The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 1, 2000

What are the roots of Hindutva?
Review by
Bhupinder Brar

Torture as political weapon
Review by
Shelley Walia

Hot money is hot threat
Review by
Surinder S. Jodhka

Greatest mover and shaker of 19th century
Review by
Bhupinder Singh

To live in post-IT age
Write view by
Randeep Wadehra


are the roots of Hindutva?
Review by Bhupinder Brar

India Living with Modernity by Javeed Alam. Oxford University Press, Delhi. Pages 241. Rs 450.

AT a time when the corridors of Indian academia are getting choked with post-modernists and post-Marxists, it is a matter of real relief to read someone who is neither. Javeed Alam deserves our attention for two additional reasons. One he does not choose the easy way out, ignoring or dismissing the trend as just another passing fad; he treats it with the seriousness it requires, and argues passionately how harmful, indeed fatal, could the "seductive charm" of post-modernism be for emancipatory politics of any kind, particularly so in the underdeveloped, poverty-stricken and conflict-ridden parts of the world.

The second reason is that Alam is no orthodox modernist or Marxist himself. The departures which his book makes from such orthodoxies are no less significant. His perspective is original and his ideas fresh and unconventional. He presents them with a great deal of courage and conviction. One can disagree with him on several scores, or find the reading tough and tedious, but one cannot dismiss him easily or lightly.

Given the fact that Alam is both a scholar and an activist, his concerns are theoretical as well as practical and political. Accordingly, the book is divided into two somewhat interpenetrating parts. The first part deals largely with such philosophical and theoretical issues as must inform any discussion on modernity and post-modernism. The second part applies insights thus gained to illuminate some issues which have remained the source of perennial socio-political contention in this country both during the colonial and post-colonial periods.

Taking up the first section first, it is not Alam’s position that the post-modernists are wrong in critiquing modernity. He himself readily admits, and in fact highlights, all that is wrong with modernity, its abstract individualism, its instrumental rationality and its divorce from normative concerns. He insists however that post-modernists are fundamentally wrong when they assume that this kind of modernity was and is the only one possible. A major concern of the book in this section therefore is to show that several diverse forms of modernity were philosophically and theoretically possible. These forms too could have been historically realised, were it not for the fact that ascendant and assertive capitalism of the 18th and 19th centuries favoured one particular form and helped it to develop at the cost of others. This form he calls "entrenched modernity".

Socially oppressive and disempowering as well as individually demeaning and dehumanising entrenched modernity must be overthrown. But doing so in the ways of post-modernists, rejecting modernity in all its myriad forms, is banal as well as barren. It amounts to throwing the baby with the proverbial bath water. Post-modernism offers no socially and collectively applicable agenda of resistance against oppression. In effect, it depoliticises society.

Alam argues that the task before those who stand for popular emancipatory goals is to rework modernity to achieve a desired destiny, for modernity is, he believes, "corrigible". For that, we need to recover and realise what he calls the "unembodied surplus" of modernity. There exists in the alternative traditions of modernity a lot that is more humane, open-ended and sensitive to cultural and spiritual needs.

Alam suggests that we take a closer look at Hegel and Marx as two of the richest sources of the unembodied surplus. Both believe in progress, but in the perspective which these two eminent philosophers share, dialectic of "becoming" replaces the dichotomous and foundationalist categories of "being" and "non-being", truth and falsehood, subjectivity and objectivity, rationality and morality.

There is in them no independent, immutable first principle; all is emergent and subject to change. At the same time, their rejection of foundationalism does not imply, as that of the post-structuralists does, that nothing can or need be grounded or theoretically justified.

Those who are directly and professionally involved in the philosophy of social sciences may find Alam’s reading of post-modernism prejudiced or that of alternative modernities tendentious. Other interested readers, who are not so evolved or involved, may find these chapters altogether obtuse. But tendentious and obtuse or not, these chapters do in fact provide the underpinnings for the much larger second section of the book. Scholastic bickerings should not deter us, however, for readers could judge the perspective of the book by a simpler test — namely, the quality of insights it provides into the Indian socio-political history of the past 150 years.

The connection between the two sections is provided by Alam’s reference, made right in the beginning of the book, to what is a pervasively held view in India. The view is that "colonialism is but a necessary extension of modernity". A logical corollary of this view is the belief that colonialism and neocolonialism cannot be successfully fought unless we fight modernity itself.

This has led to what might be called "indigenism", a blind and uncritical faith which holds that prior to alien interventions there existed in India a pan-Indian civilisation and culture which not only possessed internal stability, cohesion and harmony but also intrinsic superiority to whatever was introduced as a result of interventions. Indeginism constitutes a call to the faithful that they should reject and renounce all that is alien and "corrupting", for they have the glorious option of returning to the roots deep and nourishing.

Indeginism is obviously an ideology. It mythologises history. All evidence of internal contradictions, tensions and discords are carefully screened out. The sanitised version is then propagated as "national culture" by majoritarian religious-cultural leaders. The version eventually takes hold of popular imagination among the cultural and religious majorities.

Alam is brilliant when he shows repeatedly how this has happened in the case of Hindu nationalism. He shows how the condescension and chauvinism which characterised Hindu nationalism during the anti-colonial period has grown into the intolerance which Hindutva has openly and agressively displayed in more recent years.

Alam is naturally agitated that post-modernists have wittingly or unwittingly played a role in legitimising this. By introducing relativism in all analyses, and by blurring in particular the distinction between hostory and narrative, they have tried to snatch away from historians the very tools of proving how false, misleading and damaging such acts of mythologisation and sanitisation are.

Alam provides concrete and specific instances of Indian post-modernists who have argued that "secularism is an alien concept and cannot therefore acquire roots in Indian society". Alam tellingly describes such a position as "inverted Eurocentrism": while it ostensibly aims to fight western categories, it accepts western characterisation of non-western societies as primordialist, non-rational and static.

But his ire is not limited to post-modernists alone. He broadens his attack to include cultural nationalists in general. While doing so, he does not spare modernist nationalists like Nehru either. In his writings on world history, Nehru provides a secular materialist interpretation of how nations rise and how nationalism could play both negative and positive roles in the lives of people.

When it comes to India, however, Nehru feels compelled to "discover" an eternal Indian nation. He forgets his historical materialism and invents a nation by highlighting precisely what Hindu nationalists did — namely, the high Brahmanical tradition. Alam argues that such compulsions and concessions might be the single most important reason why after independence Indian secularists could never put up a resolute fight against communalist forces.

Alam’s views on Indian nationalism make one of the most thought-provoking parts of the book. If colonialism is but a necessary extension of entrenched modernity, nationalism based merely on anti-colonialism is its exact mirror image. Just as in the West nationalism sought to subsume nationalities and subnational communities, so did Indian nationalism. Alam prefers to call such pan-Indian nationalism "supranationality nationalism". It has survived and thrived because of state sponsorship. "The state leadership stuck unthinkingly at conceiving the ‘nation’ as indistinguishable from the countrywide territory inherited from British colonial rule....the national form that emerged out of European modernity became a mirror for reading our own situation."

Alam believes that "liberal thought in India, which stands for the democratisation of the social and cultural life of people, has to shed its obsession with the uniqueness of India as a nation and look at it as something to redefinitions." Alam argues that the Left too may have to go further and "reassess nationalism even when it uses the nation as a platform for struggle against imperialism."

Alam presents the vision of an alternative India which recognises and respects plurality of communities and nationalities. What constitutes each of these communities and nationalities is not "high culture", however, for such culture is always the preserve of the elite and is based on its exclusionary practices. Instead these communities and nationalities are formed by the "actually experienced" culture in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. Such culture, and a community or nationality based on such a culture, would always be more open and willing to accommodate differences. Such a community will not block the way of the individuals seeking an exit. Alam derives this notion of community from an open-ended and evolving category of "social being". The category tries to combine class, caste and other social features in an effort to "avoid the trap of defining class or caste as the main determinant of social consciousness".

A brief review of a book so exciting and stimulating is clearly inadequate and unfair. One fervently hopes that the book makes Indian social scientists introspect and ask themselves seriously the questions it raises.


Torture as political weapon
Review by Shelley Walia

The Politics of Cruelty by Kate Millett. Viking, London. Page 335. £ 18.00

AFTER the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, it was predicted that we were embarking on a "new world order" marked by prosperity, stability and peace. Short-sighted propagandists like Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history as liberal democracy took roots in a hitherto barren territory. But with wars raging in West Asia and elsewhere, with a quarter of a million dying in Rwanda and thousands continuing to die in Somalia and western Cambodia, a new phase of imperialism has begun in which western powers switch allegiances to first one war lord and then another in their search for regional influence and profit.

The old imperial order has not collapsed, nor has the new golden age dawned. The world has never been so well equipped to kill or so volatile to invite killing. Within this context of the return of war, starvation and fascism, when imperialism enters its latest and most dangerous phase, political activist and writer, Kate Millett has passionately undertaken a study of the reality of contemporary and widespread practice of torture in her new book "The Politics of Cruelty : An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment".

She uses the literature of the politically imprisoned to bring out cruel state repression and its nerve-racking effects. Intolerant regimes use considerable ingenuity at suppressing dissent. Physical and psychological intimidation and subjugation are not only common under totalitarian regimes but are widely practised in any modern state. Millett’s analysis is a world-wide investigation of the outrageous strategies of absolute power employed to intimidate the non-conformist.

She opens her book with a definition of the literature of cruelty as "literature of witness : the one who has been there, seen it, knows". This can be an autobiography, a reportage or narrative fiction, but its foundations are "factual, a fact passionately lived and put into writing by a moral imperative rooted like a flower amid carnage with an imperishable optimism, a hope that those who will hear will care, will even take action". Like her other important works such as "Sexual Politics" and "The Basement", the book examines power and oppression, courage and endurance in the face of death and terror of incarceration.

The subject of torture as a method of conscious policy with the sole intent of installing fear in the minds of the subjects is approached by Millett through a variety of literary, legal and historical material including Primo Levi’s "Survival at Auschwitz" and Solzhenitsyn’s "The First Circle", as well as Mark Mathabane’s "Kaffir Boy", Nien Cheng’s "Life and Death in Shanghai" and Radha Bharadwaj’s film "Closest Land". The enormity of torture and the eternity of pain can be experienced in all these works, but it is the immediacy and detail of literary writings which, with the voices of the wounded victims speaking with conviction and dignity, and the depiction of the psychological and political climate under omnipotent dictatorship, that seem most convincing and forceful in demanding the acknowledgement of their account of fear and torture.

Kanan Makiya speaks highly of this book and feels that " like the material it engages with, it is a passionate, heroic effort to fathom the nature of a phenomenon that all too often drains us emotionally and incapacitates us intellectually". The politics of cruelty is finally unnecessary as it is neither part of nature nor the human condition; it is "a negation of life, dull and mechanical as bureaucratic thought".

In spite of official abolition of torture in criminal procedures in country after country, it has not disappeared entirely, particularly in the climate of political dissent and subversion which has brought about a triumph of state power over individual rights. In fact, there is a more widespread practice of torture than during the period of Inquisition and it is estimated that one out of three countries practise torture.

Though in the area of criminality, punishment is based on legal and moral code as well as evidence, it is political dissent which brings about the horrifying wrath of the state apparatus with all its brutality and oppression on individuals whose crimes are ideological with undertones of "imaginary insults to power rather than to fellow citizens or moral principles".

Nations forbid torture theoretically but it is very much in use under the camouflage of customary "emergency" ordinances when constitutional rights of the individual are suspended, making arrests, interrogation, confinement and torture possible.

Aided by technology, the state machinery in Solzhenitsyn’s "The First Circle", or in Orwell’s "Nineteen Eighty-Four" which is surprisingly not taken up by Millett, spreads paranoia which is an accumulated effect of decades of fear and denunciation. To prevent the realisation of a world like Oceania, all efforts have to be made to eliminate drudgery, hunger, overwork and torture which Stalinist Russia perpetuated with the aim of dehumanising the worker and bringing about his intellectual deprivation.

Orwell’s consistent allusions are to the practices in the USSR where the party came to power ostensibly to liberate the masses but proceeded to set up a class system that introduced the degradation of the working class in a way unknown in centuries past. In the words of Hannah Arendt, "there is ... one thing that is discernible: we may say that radical evil has emerged in connection with a system in which all men have become especially superfluous."

Within the totalitarian state, this promise of utopia turns into dystopia, manifesting the grim, often tragic irony of disillusionment with two aspects of the 20th century ideology that emerged from the utopic expectation of the late 19th century: faith in science and in socialism. In both "Brave New World" and "Nineteen Eighty Four", the two dreams run into a terrible nightmare by being carried to their absurd conclusion. The science of terror and the terror of science collaborate to demolish individuality and creativity.

In a very thoroughly researched chapter on the Nazi camp system Millett shows how it was through the control of ideas, ideology and the entire network of mechanical transport, both rail and road, that the SS succeeded in keeping the concentration camps and the gas chambers in Treblinka, Auschwitz and Sobibor flooded with Jews. And interestingly, since there was no budget for this kind of genocide the operation was made self-financing so that the victims themselves could be made to pay to reach their own death.

Jews were brought to the camps hungry and thirsty and without any knowledge of where they were being taken. They were doomed travellers whose journeys from start to finish had been carefully programmed in advance by an alienated and embittered history. They were made to believe that they were being transported as labour. The idea behind this secrecy was to not allow any rebellion from the victims, whose spirits had in fact being killed with want of food and water much before they reached the chambers of unspeakable horror.

For the Nazi or Italian fascist machinery, nothing that was human or spiritual had any value whatsoever; only the state mattered. With a compliant judiciary the state merges with the law and individuals are reduced to mere abstractions.

And take the case of the apartheid system in South Africa which was a nightmare of enormous proportion. Beatings with whips made of animal hide, people dragged naked out of their beds, abandoned children crying along in ruins caused by police raids on blacks living in abject poverty and housed in conditions resembling those of domestic animals — this was the power and cruelty of the white minority. In a moving and heart-rending analysis of Mark Mathabane’s "Kaffir Boy", Millett quotes: "A half-naked, near hysterical jet-black woman was being led out of an outhouse by a fat laughing policeman who from time to time prodded her private parts with a truncheon". And the children in the house shout and scream with fear that the white man "might eat them".

Mathabane’s description of the endemic brutality in his childhood environment demonstrates "how effortlessly an initially social and exterior rebounds into the psyche, reaching even the domestic sphere of children, macro and microcosm, one terrible whole". The system of apartheid is indeed an extension of the Nazi racial atrocities.

Millett is informative and stimulating throughout. Her analysis of the literature of political imprisonment is bold and fascinating and her ability to explain this painful practice is helped by her uncluttered and modest style. The book is brave and exciting and its sub-title merely hints at its provocations. The real beauty of it lies not in drawing together with purpose a political, philosophical and historical record of human cruelty and heroic resistance, but in its thought which operates cogently across different nations and their strategies of suppressing the human spirit. Millet is more concerned with simple honest truths and thus the gripping and outspoken account of her writing brims with provocative conjectures and allegations making the reader aware of state terrorism which still has to be faced by a few more generations until human fortitude and will finally eliminate all structures of repression.

The truth about former torturers must be established, must be investigated and socially recognised so that there may be no recurrence. Professional politicians are known to have extended blanket amnesty to previous military regimes as in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina or Guatemala so as to propitiate the armed forces who would aid in the process of preserving the new peace of democracy. This is as ridiculous as pardoning the Nazi crimes after the war. Millett asserts that "most of all torture is fear, if you knew it would last only a stated interval, perhaps you could bear it; it’s the not knowing, the uncertainty of menace, that drives you to panic... And if the world keeps silent afterwards, torture is not only victorious but permanent, eternal. Continuous". For this reason the victim’s voice must be restored. since "otherwise the torturers are never negated or defeated or even counterbalanced, they are merely in and out of power".


Hot money is hot threat
Review by Surinder S. Jodhka

Taming Global Financial Flows. Challenges and Alternatives in the Era of Financial Globalisation: A Citizen’s Guide by Kavaljit Singh. Zed Book, London. Pages xvii+237. Rs 250

THE book offers a critical examination of the process of financial globalisation that has been underway during last three decades or so — after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. Under the Bretton Woods system (that came into effect in 1944) member-countries were required to fix the exchange rate of their currencies in relation to the US dollar. The US dollar was fixed in terms of gold at $ 35 an ounce. Despite its many shortcomings, author of the book, Kavaljit Singh argues that the Bretton Woods system provided a certain degree of financial stability for a considerable period of time.

Since the system was centred around the US dollar, it created several problems for the American economy. Unable to deal with a massive speculative attack in the wake of growing balance of payment deficits largely caused by the protracted Vietnam war, the USA in 1971 unilaterally decided not to honour its commitment to exchange dollar for gold at $35 an ounce. Ever since the global financial flows have become quite unstable, particularly those of global finance capital, popularly known as "hot money". It is with the dynamics of "hot money" that the author is primarily concerned with in this book.

The role of "hot money" has become quite controversial in recent years due to its destabilising effects on the financial system as well as on the real economy. Unlike foreign money coming in as productive investments (FDI), which generates employment and income and also accelerate economic development in the recipient country, "hot money" is "foot-loose" in nature. It is attracted by short-term speculative gains. It can leave as soon as it comes. Singh argues that such financial flows, which are speculative investments in share markets, have drastically altered one of the main objectives of the global financial system as a vehicle for overall economic development.

Though such speculative flows were not a completely new thing, the speed with which the destabilising effect of these financial flows is transmitted at the global scale has gone up considerably during the post-Bretton Woods period. The net financial flows from the developed to the developing countries went up from $100 billion in 1990 to $338 billion in 1997. There were several reasons for this.

Since the beginning of 1980, economies of developed countries were suffering from over-capacity and over-production in manufacturing. Since profits could be made quickly in financial markets, much of the capital was shifting away from investment in production — the "real economy" — to investment in financial markets and speculative activity. Revolutionary advances in the field of communication and information technology played a supportive role in this process of globalisation of the financial markets.

By providing economic incentives to gamble and speculate on financial instruments, the domination of the financial capital thus directly affected the real economy. The value of global forex trade today is many times the value of annual world output or export of goods and services. Susan Strange, an economist who has closely studied this phenomenon, describes this as "casino capitalism". Singh says that the countries of the third world and also of the western world need to recognise the dangers of such a phenomenon. "The present era of financial globalisation poses new challenges to the regulatory authorities to keep pace with technological sophistication of the global finance in both the developed as well as in the developing countries". It had become necessary for the governments to regulate the financial market. The debate on economic policies today should not be confined to regulation versus deregulation but to focus on the nature of regulations required to avoid economic disasters of the kind experienced in East Asian countries recently. In the real world, there were no "free markets".

Kavaljit Singh also offers some concrete guidelines. He argues that the finance systems need to be modified to serve the needs of the "real economy" and particularly those sections of society which have been marginalised by market forces. Though the role of foreign capital could not be underplayed, growth must primarily be from domestic savings and investment. Among the measures suggested by Singh to evolve a better international financial architecture are imposition of capital controls, enhancing regulatory and supervisory measures, a stable exchange rate system, encouraging regional cooperation and reforming international financial institutions like the IMF.

It was not only for professional economists and policy makers to recognise the emerging challenges posed by the globalisation of finance capital, but also for the common people. Singh argues that whenever there was a financial boom the rich benefited the most and in a crisis the worst affected were the poor and those from the lower middle classes. Thus it was important for the common citizen to understand the manner in which global economy worked. The political elite of the Third World countries had tamely surrendered before the might of the global capital.

Singh hopes that once common people understood the working of the global economy, they would also be able to play an active role in reforming it. There was a need for a concerted effort on the part of the people’s movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and labour unions to address the issues emerging from globalisation of finances. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few issues such as the question of allowing free entry to the foreign insurance companies, there has been virtually no organised political response to financial globalisation. Unlike the earlier debates on environment, gender, poverty or sustainable development, there was hardly any input from Indian groups in the ongoing debates at the international level on the subject.

What should be agenda of the people’s movements? Singh recognises the fact that there was no point in asking for a total delinking of domestic economy from global financial flows. In the given economic and political context, such an agenda was unlikely to succeed. Singh argues that we needed to work out an action programme which is oriented towards curbing unbridled international financial liberalisation. Asking for a selective delinking from short-term and speculative funds might have a better chance of success. People’s movement should also demand that the terms and conditions of linkages and global financial flows ought to be decided by nation states keeping the interests of the common people in mind and not by global financial markets and financial institutions.

The author, however, is not advocating a "nationalist" or "swadeshi" mode of politics. On the contrary, he argues that to become more effective, people’s movement would need to coordinate with similar movement in other parts of the world as well, both in the developing countries of the South and in the economically advanced countries of the North. To argue that "there is no alternative" (the TINA syndrome) was no argument. There is no dearth of economic wisdom on how to reform the global economy.

This citizen’s guide to financial globalisation makes interesting reading. Though, much of the text still remains beyond the reach of the common reader, Kavaljit Singh’s book can surely help in initiating such a dialogue on a subject that ought to be of concern to all of us.


Greatest mover and shaker of 19th century
Review by Bhupinder Singh

Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen. W.W. Norton and Company, New York. Pages 431. $ 27.95

IT is not incidental that a biography of Karl Marx should appear a decade after the fall of "existing" socialism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Pop prophecies that followed the demise of bureaucratic socialism have had no more than a fleeting relevance. The much-celebrated Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of history’ was quickly succeeded by what Samuel Huntington termed as the clash of civilisations. Robert Kaplan warns of what he terms as "the coming anarchy".

The Left, caught unawares by the Teutonic shift in world system, is still in a state of defensive confusion, even if it has somewhat recovered from a state of shock. Perry Anderson articulates the dominant Left view that neo-liberalism is still in full deluge, while Eric Hobsbawm has confidently put forward the proposition that globalisation and the neo-liberalism riding piggyback are reaching the limits.

It is in this background that the need "to go back to Marx" is evident in the book under review. Karl Marx, "the red terror doctor"— as he came to be known in his own lifetime — and who outlived all his contemporary revolutionists and opponents like Ferdinand Lassalle and Mikhail Bakunin, may as well outlive the current breed of neo-liberal proponents.

Wheen’s Marx comes across not only as a person whose life was identical with the history of contemporary socialism, as Isaiah Berlin treated his subject in his biography of Marx. Wheen’s Marx emerges as a man who loved his family, loved a drink, smoked continuously, chased his opponents with vehemence, was a voracious reader, an assiduous scholar and, above all, a revolutionary.

He married his childhood sweetheart and five years his senior Jenny Westphalen, adored his daughters and in old age was a grandfather who missed the company of his grandchildren when they were not around. At a different plane, his life-long friendship with Frederic Engels which each cherished till the end, is touching and possibly unsurpassed.

Marx was also, and Wheen spends considerable effort on reminding us of this, the father of an illegitimate son whom he loathed. Engels practically owned up and adopted the son of Marx and his faithful housekeeper Helene Demuth. His son died in 1929 in a working class district of London, aged 77, not knowing that he was the son of the person in whose name the world-shaking Bolshevik revolution had been carried out in his own lifetime.

On the whole, Wheen succeeds in this first biography of Marx to appear after the end of the cold war in rescuing Marx from both the demonology that characterised sections of Western scholarship and the hagiography that Soviet biographers subjected him to. In an age when we are being told by post- modernists that Marx and Marxism are nothing more than any other "text" and need to be merely "read" as such, or writers who insist on "reading vampires in the Capital" in an exercise to understand the man or account for his tomes in his Jewish self- hatred, Wheen has come out with a very balanced biography.

The lacuna, however, is evident when the author tries to explain some of Marx’s concepts in simplistic terms. From that perspective, Isaiah Berlin’s 1939 (revised last in 1978) "Karl Marx" still remains an essential reading (David Mcllean’s biography being out of print for a number of years now, Berlin’s is the easiest one to get).

The only other deficiency that one can identify is the blurring of the growing-up years of Marx, between the ages of 10 to about 22. The Marx that we see after this age is a well-developed thinker, immensely well-read and already hailed by those who knew him firsthand to be the most promising living philosopher and successor to Hegel. How this happened is not dealt with in detail. The reason may be a sound one — not much information is available on this period of Marx’s life.

Did Marx’s own personality, powerful as it was, leave any imprint on his thought and the movements that it spawned? Though the author does not raise this question directly, there is enough material in the book to enable one to judge for himself.

On the downside, it was Marx’s abrasive, sometimes almost offensive and vituperative manner of attacking those who opposed him. Undoubtedly most of his opponents were pygmies in comparison with "the Moor", and he made no bones about it, attacking them with the ferocity of an unleashed hurricane. His followers, at least for the better part of the 20th century, did indeed emulate their master in this regard, often with equal ardour against their own dissenting comrades. It may well be argued, though, that in this respect Marx was as much a product of the revolutionary circles of his age as its progenitor.

On the upside, it has been his exemplary self-sacrifice for the ideas that his reasoning led to.

Perpetual poverty, constant illness and the resultant tragedies in his family did not deter Marx from pursuing what he believed to be the rational way of human emancipation. Perhaps the last of the great Enlightenment thinkers, he was the only true prophet of the second millennium, his sacrifices overarched only by the breadth of his thought and the appeal of his vision.

Many of his followers, including the Old Bolsheviks sent to the gallows or shot by Stalin in the 1937 purges, firmly believed till the end that their ideology, seemingly vindictive it had been on themselves, deserved any amount of sacrifice. Man does not live for himself alone, and there are causes that are higher than selling one’s labour each day.

But by far the most enduring stamp that his personality left was that of erudition and detailed study. No social and political movement has sent so many of its followers scurrying into libraries as Marxist socialism has. No other organised movement (except perhaps the anti- Nazi resistance movement in France) has also sent many an armchair philosopher into political battlefield.

What epitaph would Marx have chosen for himself? Wheen recounts an incident at the end of Marx’s life in lieu of an answer.

While holidaying in Ramsgate in the summer of 1880, Marx had met the American journalist John Swinton who was writing a series on "travels in France and England" for the New York Sun. Swinton watched the old patriarch playing on the beach with his grand-children and then at dusk was granted an interview. He reported:

"The talk was of the world, and of man, and of time, and of ideas as our glasses tinkled over the sea. The railway train waits for no man, and night is at hand. Over the thought of the babblement and the scenes of the evening, arose in my mind one question touching upon the final law of being, for which I would seek answer from this sage. Going down to the depths of language and rising to the height of emphasis, during an intersperse of silence, I interrupted the revolutionist and philosopher in these fateful words: What is ... And it seemed as though his mind was inverted for a moment while he looked upon the roaring sea in front and the restless multitude upon the beach. ‘What is’? I had inquired, to which in deep and solemn tone, he replied: ‘Struggle’!"

"At first it seemed as though I had heard the echo of despair, but peradventure it was the law of life."


To live in post-IT age
Write view
by Randeep Wadehra

Media Towards 21st Century by K.M. Shrivastava. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages 194. Rs 350.

THERE has been a sea change in the way information is transmitted and stored. Stone edicts and palm leaves, among other things, were the pre-papyrus media. Then came paper, followed by the printing press; and now we have multi-media electronic gadgets. Echoes of an event in one place can be heard in the remotest parts of the world.

Often the effect is instantaneous. A telling example of this is given by Nelson Mandela in his autobiography. On his visit to Goose Bay in the Arctic region he met a young Inuit (local aboriginal) who recognised the South African leader and greeted him with, ‘Viva ANC!’

Interestingly, the Internet owes its birth to a military experiment by the US Defence Department. By December, 1969, four US universities were connected. This led to the development of the World Wide Web in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee. The rest is, as they say, history. This is an ongoing process, which has perked up even the dowdy old printing press which too has gone hi-tech with a vengeance.

Despite the information technology’s spread, Shrivastava points out that the haves of the information revolution are in a minority. This minority controls the latest media tools which are extremely powerful. The haves come from the developed world, while the have-nots are mostly from the developing countries. There are more phones in Manhattan than in the entire African continent, for example.

This should give us some idea of the imbalance in accessibility to the tools of information technology, even as it provokes serious suspicions regarding the media contents and their slant. Products of a consumerist society’s aspirations, the programmes unload unhealthy values upon children the world over. The author avers, "The media is full of portrayals that dehumanise and stigmatise. Sex and violence in media contents desensitise, terrorise and brutalise people..." More dangerously the have-nots’ expectations are raised to unrealistic levels, introducing elements of stress and conflict in society.

However, one should not really be surprised at the pro-powerful bias of the 21st century media. It is a continuation of the trend we have been witnessing in the print media of the 19th and 20th centuries, which was essentially feudal in character. Even today the dice is heavily loaded in favour of well-padded classes. The news empires built during the pre-electronics era still dominate the international information scene, with only a peripheral change. Earlier the AP, the UPI, the Reuters and the AFP, known as media world’s "Big Four", formed a news cartel. Now CNN has joined this elite club.

The author points out that the "Big Four" retails news to even such media organisations as could afford to send their own correspondents to distant lands. Yet, the latter have preferred to depend on these western information sellers. He further states, "The most striking feature of the agencies’ ‘agenda setting’ role is the influence they exercise on the approach of the client media to their own news gathering. It affects the evaluation which news editors place on the work of their own correspondents. No less important, an AP or UPI story, coming off the news tickers before anything else, heavily influenced the big-league editors and producers on the ‘tilt’ of a given event, even if they later received contrary evidence, or a contrary account, from their own staff men..."

Highlighting the ways in which the media’s powers can be misused, Shrivastava avers that public relations and advertising are important tools to manipulate media. What we call information today was once described as propaganda. In this regard, one recalls a senior journalist’s lament when he described the high decibel, incessantly partisan editorials of an English daily as "pamphleteering".

A hybrid of PR and advertising, today’s media events are organised keeping both short-term and long-term effects in mind. In fact such events have become a specialised art. On a more sinister note he quotes Packard, "Americans have become the most manipulated people outside the iron curtain."

The Third World’s plight can only be imagined. Shrivastava goes on to say that after the iron curtain’s disappearance the technology and resources at the disposal of big business and the sole super power enables a Bill Clinton to manipulate events in such a way that few missiles are fired at Iraq to boost his chances for another term at the White House. There is every possibility of similar manipulations being engineered here as the country is being wired up at a dizzying speed.

But media also affects us in other ways. In Kashmir India and Pakistan take turns at being dammed as villains, depending upon the whims of the western powers and media barons. What is happening in Sierra Leone and other resource-rich regions is being dubbed as local affair, with the white man playing the role of an honest broker, when in fact all violence is being perpetrated through proxies to promote and protect the West’s interests in the region.

Human rights become, or cease to be, a media issue only when it suits vested interest. China is an example of such manipulations. Shrivastava is right when he states that people should be educated about the functioning of mass media so that they know the pitfalls and possibilities of its misuse by governments, terrorist organisations, etc. Local media should be strengthened so that it becomes technologically capable of warding off the dangers posed by multinational media behemoths.

While it is true that the powerful rule the roost, it is equally true that yesterday’s topdogs are today’s underdogs, and today’s underdogs may well be the topdogs tomorrow. The same holds true of media barons. There is a definite trend showing that some of the Third World news agencies and other media are gaining recognition in various parts of the world. It is only a matter of time before our media personnel start making their presence felt globally.

« « «

Daughter of the South by P.C. Ganesan. Sterling, New Delhi. Pages VI+128. Rs 125.

Born on February 24, 1948, in an Ayyangar family in Mysore, Jayalalitha has had a chequered life. A middle-class Tamilbrahmin background, a career in the movies and then on to the cesspoll of politics... one needs guts to come up tops in this field. And guts is one thing this lady has in abundance. Feared and hated by opponents, admired and even worshipped by her followers, Jayalalitha has certainly come a long way.

To wear the mantle of a follower of the formidable MGR with consummate ease, especially after a nasty power struggle with MGR’s wife Janaki, required extraordinary qualities of leadership. She has certainly made her mark, not only in the male-chauvinistic Tamil politics, but at the national level as well. Vajpayee still shows healthy respect to this generator of political earthquakes.

However, Ganesan has gone overboard in praising his former employer. Despite her various plus points, she has been in the midst of several unseemly controversies and scandals. Corruption had become a byword of her regime. But, come to think of it, which government in the states or at the Centre has ever been clean?

Jayalalitha is an archetypal politician. To find divine qualities in her is to waste one’s time. To extol her virtues in print is a futile PR exercise. People know the stuff our leaders are made of. No amount of synthetic rose-tints will lend a halo to them.


Futile search for utopia
Review by M.L. Raina

Chevengur by Andrei Platanov. New translation from Russian by Anthony Olcott. Ardis, Ann Arbor. Pages Xx+333. Price not given.

Contradictions in establishing a utopian order have been highlighted in the conversation between Sebastian and Gonzolo in Shakespeare’s "Tempest". Gonzolo imagines a state in which there will be no magistrates, "riches, poverty,/and use of service, none…all men idle, all/And women too". Sebastian answers mockingly: "yet you would be king on’t".

The fact that a revolutionary communist utopia has been established in the title city of Platanov’s satire, written in the thirties and published in a complete Russian edition as late as in 1989, suggests that perfection can be brought about only through the power of a despot. Platanov’s dystopia literally realises this state.

Russian literature of the 19th century abounds in the utopia gone sour. To go no further than Dostoevsky, there is in "The Possessed" a clear hint by Shigalev that freedom and despotism go together. "Starting from unlimited freedom, I arrive at unlimited despotism," he says about himself and his schemes.

In "Brothers Karamazov" the Grand Inquisitor bases his plan for the universal "happiness of mankind" on "deception" and "mystery" as well as on the ruler’s capacity to enforce his "firm foundation for setting man’s conscience at rest".

Andrei Platanov (1892-1951) belongs to a generation of non-Bolshevik writers who, in their initial enthusiasm for the revolution, imagined the new utopia as "the end of history". In "Chevengur" communism has ended history by ushering in a permanent future. But like his contemporaries, notably Bulgakov and Zamayatin and a successor Anatoly Rybakov of the "Children of the Arabat" trilogy (1988), he saw through the mirage and registered his despair in works that have become benchmarks in the dystopian genre.

"The Foundation Pit" echoes Chernyshevsky as well as Dostoevsky’s "Notes from the Underground" in that all are concerned with the building of a utopian project. "Chevengur" marks the culmination of the anti-utopian despair, the frustration of what the Zamayatin character in "We" calls "the ancient dream about paradise".

In Dostoevsky’s "Notes" the protagonist offers to provide "every possible answer to doubts" about the building of the Crystal Palace, the grand imperial project. In "Chevengur" doubt itself has been banished in the blessed communist idyll. Trained as an engineer, Platanov worked at the rural electrification programme after the Revolution and believed in the efficacy of organisation. But what he saw for himself was anything but the success of this system. In his novel he shows us the failure of all systems and schemes.

The forced organisation of people into an ideological mould violates all natural human instinct and desire for freedom, even the freedom to die. Old Yakov Titych yearns for natural death. "It is all right if everything has to die," he mourns, "if there would be something to hang on to."

Indeed, death is what gives this book its baleful quality. The actual deaths of scores of kulaks who perished in the collectivisation drives of the twenties, the brutal killing of the bourgeoisie caused by the revolutionaries in the novel, and the death of the two major protagonists, Sasha Dvanov and Kopenkin, idealists who set great store by communism underpin the novel’s structure. Here it would be good to examine carefully the verbal texture of the novel.

In "Chevengur" death has been eliminated but it pervades the entire community. Hunger has been banished, but everyone is hungry and dying. This is the Heraclitian paradox in which everything is in a flux and all truths are mistaken. It is in the nature of dystopia that past and present are eliminated and in this way continuity is abolished. People live in a permanent future. But the curious fact is that those who left Chevengur and those proletarians who were brought into the town to savour the bliss of utopia are "dead" in every way.

Their deadness is apparent in the lack of integration of their bodies and minds. In the section of the novel where the "miscellaneous" (prochie in Russian) groups of derelicts and social rejects are brought into the town, we notice that they are not only starved and emaciated, but their body and thoughts do not work in harmony. Orphaned by their mothers following the great famine, they are seen mostly trying to guard against the "uprooting, opposing wind of alien life". They already look like "decaying skeletons" without flesh. They become the emblems of entropy in the novel. They project the sheer corporeality of life in the utopia, a life cut off from thought and intellection.

Other characters too are dead in the sense in which Lenin thought all revolutionaries are dead: without a private realm of their own. It is only fitting that the two idealists, Sasha Dvanov and Kopenkin, should die in fact, once their idea of the utopia turns into a nightmare. Kopenkin dies fighting the counter-revolutionaries (or are they Bolsheviks fighting deviationists?). A passionate devotee of Rosa Luxemburg, he fails to bury her in the communist fatherland.

Prokofy, Dvanov, Kirie and other subsidiary characters also die. Sasha Dvanov lives in "utter forgetfulness of life" through his bout with typhus until he walks into the lake where his father had drowned. This is death by water, the ultimate form of extinction as we see in "tempest" and in Eliot’s poem. Later in the book Simon Serbinov, another alienated soul from Moscow, meets the emblems of death in Chevengur.

As the narrator broods, "hopelessness had struck the province, and there was no time to wait while the horse’s young were born and raised to draught strength". In a satiric twist, all the young are on the verge of death. Even nature is in death throes. The communist utopia proclaims that the sun would produce for people and that they need not labour. But instead of creating abundance, it rots the hay further and leaves behind deserts of unproductivity. Says the Jap (Chepurney), " …flowers and perennial beds and gardens were clearly swinish cultivations…Let the wild grasses grow in the streets of Chevengur, for just like the proletariat, this grass endures the life of heat and the death of deep snow." In this utopia people survive on rotting grass.

The final spasm of violence enacted in the last pages is a worthy climax to what is essentially a death-soaked life of daily existence. This is further corroborated by the fact that every one in this world needs shelter, because everyone has "died" to his (there are hardly any substantial women here) individual existence. If there is any movement in this static work, it is the movement of poor, naked shells of human beings rushing around for shelter, for warmth. Even the major characters, Dvanov, Kopenkin, Gopner, need shelter from the death-dealing chill of the utopia.

Like the Savage in Huxley’s "Brave New World", they need the traumas and afflictions of daily living so that they feel really alive. Old Yakov Titych is most in need since he is already fading out when we first meet him. That characters who huddle against one another to stave off cold and hunger, can be a desire for homoerotic bonding. This feeling is strengthened by the absence of any significant women in this novel. Sonya and Klydusha are simply props. Even when Prokofy takes the latter, we have no sense of real flesh-and-blood sexual warmth. As in Beckett, there is no synchronisation of the head and the heart. The newly imported wives from the steppes are no solace.

How, then, can "Chevengur" be evaluated? Certainly not as a traditional novel, in spite of its theme evoking traditional ordinary human values like warmth and brotherliness. At one level we have the quest romance of Sasha Dvanov and Kopenkin, knights-errant of the Marxist-Leninist cause who wander in search of the Holy Grail. They chance on Chevengur but discover that the reality does not answer to their aspirations. The quest romance never materialises.

There are elements in this novel, which seem to condemn as provincial folly both the activities of the Chevengurians and the utopianism motivating them. If the education motif of the quest romance has any relevance to this book, it is in the recognition of contradictions of the quest itself.

Second, there is the element of the picaresque in that Sasha and his idealists happen on Chevengur through adventures in the war-torn devastated Russian countryside. Unlike Sasha Pranktov in Rybakov’s novel who returns from exile into the Stalinist terror, characters in Platanov meet various forms of deprivation and want before they come to Chevengur.

Read in this way the novel becomes a parody of revolutionary romanticism whose political implications involve the excesses of the civil war and the Stalinist terror getting underway around the time of the composition of the novel. The picaresque adventures of the characters simply strengthen the novelist’s disdain towards utopianism and leave no scope for heroics. Of course some eccentrics remain with names like God and Dostoevesky

Is "Chevengur" merely an anti Stalinist diatribe? I should think not. The novel has a core of philosophical elements derived from the contemporary philosophies of Fedorov and, particularly, from Alexander Bogdanov — his partial association with the proletkult movement was not lost on critics.

Platanov was closely influenced by their philosophy of the materiality of existence. He combined it with Marxist beliefs to give to his novel a deeply "material" character. The preoccupation with death can be partly explained by Platanov’s response to these philosophers’ meditations on body and mind. Failure to understand this has resulted in several misreadings, Frederic Jameson’s in "Seeds of Time" being the most glaring.

This novel is a classic of the dystopian genre. It is also Platanov’s political statement against Stalinism. Sharing the innovative styles of Russian modernism in various arts, its place is assured among works of literature that accept the incapacity of all explanatory systems to account for the contingencies of human experience. Dr Johnson’s "Rasselas", Cervantes’ "Don Quixote", the stories of that Minotaur of intricacies, Borges and "Chevengur" — all speak against what Tolstoy’s utopian dreamer Pierre Bezokhov calls time’s "labyrinth of lies".

The recent fire in the Moscow Television Tower, testament to the debunked communist future, further corroborates the lie.


Book extract
The after-effects of child abuse

This is a chapter from Pinki Virani’s "Bitter Chocolate".

EVERY child is vulnerable, dependent, innocent and needy, be it a boy or a girl. And so when it is sexually abused there is almost simultaneously the violation of its physical, emotional and mental state. Dr Shekhar Seshadri describes what happens internally and almost immediately to the child. Says he, quoting from "Recollecting Our Lives", "The child goes into what is called the survivor’s cycle."

lFirst the sexual abuse causes confusion. What is he, or she, doing? What is happening to me, I cannot understand. I do not like it but I do not know how to stop it. Is what he is doing normal and okay? Where can I be safe? I cannot save myself, I cannot do anything right.

lThis leads to self-estrangement. I am always wrong. What can’t I be like everyone else? I am not normal. I am not important. No one cares about me. No one cares how I feel. I don’t count. I do not want to be me.

lAnd this leads to the saddest part, the wrong set of survival skills. I have to hide inside myself. I have to protect myself. I cannot let people see who or how I really am. How can I keep from exposing the real me?

lNo the child feels trapped. I cannot change my life or myself. I can’t change anything. I am responsible for who I have become. I am responsible for what happened to me because I did not stop it, I did not tell anyone either. I must keep the secret to survive. It is my fault.

lAnd all of this leads to a negative sense of self. I do not know who I am. I deserve whatever I get. If they really knew me they would dislike me and be disgusted by me. I am a phoney, I am only about falsehood. I do not deserve better. I am a bad person, everyone is better than me.

The cycle continues, wheels within wheels, spokes of shame being added each time the child recalls the sexual abuse and the sense of powerlessness. The cycle continues; as it almost always and invariably does since Indian parents, if they detect the child sexual abuse quickly enough, which is again rare, concentrate on the child’s physical aspect and their family’s social standing after the abuse. The child’s emotional and mental violation is overlooked; that child within with its feelings all locked up, grows up physically and displays some of the "sleeper effects" of child sexual abuse, some of which could emerge with dramatic impact as long-term aspects of child sexual abuse.

Thus, the ling-term effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating.

lMental health problems: anxiety, fear, depression as also masked depression, isolation, suicide, self-injury, poor self-esteem, alcohol or cigarette or drug abuse, self-annihilation.

lTraumatic sexualisation: in this a child’s sexuality — including both, sexual feelings and sexual attitudes — is shaped in a developmentally inappropriate and interpersonally dyfunctional fashion. Such as prostitution, aversion to sexual contract, confusion about sexual identity, confusion of sex with love and caregetting or care-giving, aggressive sexual behaviour, promiscuity, difficulty in arousal and orgasm, inappropriate sexualisation of parenting, revictimisation.

lChild-rearing difficulties: repeat cycle of abuse in the same of differently non-sexual format, over-protectiveness, fertility control.

lStigmatisation: the negative connotations — for example, badness, shame and guilt — that are communicated to the child about the experiences and that then become incorporated into the child’s self-image.

lSocial dysfunction: delinquency, criminal behaviour, acts of violence to self or others, victim role.

lFeeling of powerlessness: the process in which the child’s will, desires and sense of efficacy are continually contravened. Leading from the inability to stop the abuse, the child grows to feel anxious, inefficient and develops a tendency to run away from problems. Other long-term effects include nightmares, phobias, eating and sleeping disorders, disassociation, employment problems, vulnerability to subsequent victimisation and becoming a sexual abuser too.

lFeeling of betrayal: children discover that someone on whom they are vitally dependent has caused them harm. Mostly the abuser is a known person and even if it is not the parent, the child experiences a loss of trust in the parents and begins a search for a person who could be trusted. This leads to vulnerability to subsequent abuse and exploitation, allows for own children to be victimised by oneself or others, leads to discomfort in intimate relationships, marital problems, aggressive behaviour and impairs ability to judge people which, in turn, leads to choosing wrong friends and disastrous marriages.

Child sexual abuse is a self-perpetuating phenomenon and cases suggest that adult males and females who have been victims turn promiscuous and enter into unhealthy relationships. Females are more likely to choose husbands who abuse them and their children. As mothers they often show poor parenting skills, neglecting or abusing their own children.

There are several highly-rated international studies to prove some of these points.

R. Summit and J. Kryso in 1978, followed by J. Goodwin, T. McCarthy and P. Divasto in 1981, presented papers which showed that many mothers who sexually abused their own children had been victims themselves of child sexual abuse.

L. Pincus and C. Dare in 1978, followed by L.P. Cammaert in 1988, had studies which showed mothers selecting emotionally inadequate partners if they had been sexually abused in childhood.

N. Groth, in 1982, stunned the international psychiatric community by pointing out that women who are sexually abused in childhood are open to selection by sex offenders who seek partners who are passive, emotionally vulnerable and dependent. These women put up no resistance at all as the male — intent on abuse of the children in his extended family — as easily distances his own child from the mother; his power over the woman allows him to operate as effectively even if she protests by using physical or emotional threats.

Groth adds that the potential perpetrator does not, however, have to particularly sense out a woman who has been sexually abused in childhood. Since women in most societies all over the world are socialised to depend on others — mostly male — and to be obedient within the family, it is not very surprising to find many mothers of sexually abused children playing a passive role in the family. They are often dominated by their partner and see him as more capable, powerful and intellectually superior, more so if they have been victims themselves of child sexual abuse.

M. Stern and L. Mayer have run a comprehensive survey for the National Centre on Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington, which points out that the non-availability of a sexually satisfying relationship with a consenting peer —meaning if a man does not get "good sex" from his wife or girlfriend — is not a causal factor in child sexual abuse. Most perpetrators try and sexually abuse children even while they are involved in adult relationships.

There are several studies which bring up the question of why mothers do not protect their children against child sexual abuse in their own homes, even if they have not been sexually abused as children themselves. In the Indian context there is no such hard data available but, again, all international observations reflected in the book fit the situation.

These factors, too, have been observed as being prevalent in India. A mother who does not take immediate protective action for her child who is being sexually abused at home — by her husband, her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, her elder son, the male cousin — does not do so because she risks external judgements of her mothering, the inevitable breakdown of her family, the removal of herself or her child or her husband from the scene of the crime, relation by the accused and other men and even the women around him, social stigma, continuous court appearances and loss of financial security.

All of the above coalesced in Ila Pandey of Karvi who is still on the run in and around Lucknow. Her daughters have been put in schools away from her so that her husband cannot get at them through her, their fees are being paid by an educational support group, Asha Trust, and other expenses are being met by Lucknavies. Ila Pandey was often emotionally and physically beaten by her husband, she had breakdowns. This is now being sought to be proved as "madness" in the courts by Jagdish Pandey and his brothers. Ila Pandey is still on the run, perhaps she did not know how much she would have to when she confronted her husband with his relentless year-long sexual abuse of Gudiya, their daughter.

Ila is brave also because she has sought to overcome her own physical, financial and emotional inadequacies to protect her daughters from child sexual abuse. Most mothers whose children are being sexually abused at home by their close male family members, specially fathers, simply look the other way. International researchers say that such woman tend to be characterised as lacking in social skills and possessing a number of disturbed personality traits, even if they have not been sexually abused in their childhood.

Sahd in 1980 and Bennetta also in 1980 found that such mothers had low self-esteem. Bennett added that these women had an "intropunitive" — introspective — style of anger.

Herman and Hershelman, as also Harrier in a separate study, said in 1981 that such mothers experienced psychosis — they felt mentally unbalanced.

In the same year Frederichson added anxiety and suspicion to the list, and Herman and Hershelman followed up with alcohol abuse as one of the reasons why mothers did not stand up to the sexual abuse of their children in their homes. Goodwin, also in 1981, pointed to the mothers who had suicidal tendencies.

To be noted: the above are not the reasons why children are being sexually abused in their own homes; these are some of the reasons — and what has happened to Ila Pandey is the rest — why most mothers do not come to the immediate aid of their children. Applicable as much in India as anywhere else, especially in the light of Groth’s theory that sexually abusive fathers choose partners whose resistance can be easily overcome. The disabilities noted by Sahd, Bennett, Herman, Hershelman, Harrier, Frederichson and Goodwin further significantly reduce the mother’s ability to protect her children from child sexual abuse.

And a mother who has been sexually abused herself in childhood turns into her own victim; the grown woman is the gaoler of the little girl, she paradoxically continues the role where the abuser left off. And so it gets handed down, generation to generation, feeling the impact of what just one man did — with perhaps just his finger — to one child a long time ago. That’s how long term the effects of child sexual abuse can be.

Traumatic sexualisation is another outcome which can disturb not just the victim but an entire family for the rest of their lives. Psychiatrists dealing with adults who have been sexually abuses in childhood — this is never revealed at the outset — are also contending with an array of sexual identity crises.

Fortunately college boys as also young, working men — specially from middle and upper-class homes — are seeking professional help to understand their own sexual orientation, even if they have not been sexually abused in childhood, purely because they want the choice to be made by themselves and not by social conditioning. If it turns out that they have strong same-sex orientation, they are happy to be gay.

Unfortunately, not all these men are able to put off their families when it comes to "settling down" and a hapless woman bears the brunt; but those homosexuals who are, indeed, able to hold their own are to be congratulated by Indian women. A man finding his own identity — even if through a sexual preference and not much else — means less trouble for women and their daughters.

Not a very nice thing to say, no? Because it is thinking of only women and girl-children; it is not inclusive of fathers and their sons, right?

Well, has there even been a time when fathers, along with their wives, have not impressed upon their sons, almost conditioned them into thinking, that they — the male — possess that magnificent trump card: the power of choice? Mothers tell their daughters only this: the male will come and choose from a sea of simpering young girls like you; on a white charger he will come and whisk you off your feet, please perfect the art of simpering till he arrives.

The male and his magnificent trump card: that power of choice. So now, before he "settles down", and even during and after, he also chooses little boys. But will this be enough proof for the parents of young males that they need to explain to their sons that they need to behave with other mothers’ daughters, and other people’s sons too? If those parents had done this before, maybe the statistics would not be as bad as they are today? And now that the world is turning on its head, or so it may seem to the parents of only sons, with older — and much elder — men actively seeking out little boys, what should the mothers and daughters feel?