Empathy Upgrade

Exhibit A

On 5th December 2017, just a little less than 2 years ago, a young woman killed herself. August Ames was 23 when she hung herself from the ceiling fan and asphyxiated to her death. August was a Canada born pornographic actress who had gotten herself into a twitter controversy.

August tweeted on December 3rd that she had turned down a job offer to work with a male artist who had earlier worked on gay porn and had not got himself tested adequately before offering to work with her in a boy-girl scene. She made the tweet less than subtle in expressing her disapproval and disappointment over the lack of ethics in the agents of the industry.

The LGBTQ community wouldn’t take this kindly and lashed out at August for the next 48 hours without rest or respite. She was massively criticized and was called Homophobic and discriminatory. Although a few pornstars and people from the industry backed her freedom to make choices of her costars, the LGBTQ community wouldn’t give her a break.

The bullying took to a fever pitch in just 2 days. Gay porn star Jaxton Wheeler wrote on Twitter: “The world is awaiting your apology, or for you to swallow a cyanide pill. Either or, we’ll take it.”

Finally on the 5th of December, she made one last tweet and killed herself.

Friends and near ones emphatically complained that August was a victim of cyberbullying. An autopsy conducted post her death also revealed that her body contained traces of cocaine, marijuana, Zoloft and Xanax.


Exhibit B

Incels are members of not so underground online forums. These online forums are mostly men, generally young heterosexuals who are incapable of finding sexual or romantic partners despite having the desire to socialize and form such bonds.

The group is explicitly violent in their ideology and openly endorses and encourages suicides. Discussions in incel forums are often characterized by resentment, misanthropy, self-pity, self-loathing, misogyny, racism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against sexually active people.

Mass murderers in North America have either openly called themselves incels or have been adjudicated as incels based on their character traits. The first confirmed mass murder by an incel happened in 2014 when Elliot Rodger killed 6 people and injured 14 others in the Isla Vista of California. He made a Youtube video about his pursuit of extracting revenge over the womankind for rejecting him and other sexually successful men for making it hard for him to find women. Elliot has since been hailed as a hero in the incel forums in the dark holes of the internet.

Inceldom or being an incel by itself is not a mental or psychological disorder. People who identify themselves as incels may suffer from physical and metaphysical disorders. The inability to socialise with women and insecurity over one’s appearance makes one push themselves to believe the world is conspiring against them in indulging in sexual and romantic relationships.

The lack of success in the romantic or sexual front is not uncommon, and neither is it a danger to the society. The problem arose when incels rose from amongst us and turned against the society.


The two stories of Exhibit A and B are stories of empathy; one a real life incident and the other about the existence of real world cult. Now you might think, how are these stories about empathy? they’re so not empathy, they are the exact opposite of empathy. While Exhibit A talks about how a group of people ganged up against a young lady and Exhibit B is about a group of sociopathic misogynists out there to spread hate and violence.

Empathy from the earliest times has been held as a virtue. To be able to hear another’s heart beat; to put your feet in another’s shoe. To understand, to hear to feel one another’s emotions had been praised as the biggest virtue one can have. So yes, the definition of empathy is amply clear, but how does it relate to our exhibits?

What’s happened today is we are trying to empathise, but with whom? empathy is really about understanding others. But what we’ve made it today is understanding others with whom we can relate to. This is the biggest misinterpretation of empathy.

To take an easier example, if floods hit my native state, I feel a stronger urge to donate for relief causes. If the floods hit a neighboring state, I might feel less strongly for the need to donate. Now the act of donating itself is about feeling for others. So I am being empathic towards the victims, but why do I feel strongly for one set of victims and not so strongly for another?
we’ve somehow misunderstood the meaning or misinterpreted it as empathy.

What happened in Exhibit A is that the LGBTQ community, which is generally about acceptance and anti bullying turned up the heat against someone who they thought was against them. So evidently, it boils down to the fact that the LGBTQ are open to acceptance of life choices and being liberal about it only when it comes to the people of the community and not anyone outside. If August wanted to work or not work with any artist, isn’t it her choice? why would the LGBTQ community lashout at her? can’t they empathise with her? or is that privilege reserved only to those with whom they can relate to?

Similarly the incens of Exhibit B, the incel forums are by far one of the darkest holes of the internet. They openly endorse suicides, killings, rapes and torture, for what?? because members of the group cant get sex? because I can’t get sex and I can relate to some other 25 year old virgin should I call him names and encourage him to go kill the girl who rejected him when he was 14??

What we saw in these 2 examples is people want to empathise, but we choose to empathise with only those with whom we can relate. So effectively, I’m feeling sorry for myself, or someone who’s more or less like me. Is this even empathy?

We’ve seen massive organisations of people and groups all over the world, on internet and in the real world. They have a common agenda, a feeling of being wronged or misunderstood. I’m not saying all organised groups with agendas are bad; self help groups, support groups, AA meetings, these are also groups of people who empathise with each other – or empathise clones of one another, but these are not bad.

So what makes empathy real? It’s quite simple really. Are you really in another’s shoe thats actually his or are you just wearing another’s shoe that looks just like yours?

The next time you feel like being empathic about someone or some group identifier, just ask yourself, Is it really someone else or am I doing this just to feel sorry for a different flavor of myself?


Take the Loss

It happened again. A third time. A stranger walked up to me and asked for money. This time again, like the previous 3 times I was left feeling guilty and retrospective of the incident.

The first time this happened I was at a McDonald’s in CP of New Delhi minding my own business. A middle aged woman walked up to me and asked if she could sit at my table. I moved my tray and made space. She didn’t have a plate or tray of food. She sat and started talking and I was being courteous, soon enough she said it was her birthday and she had come to the Hanuman temple nearby. I wished her a happy birthday and continued looking uncomfortable. She wouldn’t notice anything and went on talking, she said she’d had a fight with her mother in law and left the house without breakfast. I didn’t notice anything, nor did I feel sorry for her, it was new to me, where a stranger walks up, makes civilized conversation and suddenly says its my birthday and I haven’t had food.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a small wad of loose change. There were 10s and 20s amounting to maybe 80 or 100 rupees. I handed it to her and said buy yourself a burger. I was confused by the look on her face. I was worried if she was offended because she did look from a respectable household. She was not. She counted the cash and looked up at me. “Give me 50 more and I can have a non veg meal” she said with a pompous air. Like I was selling something to her and she was bargaining to make a sale. I didn’t know what to say, I took off.

I have no idea if there was any truth in her story. The way she narrated at first made me feel sorry for her, but the way she counted the money and asked for more made me feel sorry for myself. Was she just a con or was she a bad natured and blunt person honestly hurting?

The second time, I was in college. Me and a friend were at the bus stop waiting to catch a bus to Nehru Place to get his laptop fixed. A man approached us and said he was from Muzaffarnagar in UP. He had come with his wife and 10 year old child to Delhi. On his way, they were robbed and all their money and luggage was stolen. He had no money, the child was hungry and they had no way of getting to Old Delhi railway station to catch a train back home. The man was willing to offer his watch, cloths and whatever he had on him if we could help him with some cash.

I didn’t know what to do. My friend was tugging at me and to make matters worse, the bus we were waiting for had to arrive at the next moment. I took the three 10 rupee notes that I had in my pocket as loose change and handed it to him before hurriedly being bundled into the bus.

There was no way of knowing if they were really in trouble or had I been conned. The man’s pleas seemed earnest and the wife and child looked really helpless. Even today when I’m reminded of them sitting at the bus stop with nothing more than the cloths on their back I fill up with guilt. Should I had heard the man out a little longer? Should I have tried to convince my friend to let go of me so that we could listen to what this man was saying?

The 3rd time. This past Monday near office. It was drizzling outside and I was waiting for my Uber. A man, who didn’t look drunk until he started talking locked eyes and said “Bother, will you do me a favor?” I didn’t talk so he continued, “I fought with my wife, left my phone and everything and came here. Now I don’t have money to get home. Can you help me?” I was repulsed by the stench of liquor, a saw that he was clutching to a tetra pack of apple juice in his right hand. I still hadn’t said a word.

If I try to beg for money, people wouldn’t give me anything. Everything’s right with me. So can you help me out here?” He had the drunk cavalier’s air around him. I didn’t feel like helping him. I walked away from him. I didn’t help him. The reasons could be many, that I didn’t have loose change in my pocket or that it was raining, or that it was getting late and here was a drunkard asking for money. I just walked off.

Parting ways with a little loose change wouldn’t have cost me much, but if he was in genuine trouble my little gesture would’ve really helped him. Perhaps this is what is called yielding to prejudice.

Such incidents happen with all of us, maybe not regularly but it happens when helpless people shed their egos and reach out for help from strangers they’ve never met before. One can even call this begging because they are so out of options that they have nothing else to do but ask for money from others with nothing in return to give. They are basically asking for mercy, for deliverance of some kind. How do we as the conduits of this deliverance react? We have less than 2 minutes to make up our minds. How do we judge characters so fast? How do we fight out prejudices and make a decision? It is so hard.

The easy way however is to take the loss. Parting ways with a small financial loss is a lot easier than living on with the guilt of being indifferent.

5 Things Wrong With the Abrogation of Article 370

First things first, My fellow countrymen! Indians! we are stupid stupid creatures! We’ve ruined everything!! Everything by giving power to a seemingly totalitarian regime!! OK now that the outburst is out of the way, lets get on with the meat of the matter. This post is about the wrongs that were done in order to pass a motion in the parliament to repeal the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Legality

Let’s recall the contour tread by the BJP to do this.
1. They bring an amendment into Article 368 of the constitution of India that defines how to read Article 370. In this amendment, they say let’s replace the words “Constituent Assembly” with Legislative assembly since the constituent assembly doesn’t exist any more. OK
2. They say, since the state of J&K is under president’s rule, the word of the governor of the state will act as the word of the legislative assembly. The governor is an appointee of the central government and hence its their word.
So basically, if A has become B and B has become C then its perfectly ok to see A as C?
What does this mean? This means, the governor’s rule in J&K which is actually the central govt is advising itself about what to do. It’s like saying, take my word! I’m saying that I’m right!

So where does this leave us? There are 2 counts of shaky legal ground here.

  1. You apply transitive property to advice yourself to change lives and livelihoods of people and pass it yourself. Without consulting those who are affected. This is not entirely wrong as per the form or letters of the law, but definitely lacks moral patronage and is far from the keeping the spirit of the law.
  2. The constitution of India says that the President of India cannot change Article 1 and Article 370, and it also says that what cannot be changed directly can also not be done indirectly. So the maneuvers done are all on shaky ground.

Lies

By August 1st, the central government had ordered 35,000 fresh troops into the state of J&K. This added to the already existing troops going upto 8 Lakh who are placed in the different places along the LOC and otherwise. Along with this, there were notifications to the J&K police to stand guard and perform an assessment of their riot preparedness. Did any one ask why was this massive mobilisation done? Ofcourse, and the answer? Terror threat!

Yes, there was a widespread news circulating that there was an eminent terror threat in Kashmir, the reason for this deduction? A Rifle and a land mine. That’s right. On behest of this, the annual hindu pilgrimage to lord Amarnath was cancelled and the pilgrims asked to return from wherever they were. The next day, on August 3rd, a few photos of dead bodies were shared on whatsapp to all media houses and more panic was created. It was said they were Pakistani army and that a major operation was planned.

Today no one talks of the terror threat and no more rifles and land mines have appeared.

3 days after the passing of the bill, the NSA Ajit Doval, the most important person in the security of the nation is seen in Kashmir and is having food on the street with some supposedly locals. Not sure if this is an operation or the most important man in national security is always like this.

Lock Down

By far the worst thing that can happen in a democracy. Massive mobilization of para military forces was followed by the unprecedented cutting short of the Amarnath Yatra. The next day, on Aug 3rd the governor’s office issues advisories to stop the annual pilgrims to Machail mata. This act of curtailing pilgrims from the annual pilgrimage had never happened in history. Even at the heights of communal distress in Kashmir, peaceful pilgrims were welcomed and looked after by the natives.

The lock down was escalated by the house arrest of prominent leaders of J&K Farooq Abdullah , Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. It was later revealed that there were over 800 small and big politicians and leaders were held under such and other forms of arrests. All this while the state was under complete clamp down with a virtual curfew enforced. Mobile phones, internet and broadband facilities, cable TVs and even land line phones were shut off. There was absolutely no way to communicate with each other, leave alone the outside world. Tourists from other parts of the country were asked to leave, and even students from outside the state were asked to clear out from their hostels and dormitories. Is this a way a consultative democracy works?

While first of all they navigated away from consulting the state government, putting elected leaders in house arrest and putting a complete lock down on the state leaves no room for anyone to express themselves.

The Downgrade

The home minister, along with the revoking of special status of the state brought in another presidential order – this was to bifurcate the state into two union territories. Firstly, the president needs to consult the state legislation and a resolution needs to be passed in the state assembly whose boundary needs to be redrawn. Since the state was under president’s rule, this became easy, he just had to ask himself if he was ok with what he intended to do. I’m guessing it wasn’t too hard to disagree with himself.

Let’s forget the legality of the matter, the whole episode of revoking of the special status is a punch in the gut to the people of kashmiris. Though the article 370 has been eroded over time and now is nothing but a shell, it still holds some pride and emotional connection with the natives of the state. So revoking the special status under Article 370 was a big blow. To make it worse, the central govt decided to down grade the state to a union territory. This is like saying to your flatmate that he doesn’t get his own room and has to sleep in the hall from now, and to add more insults, you say that he doesn’t get to keep his own key to the apartment.

Was adding insult to injury part of the master plan?

Mass Disillusionment

With the news breaking that the legislation was passed in the houses of the parliament, the whole country emerged in euphoria. The media showed clips of people dancing on the streets and distributing sweets to each other. There were people bursting crackers and telling each other they can now buy land in J&K and marry girls from the state. I mean seriously?? this is the level of celebration we’ve reached to? People were even celebrating the fact that there wont be a J&K flag anymore. Is this something to celebrate? Karnataka has a flag of its own and we in our state are proud of our flag even though the constitution has nothing to do with it. The constitution of India explicitly mentions it doesn’t recognize any flags of states or organisations as official flags of the nation, but its left to the sentiments of the region or state or organisation to have their own flag. Couldn’t we control ourselves over this?

Through the week, people celebrated and paraded over the fact that Kashmir is finally integrated with India. Seriously? was it not a part of India all this while? Or did you not have the ability to see it as a part of India with the special status? Point of information: 10 other states in the country have special status and the newly formed Andhra is fighting for special status.


The fact of the matter is that the special status of J&K has been hollowed over the years and now was merely an emotional or a symbolic tool of pride and autonomy to the natives of the state. There was minimal real life significant difference the special status made to anyone. By picking a fight that was not needed to be picked, the central government just ripped a bandage in one swift move before the skin over the wounds had completely regrown. It remains to be seen how far reaching are the consequences of this obsession of the BJP with article 370.

Doing the right things the wrong way is not right, it is just a sign of weakness.


The Strong and The Weak

Reflection-from-Mirror

The emotions they feel,
The dreamers, they dream,
The world doesn’t care, but,
In captivity, they breed.

The once expressing eyes,
Doesn’t wet, in good-byes,
Lost is the grin,
When the vibes are genuine.

Peeping in the subconscious,
Their manifestation, subtle,
Pushed back deliberately,
In the morning, eloquently.

The more they are repressed,
The better, it’s addressed,
The world needs the strong,
For the weak, always wrong.

Though the night, dark and long,
Stand still and stand strong,
For the weak always wrong,
Away from the weak, follow the strong.