Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Being Male is Chauvanist?

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while… honestly, I thought no one was reading this, and also, sometimes life sucks. But I notice people have been commenting, so I figured I’d get back at it, hopefully consistently.

Something I learned relatively quickly in college was this: apparently my Y chromosomes is apparently an offense to (some) women. Now, I’m not trying to paint a wide stroke here, but lets take some background. First, I was raised in a relatively religious household, and a large part of Jainism is the idea to treat everyone the same and to treat everyone kindly. Like most other old religions, Jainism does cast females in a lower light then males, but in all reality, I find females more religious then males, so specially in modern context, the history doesn’t matter. So for me as a kid, I didn’t see any point in differentiating the sexes, but the idea of chivalry seemed to fit right in with my Jain upbringing. I like to treat everyone with respect, even those who have done me wrong. I tend to be nice even to people who’ve hurt me. It doesn’t mean I’ve never been mean to those people too… I’m no saint. But the important part is how this developed my view on women. I’m that guy who’ll rush ahead a bit to open a door for a woman. I do it for anyone, but I might not rush for a guy. I pretty much always at least to try to pay for dinner when I go out with a female friend, specially if its someone I’m interested in. I don’t think they can’t pay, and if they really insist on it, I always give in. I might not have been the best boyfriend, but I don’t think either of the two girls I’ve been in a relationship with up to now can deny I tried to treat them right.

My alma mater used to consist of five main colleges, one of which was Douglass College, a prominent women’s-only college in the US. Over the last 3 years, there’s been a lot of restructuring at the University, merging the five colleges into one consolidated university. This was met with a lot of reluctance, specially from Douglass College. Now, all five of the colleges have a very rich heritage; Rutgers College was one of the first colleges in America. But of all five, Douglass students argued the loudest. Douglass College used to be a separate organization, but due to funding, ease, and I’m sure a hundred other reasons, it joined the State University of New Jersey, with the goals to lead and empower women, admirable goals for sure. But a group within the college, whom I can only describe as feminists, were completely against the idea of a consolidation. They insisted that if a consolidation was to take place, the other four colleges should merge, and Douglass remain independent. Now mind you, the role Douglass plays both for its goals and its politics was important to the University, and all attempts would be (and have be) made to preserve the history, goals, and programs provided. These girls just wouldn’t see it. I was all in support of their wanting to protect their school… had someone told me the School of Engineering would be merged (and in some cases, it seemed to come close), I would have been as fervent at it. I think popular feminism is as extreme as the religious right, but its a choice someone makes, and I was in support of their main goals, albeit being one of the students involved in the merger. My support vanished very quickly though when one day I was heading to support one of their rallies, and upon arriving, girls started shouting at me, with words like, “chauvinist”, “jerk”, and you can imagine they got worse. I pretty much decided there that I really didn’t find the cause worth supporting. In the next few months, I continued to push the merger, and the University continued to protect the goals and programs of Douglass, but it was merged in. I didn’t really care if they stayed separate anymore.

What’s the point of this long-winded story you ask? Just upset that some girls called me a “chauvinist”? Nah. In fact, I understand why they were upset. But here is my view on female rights, at least from what I’ve seen. And I fully expect to be chastised for some of this… girls I know have stopped talking to me over it. Males and females are definitely not equal in the US, let alone in the world, but I honestly think what holds them back now is not “the man” but themselves. Sure, I’m again talking about a lot of women who don’t fall into the category, but I see it just like different religions or cultures. You can’t have a small radical group you do nothing about then complain that they’re the ones who are at fault. It seems that feminists want to be proudly different but the same. Now note, I didn’t say “equal” because they don’t seem to paint a picture of equality. Equality implies to me that two groups are at the same level. Feminists feel so oppressed that simply my genetic structure is enough to offend them.

Take for example, the ongoing argument about women in the workplace. I’m far from being the ideal guy to talk about this; I have conflicting feelings about gender roles in situations like a marriage, work, etc. When I get married, I have no issue with my wife working, but I think if we have kids, one of us will have to leave our job. I’m a workaholic, so I can’t imagine leaving my job, but if my wife doesn’t really doesn’t want to, I’ll do it. The issue I have is women who will have a kid then head back to work in a few weeks, leaving kids to nanny’s, artificial milk, etc. No matter how equal men and women get, men and women will never be equal. Biologically, its impossible. No matter what you do, there are simple differences in genetics, biology, and hormones. Hormonally, women are better suited to be nurturing. Its not that guys don’t care, its not how we’re structured. Same way, males tend to be more aggressive then females. Now, someone could argue that this is all just excuses, and in a way it is. We are more then our animal instincts, but end of the day my point is this:

We’re not the same, get over it.

Use your differences for you. Dressing in masculine clothes doesn’t get you further in a job. Proving you can do anything a guy can do doesn’t make you equal. Using your differences, not flaunting them, pulls you ahead. I told my girlfriend this at one point, I’ll treat you like a princess or an equal. I can’t treat you special and treat you no differently then anyone else. As an Indian, I either get to be treated as a minority, or I get to be treated as an equal. Any time I’ve made it clear I’m separate, I’ve earned jeering looks and hostility from others. Fine, males and females aren’t equal yet. Most guys will agree, specially guys who wish it weren’t the case. But every time you try to step over us in the name of gender equality, I really don’t care how hard you get trampled.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Note: In my haste to go downstairs to watch the VP debate yesterday, I forgot to publish this… so mind you, you should have seen it yesterday.

No, this isn’t about politics. This is about something much bigger and much more important to me: the world.

Now you might say, that’s silly. Everyone cares about the world. I’m not sure about that. Everyone cares about their position in the world. The world is more then just a collection of individuals. Call me naive, but I believe in world peace, relatively speaking. I think everyone has the ability to make amends and come together. Some will have a very hard time (Bill O’Reilly?) granted. But I think everyone has within them the ability to see the world in a better light. I believe everyone is connected (just check out Matt). And for the last 3 years, I’ve been taking part of “National Be the Change Day”, formerly “National Ghandi Day of Service”, a day to commemorate the man who issued the most famous quote I titled this story with: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

I can’t begin to tell you how much respect I have for this man. My Jain upbringing taught me fighting is not as powerful as peace. Fighting breaks bodies, not minds. I will never cease to be amazed how the son of a politician absorbed religious values from multiple religions and became the quintessential father of India. A revolutionary who changed the world not with action, but with inaction. What’s saddest is the world knows him, but very few learned the lessons he taught by showing us.

I’ve raved a bit about Jamie Foxx’s movie “The Kingdom.” It’s very stirring, because to me it teaches one lesson: violence only breeds violence; the only solution to violence is understanding. And so today, I remember Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. There are so few people like him in the world, and with all the fighting in the world, I truly believe the only end-all solution is from the lessons he taught us: don’t fight, understand. There are dozens on dozens of quotes you can get from the man that make you wonder, why fight?

And the take him from him is to understand in your daily life. The co-worker who snapped at you this morning may be going through troubles at home and doesn’t deserve your disdain. The man you met on the street who bumped into you might have been distracted from a family member or friend in the hospital. And I’m not saying everyone has a reason for negative actions, but responding to negativity with negativity only perpetuates the cycle. Take a minute to think about your actions, and your day will be much better. Its not “new age” mumbo-jumbo… They’ve been doing it in India for centuries.

I also want to take a minute to plug the most influential person in my life that I’ve had the honor of meeting twice. Nipun Mehta is the most inspiring and genuine people I’ve ever met, and has inspired me in so many ways. Learn a bit about him at his blog, and take a chance to visit and learn about his project, Smile Cards. Smile Cards are a way to stir up anonymous acts of random kindness through a “pass it on” mindset. Its worth exploring (I never leave home without Smile Cards in my wallet) and its worth taking a look at some of the heart warming stories on there. If nothing else, feed my ego and search for the stories under the username “Keleth” (I’m ashamed to say I haven’t posted a story on there in over a year).

My “Why?”

Friday, September 19th, 2008

No easy answers you say? But 2+2 has a very easy answer you say? 4 huh?

Not a synergy person I see. But regardless, there are basics answers to basic questions, and its always been easy to pose a question, thinking you’ve gotten the best of someone, but its often the hardest thing to come up with an answer that’s satisfactory to more then just you. Then I think about Anekantavada. And I think about how everyone thinks they have the right answer. Even I always seem to. But maybe a little less as of late.

Sunday was the last day of Das Lukshan, the Jain (Digambar) holy days to reflect on the past year, and clear the body, mind, and soul. I’m not really a spiritual person, but I do partake in Das Lukshan. I see a lot of sense in taking some time to reflect on the previous year. Christians have Thanksgiving (how in the world did that become known as a religious holiday? But I digress, that’s a different argument), and Digambar Jains have Das Luckshan.

I like debates. Ask people I interact with and they’ll tell you how often I play devil’s advocate just to get a debate. I also believe debate is essential to a complete decision. But I I have a strong habit of arguing. Not debating, but arguing. I like to be right; who doesn’t? But I start with debates then tend to get into aggressive, adversarial, and it tends to go in the exact opposite direction of where convincing debate should go. This doesn’t happen often; mostly with my dad. And given I’m home all the time now, I’m around my dad all the time, for better or worse.

And so we’re in the middle of Das Lukshan, and one morning I find for some reason, someone’s put a tube of empty toothpaste back into the drawer. I’ve already started brushing my teeth, and I’m thinking, I have to find out which of my parents did this. They’re always on my case to clean up, throw out the trash, etc, yet here is a perfectly worthless tube of toothpaste. I took it out to throw out, forgot, but they still put it back?

Then all of a sudden, something of an epiphany. What would be the point in arguing why they put back the toothpaste? I didn’t throw it out, and whatever their reason, did it matter? It was a tube of toothpaste. And there are bigger issues. We’ve got immigration troubles. My parents have to get my brother through college. Gas prices are through the roof. Countless problems across the world. Does a tube of not-yet-thrown out toothpaste matter that much?

Mind you, my dad is a self-righteous know it all. It doesn’t matter if he has no experience or study in a field, if he’s heard of it, or forbid read a book on it, he’s a master of a subject. Just yesterday I had to prove to him how poll statistics work (that’s an interesting story for another time). But we started with a discussion, and it became an argument. And as we argued, I would say some statements then immediately realize, Holy crap, how full of it am I for saying that? It’s like I just wanted to be right. And that’s where a lot of my arguments did come from. I had to leave the room and calm down a bit, and prove it a bit later (his acceptance of proof is most often simply asserting how that’s what he meant the whole time).

It doesn’t sound like such an epiphany, does it? But really think about it, how often do you make a proverbial mountain out of a toothpaste tube-sized molehill?

And so maybe this Das Lukshan was good for something more then just fasting to appease my parents, and pretending I believe in perfect souls. I thought about it and learned a bit about arguing and I learned arguing isn’t worth it.

Debating helps you see another view point, shed light on the darker regions of an idea. A nice debate, structured or not, even if its just in your own head, helps look for the cracks, and potential filler. And even if you can’t find a filler, you are aware the cracks are there and can work on it. To be effective in a debate, you have to be aware of the opposition, listen to the opposition, and use the opposition’s arguments against them. You have to understand someone to actually convince them of something they don’t currently believe in.

Arguing helps raise some blood pressure, and really blocks you from seeing another view point. In an argument, you get so absorbed in making sure you’re right, that it doesn’t matter what the other person says. Think about it. When you’re arguing, somehow even the other person’s statements are proof to your viewpoint. It becomes so easy to bend everything they say to prove your point, through your own eyes. But normally what you’re saying is gibberish.

And that’s really what pushed me to start this blog. There are so many ideas out there, so many topics, and everyone seems to have the answer. It seems so simple. The answer seems so easy. But looking at what you believe to be the truth is what’s truely easy. The hard part is getting past that self-centered notion, considering the oppositions viewpoint as potentially possible, even if you know its not. And I’m fortunate: thats the environment I was raised in, even if thats not what my parents intended on doing. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t see it coming. In all situations, I can’t help but think, What does the other guy think about this?