Berkeley is as beautiful as she stands in memory drawn from two years ago. She is full of treasures, just as I remember fondly. To have someone dear walk the shaded paths with me was to relive that solitary walk of discovery from 2012 again, as I felt in me freshness and reaffirmation of belief in the goodness of life. There is great beauty to be found in a place as Berkeley, regardless of whether you meander through her streets alone or with a companion. I remember Stanford as where I learned to dream high. I remember Berkeley as where I learned to hope.
I have been revisiting Dickens. I am reading his History of England now, and am quite overcome by the senselessness and cruelty of the human race in acts committed upon selves and others. We are born in better times, certainly, since we don’t live in the fear of being tormented, pillaged, quartered and murdered by both protectors and foes.
We have other fears. We fear the loans, we fear the tax rates, we fear blazing deaths or maiming on unsafe roads, we fear the possibilities of assault, theft and rape, and we fear a great many things besides. Many of these are fears that can be done away with. I find it difficult to fathom how we have advanced so far in the sciences, yet not succeeded in bringing down rates of crime. We study crime, in our ivory towers, where we plot graphs of correlation between various demographics and net criminal intent. We don’t seem to do much to end the crimes though.
I wonder if Modi will have success in India in bringing down the crimes against women. Women seem to be as precious to India as the Jews were to the old Kings of England. Very useful to have them around, for the assets, and very convenient to treat them callously, because you can.
Treatment of women. You hear the wise exhorting parents to teach their sons not to rape. I doubt that lesson is necessary. Anyone would go around pillaging the Treasury if there were no effective deterrents set in place to stop the pillaging. Condemning acts of crime and expressing condolences to victims and their families are poor substitutes for actual changes in policy to bring the crimes drastically down.
The lesson the parents need to teach their sons is not about rape being a bad thing to do. India, I think, does not have the need for that today. India does need parents to teach their children a different gender lesson though. The lesson they should try imparting upon their impressionable young children is about how people have a right to be treated fairly and with dignity, regardless of gender. If you make your sons feel that they are entitled to good women, if you make your daughters feel that all they can ever aspire to is being the wife of an accomplished man, you are doing something quite harmful to the society they will grow up to be a part of.
When I was in India, in an undergraduate college down in the south, and before that in a little town by the Western Ghats, I saw the sad charade first-hand. I saw the parents impressing upon little boys that they would be more than their sisters. I saw the little boys believing it, and growing up to be young men who believed it as well. I cannot remember a single man of my acquaintance who did not seem to think that he was God’s gift to any woman he deigned to pay attention to. Most men would be offended, mightily, if their attention was not returned. There were many who paid attention to me, and many who nursed resentment because I did not reciprocate, and many whose resentment turned to malice (after all, if you dared to not proffer me my rightful due of your attention, you can’t be a good woman). Then there were those men who resented a woman who thought, because that went against the core of their belief system (a woman does not think). There always are those men who hate success coming to a woman, regardless of the personal effort expended (how can a woman succeed as well as a man can? preposterous!).
As little boys from schools go to colleges, eve-teasing becomes acceptable, as do derogatory comments (after all, you are only a woman – a mostly hysterical, over-reacting creature not capable of much beyond looking pretty and validating my ability to select pretty things, and if you aren’t like this, you are a cold and stuck-up bitch, not a woman). I went to an abominably hopeless undergraduate college, where men thought it their right to often openly eve-tease and make derogatory comments about women in the same classes, while women took it meekly, and where most complaints were waved off under the blanket explanation of “boys will be boys”. I was quite relieved to leave that forsaken place.
The saddest thing, though, is that these men, well-educated though they might be, often don’t have the least idea as to what they are doing wrong, or why they are doing it wrong. Trying to make them see is often an exercise in futility that I don’t bother at all anymore. This is not to say that all men from that country are the same. There are other kinds of men in the country. It is just easier to find one sort than the other.
Berkeley is a beautiful place. I heard the bells of the Campanile again. They sing of hope, just as they had sung two years ago. It is a wonderful song.