by Aditi Krishna
For quite a long time, a weird thought has been on my mind. I have been often, in my family, blamed for holding quite “radical” ideas when it comes to familial issues and as far as the norms and beliefs attached to it are concerned. While I believe that I am somewhat going against the traditional practices which had been taking place in my family in some way or the other and in the society as a whole, my parents fear the development of a deviant tendency in me, which this society may not accept. I, for one, have had innumerable arguments with my extended family members wherein I have been accused of being far too “Modern” and holding views which will be unacceptable to the larger society (though my parents have been very supportive in many of such arguments). So I often think if it is really so, have I become a radical all of a sudden? That I want to change this entire society as fast in pace as possible and liberate it from the chains of traditional views and practices? Where am I actually deviating from the set thinking patterns of my family? Is it that I am giving much more importance to one’s personal choices, and believe that one’s individual interests precede societal interests?
As a student of social science, which has sufficiently transformed me into a non-believer/non-conformist to much of the things that people around me do, as a part of this thing called “Society”, I believe that Society is important as long it does not intrude into the private lives of the people and does not hamper one’s individuality and individual freedom. An individual has all the rights to believe, do or pursue what he/she really wants to do or believes in, irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, etc. and irrespective of any socially constructed hierarchies, old or new.
Also, when I say I want to change this society, I am aware that the changes cannot be brought overnight and for me, the change is not only to be brought in what people really believe in, but reforming them in a way that they can also accept ideas that they do not believe in, as a part of the society. We need to remove the so-called religious, moral and social base to the justifications/excuses people give to support their ideas. For example, I do not disapprove of people going for arranged marriages. In fact, I do not mind going for an arranged marriage myself as long as I also have a say in it.
But what I really consider problematic is when people start reasoning that we should go for it because that is what is our TRADITION or our ancestors have always asked us to do, and that it is “Morally” right. Again, I do not mind people being religious, but I really mind them calling the Non-religious, a non-human, bad person. I don’t have issues if people do not drink, but I oppose them when they say that we shouldn’t do so because it is not morally right (Although I might not approve “excessive” drinking as well as smoking for different reasons, that of health issues. Smoking not only harms you, but also the people around you, so it should be stopped for the individual, public as well as environmental interest). I have absolutely no problems if women themselves choose domestic work over their careers, but I really oppose the view that they should do it because they are prescribed to do so by tradition. All this morality and tradition business adversely affects and constrains individual freedom because it expects people to work and behave in a certain way, in a way one’s family, this society, this state wants them to. A state’s task is to bring about order in the society, to resolve conflicts, so that there is no anarchic situation that prevails, but not to promote/impose ideas that support hierarchy, traditionalistic views of morality/non-morality.
When I see myself now, I believe I am not a radical person at all, nor am I a conservative. I have just started to believe that every change that is brought slowly and gradually, and that too in the thinking patterns of the individuals to accept all kinds of viewpoints, lasts for a longer period. And that morality and religious base should just be removed from the individual actions, in an immediate effect.