Saturday, February 14, 2009

On Love, Culture, feminism and Valentine’s Day

The question of whether Valentine’s Day is a western import is irrelevant as we embrace globalization. The very meaning of the word “Globalization” says that it is the process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. When love, something as universal as love is involved, then without doubt, the pace of transformation would be quick.

To say that it is against our “culture”- referring to the “Indian culture” here- is ridiculous. As is the question, why do we need Feb 14 to proclaim love? Nobody said, declare your love or express your love only on one particular day. Each and every day, humanity is assaulted by a whole gamut of feelings. We struggle to come to terms with the assault. We need time to understand our feelings for each other and why we feel what we feel… Often enough, we don’t express what we feel. Some things hold us back, we are caught up in a vortex of emotions that compartmentalizing is difficult.

Come Feb 14, some of us realize that we should proclaim our love. There is nothing harmful in it. Of course, greeting cards, gifts and associated paraphernalia are deemed necessary by advertisers, media and sundry other influences. If one narrowly defines love as something that exists between a man and a woman with sexual connotations, as some sections of the society do, then, there are all the ingredients for a scrimmage.

When a pub in Mangalore was singled out for demonstration of a “confused” and “warped” mindset, the perpetrators of violent lessons wanted to make a point - That going to pubs was not a woman’s business. If they had beaten up men too, they’d have done themselves some good. Instead, references were made to Indian culture as if culture is a static entity that is immune to change. Also at stake was the “right” as adults that Women can exercise. If one leaves aside the question of whether ‘drinking and having fun in a pub’ is good or bad, and focuses instead on the question of whether ‘violence as a weapon of expression of disapproval in a democracy with defined fundamental rights’ is acceptable, the answer is obvious.

Feminism is the belief that women have equal political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights to men. It is not about women being able to do whatever men can or some such crap. In a world where “physical power” is increasingly unnecessary with the advent and evolution of machines, this belief holds more water. To single out one half of the population and preach morality is akin to having “Manu Smriti” as the reference for freedom of women which is very debatable.

The SRS and its chief have now received more than their deserved share of media coverage for confusing all the above issues and threatening to marry off couples on Valentine’s Day. To remain silent is to have acquiesced and moved on. To say that they are wrong and that people who wish to celebrate are free to do so amounts to standing up for these rights – Right to equality and Right to freedom. To elaborate, the state cannot discriminate against a citizen on the basis of sex; there is freedom of speech and expression and freedom to assemble peacefully without arms.

That is precisely what we did on Feb 14 – When a small group of Bloggers and socially-conscious men and women, gathered with placards to spread simple messages. Messages that said “Free hugs” and “Wish you a fear free society”, simple but universally capable of striking a chord.

What we got in the beginning was curious glances, smiles and expressions of surprise. As time wore on, people came to us and spoke about what they felt. ”Why are you doing this”? “Good work” and “Happy Valentine’s day” encouraged us. “Can I hug you?” and “I need a hug” served to prove that human nature is made up, more of love and less of hate. That is why, perhaps the wheels of the World continue to grind and “good” continues to “triumph” over evil. It is a matter of “cruel’ time before this simple realization dawns everywhere.


Varun S said...

I agree with the thoughts of free speech, however I dont agree with this:
The question of whether Valentine’s Day is a western import is irrelevant as we embrace globalization. The very meaning of the word “Globalization” says that it is the process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones.

How many of the westerners celebrate diwali or for that matter any other hindu festival? Forget that, how many of them know what diwali is? We should'nt shamelessly copy what the west do, without thinking whether it has any relevance to us or not (and that is not globalization).

whatever above is general statement, not in relation to either V day or your article. Just blaming/attributing globalization to what we shamelessly copy from the west is foolishness :-). (oh, btw, dont think I m some heretic. I also shamelessly copy a few things without thinking whether they are relevant to me).

Varun S said...

and yes, good blog, your writing has matured :). keep up the good work.

did you get anything published in reader's opinion recently?

shiva said...

Glad at seeing your comment, Senior!

Don't you think, we should not be looking at Valentine's day as something Christian? (as you given the example of a Hindu festival) Though not all of us celebrate Father's day, Mother's day and the like, we don't consider them Christian.

I am overjoyed at hearing from you that my writing has matured.. :)