On a high horse called ‘Morality’.

Posted on Oct 26 2011 - 7:16am by Felix Joy

Disclaimer: This piece, to put it bluntly, has a lot of personal notions. It is in fact, biased, unfair and spiteful in certain (read many) places. The reader has the right to disagree, for I unlike certain people, am open to other people’s opinions. But then again, that is my opinion,

The online definition of the ‘Morality Police’ is so serious that it almost borders on amusing. According to RationalWiki, ‘Morality police is one of many names used to describe groups of people whose job (often self-appointed) is to enforce standards of moral behaviour and religious adherence among the general public.’

My interpretation of the definition is a bit biased, I will have to admit. I think that the moral police is a group of people who feel  issues like immodest clothing, visits to nightclubs/pubs, being seen in public with the opposite sex and (god forbid), actual physical contact with the opposite sex are issues of national importance as they are an unsightly, ugly blemish on our ‘Bharatiya Sanskruti’..

The whole concept of morality policing or the moral police is, (I repeat) at least to me, rather difficult to comprehend. Who, in all of humanity, is so wise that he/she/they can characterize a stoic and standard set of guidelines for ‘moral behaviour’? Who, may I ask, is of such ‘pure and goody-two-shoes’ blood (I hope you will pardon my lack of eloquence.) to define what is ‘un-moral’. Note that I haven’t used the term immoral; Immoral has a definite meaning. The moral values that the so-called moral police claim to uphold and protect, on the other hand, do not. The definition of ‘moral’ has been, and do correct me if I am wrong, rather vague and hazy. For according to many in the moral brigade, and I draw these conclusions from the many incidents that have involved the moral police in the past, Bharitya Sanskruti does not permit a woman to visit pubs and nightclubs, but has no qualms with men assaulting young women who do the aforementioned. Our ‘culture’, apparently, forbids two lovers holding hands and/or sitting in a park on Valentine’s Day but allows forcibly conducted weddings where neither the bride nor the groom is willing.

India has had a problem with moral policing for a long time. But the issue catapulted into national consciousness after a few notable cases like the Khushboo case, the attack on the Amnesia pub in Mangalore and the rule that was passed in a reputed university in the south that prohibited girls from wearing T-shirts and jeans, for they’ distracted students from their studies’. I will refrain from accounting all the details of these incidents, but the gravity of these incidents made their reverberations to be felt across the nation and raised many eyebrows. The fact that the targets of the attacks were unassuming citizens made many question the very need of these so called moral guardians. On a larger perspective there have been issues regarding moral police in many parts of the world, particularly the Middle East where the society is far more restrained by social rules for conduct.

The society, especially a transient society such as ours, by nature, tends to draw decisive lines when it comes to civil behaviour. Once stoic and definite, these lines, over the years have been twisted, blurred and in many cases, redrawn. But then again, societies all over the world have evolved owing to the influence of foreign cultures. We, as a group, tend to imbibe cultural and social nuances from around us and change over time. For the sake of illustration, it would be helpful to note customs such as sati, that were considered righteous in every way in the past  are largely outdated today; and that hasn’t been so bad has it?

So, basically, what I’m trying to say is that, maybe, the rules that today’s generation plays by in the society might have changed over the years. I don’t know if the change has been for the better… and maybe it’s not in my place to decide. While I’m sure the moral police have their own beliefs and reasons; ones that they are trying their best to imbibe in the younger generation, in an effort to preserve their idea of an ideal citizen, I, among many others, have my doubts about the way they are going about it.

True, everyone has a right to their own opinions. So does the moral brigade. But there are, let’s say, more constitutional ways to go about a protest (ill go out on a limb here and mention the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign here as an instance). Threatening to marry off every other couple in the park, condemning and attempting to prosecute people who speak out in favour of premarital sex or assaulting girls who choose to go to pubs isn’t the solution. Whatever you hope to establish, by resorting to such means, you will only fail at it and end up losing that last smidgen of support you have if you continue this way. In  conclusion, and I directly address the moral brigade here, everyone, including you, the moral police, is free to advise us about going to pubs and nightclubs, about celebrating Valentine’s Day, about pre-marital sex and AIDS. But don’t think that scaring us into doing something by threatening us with dire consequences works. And such a juncture, you will only be fighting a losing cause.

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  • Aditi Khairnar

    Echoing the ignominy of a a lot of citizens!
    You nailed the ‘frustration’(in this case).