Thursday, May 22, 2008

Abortion, infanticide, female foeticide - A thought process and its implicaitons in theory and practice

This post by Silverine made me think about the issue of abortion, particularly in terms of the 'right to live' or not of the foetus. Firstly, let us think about a 'right'. Only humans have rights granted to them. Notice also that they have to be 'granted'. So who grants these rights? Society. Ok, so which society? The aborigines of australia? The whites? The blacks? Each society has their own set of rules and rights that they guarantee. Fortunately, that does not complicate the present issue, because i'm only talking about the 'right to live', which every society guarantees, at any rate locally, to its own kind, if not to others too. Since this 'right to live' is then a part of every society, I shall broadly address the 'right to live' of human beings in general. As only human beings have rights, that means rights necessarily also have to do with conscious awareness of that right, because if i could give the chicken a right to pee on all people wearing white shirts, but it wouldn't, except by random chance, because it wouldn't understand the right, because animals don't 'understand', and understanding is a conscious process which only human beings are capable of. Ok, so let me repeat that key statement: for a right to be exercised, it has not only to be 'granted' by society, but also the creature to whom it is granted has to be 'aware' of it. I use the word 'aware' not in the sense of notified but in the sense of having a conscious understanding of what it means to the individual concerned. Now that we have a 'right' clearly defined, I shall alternately take the two stances of assigning a right to live for the foetus, and not, and see what rational consequences it has.

1) Statement: The foetus has the right to live.
Logical implications: The foetus has no conscious awareness of this right, just like the chicken doesn't, or the chicken's egg doesn't. Hence, if the foetus has the right to live, so does the chicken, and so does its egg, because there's no difference between the three from the point of view of the right to live which we humans may generously confer on them. They are none of them any more capable of exercising it. As a consequence, if the foetus has the right to live, all creatures have the right to live, including the ants in your food. This leads essentially to a jainist view. Note however that involuntary killing and killing for self-preservation are excluded because both of those are fall-outs of man as an animal.

2) The foetus does not have the right to live.
Logical implications: Thankfully, this does not have to trouble our conscience about killing chickens and eggs for breakfast. If the foetus can be killed, so can these. But, why stop at the foetus? Does a foetus get the right to live just because it changed its spacio-temporal location, i.e., it traveled through a canal, i.e., it is an infant? Logically, no. If a foetus has no right to live, then no more of a right does an infant have. The only difference between the two is spacio-temporal. Of course, this spatio-temporal shift results in a sensory dose to the granters. Meaning, you and I can see, touch, smell, and hear the infant. But a sensory dose is hardly a rational basis for deciding the right to live or not! An infant is no more aware of the right conferred upon it than a foetus. But what about children? What about adults? Where do we draw the line? In theory, I have already shown where the line is to be drawn. When an individual is 'aware' of the right to live, he has that right, by definition, provided it has been granted to him. Note that I use the word 'aware', because it is meaningless to expect, say the child, to 'state' its right to live. Language and its complications are immaterial here. So in theory that makes it simple. If there is a person who after 40 years of his life isn't aware of his right to live, he doesn't have that right, by definition. After all, the world we live in works just this way in the case of simpler rights. If someone isn't aware that he has a certain right, he is often denied it.

In practice, the theoretical logical implications of 1 are impossible to keep, because in practice, humans kill, and all too often for reasons other than self-preservation. But the goal is one that can be striven towards, even if not attained. It is possible for human beings to strive towards living with only that amount of killing of creatures as is necessary for self-preservation.

The problem with implementing the theoretical implications of 2 is that it is hard to define at what stage a child is 'aware' of his right to live. So the practical line has to be drawn somewhere. Probabilistically, one can be fairly certain that upto the age of 5 no child is aware of the right to live. While the foetus is like a chicken's egg, the child is like a trained parrot, and perhaps a little extra in other aspects. But for our purposes, they are the same. So, that makes infanticide quite permissible, and some extent of childicide too. Whether in practice people would start doing this extensively just because it is legally permitted is doubtful. So that got me thinking about to what extent people would do it if it were permitted. Because human beings have a notion of 'cruelty', which seems to them amplified if it is their own kind, the practice won't be very widespread. Of course, if there were to be a child grinding farm, it might be done a little more just as most of us would be reluctant to break the neck of a chicken and skin it ourselves, or stick a hot rod up a pig's arse till it screams and dies, but will gladly munch on chicken meat and pig meat. Anyways, in practice it seems like infanticide is practiced, more so in the developing countries. The problem is that its female foeticide. The problem is not that its a female, but that it upsets the sex ratio. So what? How does the sex ratio matter in a strictly logical sense? Is the human population going to go all the way to extinction from its present population of 6.6 billion because of female foeticide? No. So there's no long term worries of that kind. Hence, from the long term point of view, female foeticide is fine too. There are short-term worries though. A dwindled female population, leads to more frustrated males. That would directly have an effect on the crime rate. So, from the short-term point of view female foeticide is inadvisable. However, people seem to be doing it, in their blinkered look at self-preservation, because a man is a better work slave than a woman. They don't see the indirect consequences through crime, which works against that very self-preservation.

I've written this post because I'd like to encourage rational debate to see the flaws in these arguments.

Note: If you are simply disturbed and think what i've written is non-sense, there's no need to comment. I've taken that as the default anyways. If you wish, just put your name in for a head count, and go :p

Thursday, May 08, 2008

WTF headline of the day

Most people are familiar with this headline. But check this new one out! And if that isn't enough to have your eyes popping out, read the caption to the first picture.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Note: This post is very personal and one close to my heart, so if you aren’t interested in reading anything emotional, please skip this post.

This tag reminded me of my first kiss, but more importantly, of a time when I was happy. Truly happy. I’ve never regained that happiness since I lost her. It all happened so quickly that it almost seems unreal now. Yet, every second, every moment we spent together is etched in my memory like an engraving. The first time I saw her was on the streets of my campus. The moment I saw her calm, serene face, poised on an exquisitely slender body, I fell in love. I was so enchanted by her beauty that it was a while before I noticed she was actually sticking close to another man. With burning jealousy I looked to see who the lucky man was. I was heartbroken to see it was a friend I knew very well. He was much elder to me. She, on the other hand, looked younger to me. So he appeared old enough to be her father and I thought it a strange relationship. I knew he had a mature head, and I greatly respected him for that. I knew his love for her would be true, so I cursed my luck that the one time I truly fell in love, things had to turn out this way. I decided to be mature about it and took reign of my jealousy. I’d see her often after that, whenever I met my friend. I thought that strange because when I asked him about her, he said they had been together for a while now. Why was she suddenly showing up whenever I met him? Did it mean she was interested in me too? I stopped myself from continuing that train of thought. I knew that the most painful love is the unreciprocated kind, so I convinced myself that she had merely started spending more time with him, which increased the likelihood of my seeing her. I tried to grow detached, and every time I’d see her come with him, I would give her a pleasant smile, and then start conversation with him as if she wasn’t there, or she really didn’t matter. She seemed to be just fine with that, and she’d stick close to him, but stare at me incessantly during the conversation, and it would have my heart thumping, in spite of my efforts. It was frustrating, this strange behaviour of hers. It also affected the flow of conversation with my friend, so I decided I’d avoid meeting him for a bit, which meant I’d avoid her too. I hoped that would help me forget her, and these feelings for her. After all, it isn’t like she’s the only one of her kind out there I said to myself. I knew many who were more beautiful. Some of them were so beautiful, with their skin so soft, you’d think they’d melt if you touched them. At first, I simply tried to think of them, and distract myself. But her image kept coming back. Then I started spending more time with them, in the hope that at least when I’m physically with them, my mind wouldn’t get carried away. Somehow, that calm and composed face of hers kept nagging me, and it only estranged my relationship with the others. So I became very reclusive and kept to myself mostly. Nothing helped, and I knew I was incurably in love, but I used the pain as a drug, and when I wasn’t doing research, I’d spend the time thinking about her, and the lovely time we’d have together if she were mine.

Then, one fine morning, as I walked into my lab, I found her there. All alone. I was speechless. From her look I could tell it meant only one thing. I lost all restraint at that moment, ran upto her and smothered her with kisses. She didn’t reciprocate, but she didn’t refuse, and that’s all I cared for the moment, because I knew her reserved ways. That night, she came home with me, and it is the most unforgettable night of my life. From that day on, she became mine, and life was heaven. Every morning, I’d wake up with her head resting affectionately on my heart. We’d spend all day together, and her presence, rather than being a distraction, only helped me in my work. I managed to write-up a pending project report, that would otherwise have taken me two weeks, in just two days. Such were the miracles she brought into my life. I was overjoyed and I worked long hours in her comforting presence. Every now and then, I’d be reminded of my friend and I’d wonder what she told him, if she told him anything at all. A pang of guilt would flit through me, and then I’d be happy again.

I was having a perfect life, and I should’ve known that it cannot last. She began to lose weight. At first slowly. But when she started staying up with me when I worked long hours it became more severe. I was stupidly oblivious to all this in my state of bliss. Until, one day, suddenly, she choked, and fell terribly ill. One look at her emaciated body and I knew what was wrong. But I was afraid to tell her. That evening I went to the store and bought the medication that was needed to rejuvenate her. She took the medication and looked cheerful again. I knew, however, that her illness was terminal, and I shed a silent tear. I guess Mother Nature envied this girl’s sublime perfection. I was prepared to live with this. I felt it was all worth it, and to see her innocently rejuvenated by the medication every time she fell ill, brought a sad smile to my face. I didn’t want things to change. But, perhaps, I shouldn’t have wished that, knowing what luck I have when I wish for things.

It was a Saturday morning. The weather was just the way I like it, with the sun hidden behind the clouds, the diffused light giving a pleasant brightness to everything, and a gentle breeze blowing. I wished to take her out and so we set off on my bike. At the first traffic junction, as I made a turn, a hasty car took a sharp swerving left turn. I tried to dodge him and in the process lost balance. We both crashed on to the road. I had my helmet on so I recovered quickly. She had only her pretty cap. I’d told myself several times that I should buy her a helmet, but I didn’t, partly intentionally. She looked beautiful as she was. But in that cap, she looked like an angel. It was almost as if the cap completed her, and it gave me a strange thrill to see her with the cap on. I can’t forgive myself ever for this folly. She was a little hurt, and still lying on the road. Before I could turn around and help her, a bus sped past, and ran over her, mutilating her body. The cap was still on her head. I turn around in agony, and cried. I cried like there would be no tomorrow. I wished that bus had run over me instead, and I sobbed and sobbed relentlessly. The people around thought I must've gone mad. But I didn’t care. I cried till my eyes hurt.

Its two years since that day, and I still haven’t forgotten her, or forgiven myself.

After all, I can always find another one like her, but nothing can give the happiness of having stolen your best friend’s Mont Blanc

P.S: Now please re-read the article with a pen in mind :D