By Shobhit Agarwal:
People have an undying habit of passing judgement on almost everything and everyone, inconsiderate of the fact whether they are right or wrong in doing so. We’ll find such examples everyday- not just one, but many; be it in matters of family, friends, work or behaviour.
Frustrated by this habit, I once questioned one such judgmental person. Here’s what happened;
There is a guy in my class (let us call him X), who has absolutely no interest in engineering. He has barely managed to scrape through the various subjects and even has a year-back to his credit. Despite all the trouble he is in, it seems that he will after all be a certified engineer in another 4 months or so. He is popular throughout the branch as the man who intends to start his own bar-cum-lounge once he is done with his engineering.
One day during one of our lectures, I was sitting behind X. Like most lectures, almost all the students were either chit-chatting among themselves or finding innovative ways of killing time. The teacher (let us call her Mrs.Y), after initially trying to force the students to pay attention to the lecture found it to be a lost cause and gave up her pursuit. She ordered everyone to keep themselves occupied without making any noise.
While Mrs.Y was doing the rounds of the class, she came and stood next to X and asked him, “So X, I heard that you want to open a bar once you complete your engineering. Is it true?”
X, with a mischievous smile, replied, “Yes ma’am.”
“But why would you want to do that? Don’t you think that it is ethically wrong to involve yourself in such an enterprise?” she retorted.
I happened to overhear what Mrs.Y said, before X could answer, I directed a question in Mrs.Y’s direction.
“Ma’am who has given you the right to decide what is right and what is wrong?” Although my question would appear rude and indecent, it was asked in the most polite manner and was received well by Mrs.Y, judging by the smile that she gave after listening to it.
“Why Shobhit, don’t you think it is not right on X’s part to start such a business? Being the intelligent person that you are, you must be very well aware about the damage that alcohol causes, not just in the life of the consumer but also his immediate family and surroundings!”
“Ma’am, I am very well aware of it. But that still doesn’t answer my question – Who has given you the right to classify X’s choice as ‘ethically’ wrong?”
“ Isn’t it logical? Don’t you think that people coming from good families, like you people are, shouldn’t engage in such stuff?” replied Mrs. Y.
Realizing that I wasn’t convinced yet, she continued, “You don’t seem to be satisfied with my answer. Okay, to answer your question, the society, in which you, I and everyone around us live and are a part of, gives me the right to make that classification.”
“Very well, who gets to judge the society?” I ask, again with utmost politeness.
“The society judges itself,” replied Mrs. Y.
“How is that even fair? I mean, the society, given its ability to pass judgments, should be accountable to someone for its actions and ideologies. Don’t you think so ma’am?”
My question left Mrs. Y confused. I could sense that she wanted to say something but couldn’t come up with any words to reply to my question.
After a few seconds, I continued, “Ma’am, the thing is that the society is too hypocritical in its functioning. While on one hand it salutes people like Vijay Mallya for owning the third largest spirits company in the world, on the other hand, it will condemn the actions of X for starting something on similar lines. If you are to doubt the ethical integrity of people opening wine shops, why not do the same for people who start a leather industry or open up a non-vegetarian restaurant or automobile makers? Even they are contributing to the killing of living beings in some way or the other.”
I continued, “The fact is that no one has the right to pass judgments on anyone. I agree that there needs to be guidelines to maintain the order of the society. But then again, there is also a thing called uniformity. Our society shares this obsessive fascination with ‘power’ and ‘success’. It only sees success without giving two hoots about the path chosen to achieve it and yet it talks about ethics. It only sees the 95 out of 100 marks scored by the student without being sure whether those were the result of his hard-work or his mastery in the art of malpractice.”
“Besides, due to lack of accountability in the society, it is very resistant to change. Since there is no one to condemn it for its wrong myths, it continues to function with that pre-defined, narrow mind-set; a case in point being the practice of ‘Sati’. It was prevalent in our society for centuries and took a noble man of the stature of Raja Ram Mohan Roy to help propagate the realization among people that the practice is wrong and barbaric at so many levels.”
“The day the society perceives everyone in the same vein, will be the day I will be fine with you or anyone else telling X that what he has decided to do in life is ethically wrong.”
Mrs. Y gave a nervous smile, looked at me for a couple of seconds and said, “Shobhit, you talk like a grown up. You should get into politics.” And then she passed by my bench, still wearing that nervous smile on her face.
She might not know it, but her reaction was all too familiar to me, as it is in exactly the same manner that my mother walks out of any of our discussions. Mrs. Y might have the choice to ignore me and a few months down the line, won’t even recall my name. My mother, unfortunately, doesn’t have that choice.[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]About the author: Shobhit Agarwal is the author of the book – ‘Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk – My Kota Safari’.To read his other posts, click here.[/box]