Sunday, December 5, 2010

Justice, redefined

Every person in his or her childhood with an ideal view of the world as a part of the education he is imparted, more so at the school than at the home, as at home he occasionally gets to see or hear some glimpses of world as it is for real. As a child we are crammed with the high moral values, truth ala Harischandra, and whenever we commit a little mistake we are liable to be bombarded with chiding and subjected to the long unending lectures by our parents or teachers as to what is right and what is wrong. As a result, our world is painted in black and white and we come to accept that certain people or governments are right, or white; and certain individuals or groups are black, or wrong.But as we grow and get different views of the world we live in, we see that whatever is told to us is laced with half truths, even lies, and there is no such thing as "white" or "black", just shades of "grey" which keep swinging between the lighter and the darker side of the spectrum with passage of time. As a child, I used to think that my teachers in school know EVERYTHING, probably because my knowledge was zilch as compared to theirs, but now I understand that there is no such thing as perfect knowledge, those who say otherwise are just pretentious.

We live in a world where we have to accept what is told to us by the people at high positions, be it our boss or be it our governments, and by default the world accepts that whoever is at the high pedestal is correct, especially if the information is incomplete then the one at higher authority is assumed to be correct. to quote a dictum: "THE BOSS IS ALWAYS RIGHT". Now if your interviewer says your interview wasn't good so you are being given lower pay or if your boss says your performance isn't good so you are not being given increment, then what conclusion can we draw from such a statement? We have to consider the fact that the boss is also human and he is definitely not above the rest of humanity simply because he is at a high pedestal before we blindly accept what has been told. We live in a world of half truths, and the occasional lie in between a story is the norm which is told to uphold the interest of the story teller. Can we really fall back and assume whatever is being told to us is the fact, where by "fact" I mean something which is still undistorted by the personal interests of the teller.

Even the children's stories as we read and know them today are essentially half truths, as less than half the story is told to us in the books that we read. It is a fact that the fairy tales as we read them today have been made softer, sweeter and primly moral with the passage of time. The original stories by the brothers Grimm and the others were full of gore, blood, murder, sex and even incest and would be too grisly for today's audiences. In one of the earlier versions of the little red riding hood, the wolf has sex with her , eats her and the story ends there. In the story of Hansel and Grethel, the two siblings make their escape by slashing the throat of the witch. In the story of Cinderella, the step sisters cut off parts of their feet to make the shoe fit for them. The prince comes to know of this trickery from pigeons who pluck out the eyes of the sisters.

All being said so far being just food for thought, and maybe my personal opinion alone till about a week back, but now probably we have some concrete support of my theory in the form of the Wikileaks expose. Wikileaks is a supposedly non profit organization which claims to have a database running into millions of leaked documents, and intended to provide a platform to journalists who otherwise cannot reveal some of the sensitive information they obtain, and can evade the repercussions, like what happened with a Chinese journalist who was jailed for publicizing some email relating to the anniversary of Tiananmen square massacre.

While all is known about regimes like the US government acting like a big brother and almost wanting the subject to do what the government wants, and not what the subject wants, but the latest revelations from Wikileaks put US on the same "freedom to speech" pedestal as maybe China or UAE. Wikileaks is releasing a quantum of 'secret' and 'classified' information in stages. The documents date back to 1966 and contain the orders sent to different countries, and the embassy reporting from the country. Hence they have the details of US activity in every country. All of this is that sort of information which can cause some sort of repercussions when is released, and the standard way of dealing with such information is to keep it from the general public. Once again, politically sensitive information is screened and we get a goody-goody version of the incident to suit the purposes of the big brother, which is laced with the half truths, the omitted truths and the in between lies. In other words, the high father paints himself in white, classifying any information that can potentially cause damage or disrepute as "CLASSIFIED". HOW CONVENIENT!!

Are you so sure that whatever information the regime is shelling out is in its original untainted state, and that its the truth in its entirety? What is right and what is wrong? Are our notions of justice been defined by those at the high altars of justice? Has that not always been the case, the only difference over the ages has probably been that earlier in the case of monarchy, the subjects never had a choice as per the rules. So the rulers made whatever arbitrary choices that came to them and imposed them on the society, and more often than not, over a period of time, the society came to accept the whims of any such person as being the "right" thing because "that's the way things are done." And these days, we have something called a "democracy", and once again, whatever those at the position of power say, is correct. After all, the boss is always right.

In the ancient ages of Alexander, the Mughals, the Roman Empire and all, there were wars every now and then. It is my personal opinion that most often both the sides fought for what was their definition of justice, personal riches, power and glory apart. Needless to say, this was not the case for ALL such battles. The attackers had a view of expanding their reign and power, and hence their justice. Aurangzeb had his view of converting the entire nation into Mohammedans, by whatever means. He was probably looking at the reflection of the prophet's ideals in a cracked mirror. I believe that most of the defending rulers and princes were largely concerned about their own wealth and power being snatched away, rather than the well being of the masses. As was the case during colonial expansion, the Europeans always justified their conquer of the African and Asian countries with the mission of "educating" the native pagan tribes, even though many missionaries themselves did not support colonization. Today we glorify the protagonists of the 1857 war, and glorify it as the "first war of independence", but the ruling East India company termed the fighters as delinquents or rebels , and the war was termed a rebellion by them. Interestingly, the brutal suppression of the revolt and perhaps an even more brutal follow up in which innocent civilians were mass murdered was justified by the then British masses back in England. Bhagat Singh was a "terrorist" as per the British. Also, what we always miss in the picture is the fact that most of the people who took part in that war were fighting because they saw their power being threatened, and not out of love of the masses. Who are we to say that the British were "better" or "worse" than the monarchs who preceded them, when we know nothing of the rulers who were there before the British came? Though it is accepted that we have progressed a lot since they left us to have our own rule, but again the concept of right or wrong is contingent upon who is in power.

Coming back to the wars of ancient times, both the sides fighting in the war had their own sense of justice, everyone would paint themselves as white and the other side as black. In wars, no matter who won, justice always triumphed because whoever won, BECAME justice.