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Making sense of senselessness

By Chandrika R Krishnan Feb 7 2018, 1:10 IST

A 47-year-old school principal's life is snuffed out in a moment. Her crime: she reprimanded a teenager for having insufficient attendance.

A seven-year-old's throat is slit in a school toilet by an older student. Reason: taking his life was the means to have an examination postponed.

A bunch of revellers beat up passers-by and steal their motorbike. The victims' fault: they happened to drive by their attackers.

A young girl is burnt alive in her own house in the presence of her mother and sister. Her crime: she did not readily accept the proposal of a school drop-out.

In the above scenarios, I find that the perpetrators of big and small crimes are being narcissistic or taught to be self-absorbed. From time immemorial, we have been subjected to certain rules and regulations to make life easier and for us to dwell in a civilised society.

Is it that the crimes are increasing or is it becoming more visible of late? Is it also the fact that people find it easy to get away with most crimes, including murder, given our very low conviction rate and, even when one is convicted, the long time it takes before a criminal is punished?

Much has been written about the education system, the breakdown of law and order, and a judicial system that would put a self-respecting snail to shame. Trying to make sense of this senselessness are the following three aspects:

Superficial and shallow

Rabindranath Tagore once said, "Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them."

Our life in recent decades has been quite contrary to the thought expressed above. We have not faced many wars nor have we faced great plagues that have taken away lives, like previous generations did. Most of us are living the post-economic liberalisation dream where there is much money at our disposal.

The education system and the subsequent changes in our society is always striving to make life simpler, easier and more manageable by breaking things into "easy to digest" bites. The smaller, nuclear family, too, does not expect any major adjustment from our end.

Our interpersonal skills, too, are limited, with high dependency on technology, which is making our life lonelier. Our emotional health is not at its peak, and many of us are battling anger issues which we aren't even aware of.

We are also not taught intra-personal skills, and hence we are yet to learn to manage our emotions better. Unfortunately, like the utility theory expounded in Economics, we have fewer reasons to be satisfied with our lives, despite having more reasons to be happier.

Lack of mindfulness

Lots have been written about the mindfulness of the people of Japan. We all receive at least one social media forward about the beauty of mindfulness to be practiced on oneself and others. It would be beneficial that we actually mindfully watch those forwards rather than mindlessly forwarding them again without benefitting ourselves.

If we had practised mindfulness, the teenagers would have thought for a minute about the family of the principal and the small child's before cruelly killing them. The stalker would have been more aware of the futility of forcing one's feelings on another human being.

We would be more respectful of the soldiers fighting to keep us safe. We also would be mindful of the large posse of police who are pressed into service, foregoing their own celebrations with family and friends, to enable us to revel and herald the New Year in drunken stupor.

Right from making a school bus wait for your dawdling child, not completing the given tasks and not following the traffic rules are all slowly and consistently sowing the seeds of being unmindful in our society. Yes, mindfulness in every small way would help us go a long way.

No role models

We are slowly becoming a society in which "good triumphs over evil" only as festival celebrations.

The flow of money is directly proportional to how willing you are to bend the rules. The perpetrators are given safe haven by the authorities. The straightforward police officers are transferred, and the lifestyle of the celebrities is not much to write home about. There was a time when stars were exemplary in their behaviour, lest their popularity came crashing down.

Today, the badass behaviour is not only exemplified, it is almost a way of life. The media, too, rehashes the crime and the loopholes in the system. Watching these, even a layman can plan his crime and strategies.

And then, we have the significant adults in our lives who don't feel the need to possess the strength of character, be mindful and teach the same to their children and hence are far from the ideal role-models.

(The writer is a freelance Behavioural Skills Trainer)

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