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Friday, April 26, 2013

Jungle Follows Its Law, Beasts Among Us Don't


The expression law of the jungle is often used to describe the unjust, chaotic world of violence where the weak perish and the stronger survive and thrive. It particularly refers to what happens in the wild, every animal has to kill something smaller than itself to survive. My favorite contemporary Indian author Devdutt Pattnaik uses  the Sanskrit phrase matsya nayaya to describe this, his illustration makes the concept a lot more clear to understand.  In human society this phrase is used mostly pejoratively to mean absence of law from the society. Yet recent event forces one to question if it at all we can condemn it anymore.


(This post is mostly s rant, wasn't intended to be but I lost the plot midway! So if you are looking for information and opinion I suggest you visit a couple of days later :)  )

The law of the jungle is governed by the simple motivation - the will to survive. To survive a caterpillar must eat plants, but then is eaten by a bird for the bird must survive too . But the bird is not safe either, the snake needs to survive, the bird is  the snake's food. The owl eats the snake. This is the food chain for which every organism needs to kill another organism as food, even plants and microorganisms are 'living'. This is what leads to the law of the jungle. Humans, being on top of the food chain are not exempted from the law, it is just that they do it much more sophisticatedly  

That, of course is a necessity, what really sets us apart from animals is our intelligence and our need and capability of bonding with other members of our species. Absolute isolation for a sane person would be worse than death. This collaborative intellectual pursuit is what makes us civilized/. And it is not just civilizations, tribal societies and barbarians are also as much dependent on the power of the collective, the corner stone of which is trust. Trust need not always stem from goodness of heart, it may also be impossible to avoid.

Some of the horrendous events that took place recently raise the questions on the question of trust among fellow humans. All kinds of crimes are often betrayal of trust but brutal gangrapes, brutalization and such brutality of kids such as the was discovered recently are too serious an issue. In a manner, the attackers cause  much greater wrongs by weakening the cohesion in the society, especially society such as ours. Recently there have been instances of children of non-resident Indian parents being separated and taken over by the  governments there on charges of child abuse. There have been resentment among Indians against these actions, which do not take cultural  perspective into account but I haven't come across much discussion on if it at all, parenting paradigm in India needs introspection.

Western countries, having faced the problem of child sexual abuse early (or rather accepted the fact early) have introduced a number of rules, some of which may have been effective. But India has an entirely different perspective, it is not uncommon to find people lavishing physical affection on a kid. Most of them may be genuine affection but even if a single person has an ulterior motive, then the child may be scarred for life. I am disinclined to discuss Freud, Jung or child psychology in general, rather this post is a lamentation on how a few sick people, rapists, pedophiles weaken the cohesiveness of human society. I have faced situations when I have had to tell older people from touching children (of my relatives) but it always left me doubly saddened.  If that harmless looking senior citizen is a pedophile it is definitely saddening, but what if he is not ? what if the action stemmed from genuine affection such as the grandparents have towards their grand-children ?  Don't we all feel a surge of affection towards a stranger who suddenly reminds us of a lost loved one because of the former's semblance or mannerism.  It is more saddening to think that I may have denied an innocent old person, a  few moments of happiness?

The damage a few sick people can do to the social fabric is unimaginable. Since December 2012 not a single day has passed when fresh reports of rape cases have not caught the headlines. In contrast to this  even thee the law of the jungle seems fair. There is no betrayal, bigger animal hunt smaller ones not their own kind, there is an unsaid rule about not eating one’s own species (generally). When the gazelle senses she being tracked by predator she flees, she doesn't expect mercy or understanding. The bigger animal preys on the smaller ones and this food chain continues circle. Further, this is what made the particular species to survive the evolution according Darwin theory on Natural Selection.   It is brutal law indeed but not unethical. 
However, us humans set up rules and we break them. Lies, deceit, betrayal and similar are purely human traits which we cannot attribute to animals. We have seen how terrorists and in some cases agencies use violence  not just to kill and cause destruction but through it spread panic and mistrust. What rapists and pedophiles do is worse, their actions also affect the bonding of love and trust which is probably the best sentiment we humans have.   .  

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