Millennium Post

A tale of two mind sets

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light. It was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair. Did we have everything before us? Did we have nothing before us? Beginning of the year is always the time for introspection. Taking stock of the past and making resolution for the future. Thereafter we have the entire year to forget and repeat ourselves all over again.

This is a tale of two mindsets. One mindset summed up by a lady physician of the19th century England, Dr Arabella Kenealy, was based on the division of labour between the two genders, which came as a necessity for survival of the human race. ‘While male battled with environment and with alien aggressors for their life and for their food, as for those of the family, the sheltered women were alike the loom and cradle of the Race.’ Breaching the same meant weakening of the human race.

Or the polar opposite one from the likes of Simone de Beauvoir who felt, ‘one is not born a woman, but becomes one.’ ‘Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.’ Liza Mundy, author of ‘The Richer Sex’, pointed out how women were replacing men in their role as provider.

‘Globally, a generation of young women is entering the job market who are better educated than young men are, and poised to become the most financially powerful generation of women in history’. Even Gary Becker, the Nobel laureate economist agreed, ‘we could see a date where women, on average, are earning more than men.’

Caught in the middle are the males who find pleasure in passing lewd comments, molesting and raping women, males who occupy varied positions, from cleaners of buses to lawmakers in India’s parliament, and women, well articulate, affectionately brought up by their parents and educated enough to turn irreverent to the likes of Khap panchayats or clerics of different religions. The gulf between the two was most exposed at the end of 2012, to the horror of both the camps - the first one because they realised to their utter dismay the first signs of loss, the second group who saw how far these males can go to stop a natural evolution of human race.

Between these two poles India saw an administration vacillating between the Scylla and Charybdis – on one side their presumed vote bank who are destined to live in squalor of ignorance and on the other side the youth led by their girls armed with candles to show the shaken government some light. Media, consisting mostly of the citizens of the latter category, sided against the administration. No amount of persuasion from the high and mighty or even soft threats could deter them from articulating a changing mindset and the need for it. No doubt the year gone by ushered the best of times.

Its detractors will admit, though grudgingly, that the horrible events in the winter of despair has sown the sprouts of spring. The events made us believe that wisdom would descend, light would reach and finally the deaf will hear the hitherto mutes. Does it mean that the socially irrelevant governance system will wake up from its deep-rooted slumber? Mankind lives on hope; its women have always been doing so since the dawn of civilization. But can 2013 bring in some steps, even if small, towards bridging the gulf between the two mindsets? Or will the ignorant among the males continue their hostility and refuse to embrace the future?

Not only in India but globally women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty. Nobel Economist Amartya Sen observed how in a poor household women go without food to feed their men. Women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. Poverty implications are widespread for women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can also mean they have little protection from violence and have no role in decision-making. The age-old disparity cannot be removed in the span of just one year. But will the new India make a beginning?

One indeed can, provided there is some innovative thinking. When it is an acknowledged fact that women are the poorest and most deprived even in a poor household why can’t the process of affirmative action have clauses inserted for the women? For example can we not stipulate that given the same qualification a woman will get preference over a male for a job? These are small but logical steps. Will we see a determined step to create a balanced society now that India has received sufficient scorn in the global stage?

Sugato Hazra is a communication professional
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