The Beast Within

Newspapers these days are crammed with innumerable cases of murders, rapes, extortion and child abuse. Hardly a day goes by, when one doesn’t read about the murky details of one crime or the other. But why do certain cases stand imprinted in our memory. These cases either stand out due to acts of extreme depravity or due to the nature of the crime itself. But the crimes that really shake us to our core are the ones that are depraved and ones, which could happen to any one of us. These are crimes committed against ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. These could happen to you or me while doing any of the normal routine chores that we go about doing, during our day.

Delhi’s rape incident was one such case, extremely brutal and depraved, it happened to a woman who could be any one of us, in an extremely ordinary turn of events. What could be more ordinary than boarding a public bus after a movie at a not-so-late hour, with a companion?

If we take the case of the rape or of the recent shootings in Connecticut, they clearly point to the handiwork of some depraved individuals. One school of thought propagates that terming the perpetrator of a crime as ‘depraved’ creates a divide by which the larger populace alienates itself from the perpetrator, thereby providing not much leeway for the community to rectify itself as a whole.

The person doesn’t become depraved after committing an act of crime. There is no metamorphosis that suddenly happens and transforms an apparently normal individual to a deviant personality. The individual had these traits in him even before anything happens. It is just that a crime brings it to the spotlight. These are passive tendencies, which come to the fore when the opportunity presents itself. Tomorrow, it could be the friendly neighborhood grocer, the milkman, colleague at office or any of the people we meet in our day-to-day lives. They are ‘normal’ people and in one sudden shocking instance, they become ‘abnormal’ and are ostracized from the society and categorized as being ‘depraved’. The point here is that the ‘depravity mindset’ exists in us and amidst us.

Painting by William Blake
Curtsey: Wikipedia

While there is no denying the need to impose much harsher and stricter punishments coupled with a swifter judicial system, I would liken it to a leash restraining a rabid dog. The leash will restrain the dog but the dog will attack at the slightest chance if the opportunity presents itself. The leash doesn’t cure the dog.
Even assuming that the perpetrator was actually ‘depraved’ and mentally unstable, the question which begs an answer is why the society is producing more and more of these kinds of ‘depraved’ individuals. As a society are we an accomplice to producing individuals with personalities more tuned to committing violence on women?

In a country, where women routinely face physical and mental torture in the hands of their own family, cases of rapes might just be extensions of the mindset that has already conditioned itself to adhere to subjugation of women.
Even an apparently innocent statement saying ‘This is not a girl’s job’ , will provide the foundation in the mind of a child who will later grow up with preconditioned notions of what women should or should not do. When conditioning like these are provided to a growing child on a routine basis through different channels, the message gets re-affirmed over and over again. The problem of objectifying /sexualizing women or treating them as a commodity then just becomes a continuation of their already established beliefs.
Every instance of a dowry being given/taken, a girl being denied education, stereotyping a woman’s roles, establishing male dominated control structures, lends to the overall psyche of a society which is geared to produce the so called ‘deviant’ individuals.

The crimes should not be viewed as isolated incidents committed by people who are not part of the society but viewed as offshoots or grotesque manifestations of a wound that is festering within us. It is this malaise that needs to be cured.