families, in offices surely, in society - to make women feel guilty about their existence. About how brazenly it is used is corporate offices and how well it can be manipulated considering the amount of influence some of the officers have on the victims. Jobs, money, career everything depends sometimes on this one man - and it can be wielded subtly by men in power.

And then, about how we never seem to accept a mistake these days.

Big or smallness of the crime, past history or not is never the issue. I'd think it is just not the right thing for a man in power to push a junior against his/her will even for a moment because it always comes from a position of power. Power issues a veiled threat, even by a change in a facial expression one can threaten a youngster with much. A boss is a guru and to make a mockery of the guru-shishya relationship is one of the foulest in my opinion. I am not passing any judgment on this case because I have only the knowledge that I have from he papers, and will instead, look at what I think happens in similar cases.

The dangers of such liasons are many. But if one probes, there will be millions of such cases crawling under the carpet in India. Many thousands of such relationships between a man in power and a women who is his subordinate die out and are unreported. Many women delude themselves that their relationship with the boss does not fall into this category and that the boss was always nice - but the sheer fact that the boss was in a position of power makes everything different. Sexual harassment is huge and in these days of late night parties, alcohol driven off sites, Goan binges etc - everyone thinks that everyone and everything is game. Colleagues on colleagues, bosses on subordinates and so on and on.

It is all fine until it crosses the line.

While at the height of power, many make errors that bring the entire edifice down. Most hope that they can get away as they always did. Every single scandal we have seen in the recent past has pointed to that. Somehow they thought they could get away with it.

And when they do not, the bosses gets upset. That's the irony of it.

The first thing that happens when the line is crossed, is that one does not want the world to know the incident. It is better that such things are hidden and the 'bigger' picture protected. Moral stands are taken, and even legal stands. Everyone with a motive to keep the falsehood going, at the cost of a pawn, will side up with the boss's story and many women will testify to that. (And as I am sure is done, in many other unreported cases where women in power will brand the woman in the case and take a moral stand against the victim instead of doing what is right - for example all the wives and mothers of rapists etc who defend their sons and husbands and try to protect them because without them, their livelihood is at stake.)  Much is at stake for all of them and it is better that things are kept under wraps. So much of the edifice will try to protect the wrongdoer because their own security and lives are dependent on it. They will sacrifice the junior despite the evidence, the gender, caste, community and whatever issues one takes. There is no money there really. Not much anyway.

It is not about right or wrong anymore - it is about what is the smarter decision. Or what we think is the smarter thing to do.

The second thing that happens once the first reaction of cover up does not happen is to get even more 'smarter' and try to convince, threaten or blackmail the weaker pawn one in the game with all the power one has. Come on, cannot you see how upset I am now? Can you not see how you have no chance? Can you not see that I am losing patience? That I can do anything? Be it the teacher, the General Manager, the bada babu, the labour leader, one has power and one can use it. But by this time the man in power also realises that most times people in the system also pick and choose whom to support and when to suit their needs. No one will lend support for a losing cause - with evidence - no one will touch the man with a barge pole.

Both reactions normally do not hold much water if the pawn decides to fight on. If anything does happen to the pawn, the hole gets deeper for the king. So by now the pawn is secure, alone, pressured by towering personalities around and the guilt of being the one who brought down this edifice. But she has to hold, because it is only in that position, that she will survive this.

(I hope that the many women who suffer by just being women at workplace find the strength to stand up and hold themselves. I hope that they also see the truth and accept and realise that they have choices too. They can stand up, complain, get their way, because in such a one-sided relationship, the older and wiser guru is always the one where the fault lies. Despite all this talk of 'why-is-she-coming-out-now' I do hope that many more women come out with their stories now.They are not the only ones to blame - even if they had erred - the bigger error comes from the guy in power.)

Given the fact that we all live flawed lives we must accept that most of us make mistakes.Errors of judgment. A few get caught.

The only thing one would expect from the older and wiser - especially when there is evidence against - is the old fashioned acceptance of the crime publicly and paying for the damage done as per the law. One can stop oneself from falling further. But by taking the easy way out, the coward's way, it will not help even if all of legality supports you and tries to get you off the hook. It's one game that is already lost.

I have not seen many public figures speak the truth or show the courage to accept a crime, a mistake. An apology is rare - they are always right. But I remember that Shahrukh Khan did apologise after that fracas at the IPL game - a minor issue but he did not let his ego come in the way. If one can do that, look into the camera and apologise sincerely to the victim and accept the punishment, it would be the right way to go about it instead of trying to prove that one has the might and the right. As opposed to that we see so many of our public figures lying and taking recourse to the first two routes, running away, hiding, doing everything possible to avoid what is inevitable. One does not expect saints these days - but one at least want some of the many public figures who have cases filed against them speak up the truth and pay the time. It is the only decent thing to do.

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