The Violent World we live in

The last few days have been terrible. One blow after another to shake our faith in human nature.

First, there was the spoilt and deranged, rich kid in Santa Barbara, California, who gave vent to his sense of rejection by women through the act of killing five students. Then came the stoning of the Pakistani woman who married the man she loved against the wishes of her family. And, finally, the rape and lynching of two teenage girls in India, their bodies left hanging from a mango tree.

Jealousy, lust, hatred, and sheer blood thirst have played a role, in times of peace and war, since time immemorial in man’s inhumanity towards women.  The literary arts have explored the phenomenon in Greek tragedies like “The Trojan Women” by Euripides, in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” and “Rape of Lucrece” and in Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar named Desire.” Great art does not glorify such violence, but it seems to grant it an immortal quality, as in Bernini’s sculptural representation of  “Persephone and Hades” or in “Rape of the Sabine Women,”  in the Louvre. 

The ephemeral nature of a violent act is objectified by art into something terrible and imperishable, awesome in its pervasive repetitiveness. Only a rare legend chronicles vengeance and retribution that pursues and destroys the would-be perpetrator of violence, as in the story of Judith in the Old Testament.  In modern times, the International Court may have punished some deserving criminals, but thousands of such others who take part in wars and genocide as in Rwanda go unpunished.

‘Honour killing’ is a laughable term that would never be in vogue had it not been for society’s indifference to the plight of women. The wheels of justice move very rarely  and rarely even with the courage and persistence of victims such as Pakistan’s Mukhtaran Bibi who chose to live and fight after her terrible ordeal. Only a person like Phoolan Devi of the Chambal region (India’s Bandit Queen) can take matters in her own hands and deliver merciless justice to the heartless. She too perished at the hands of an assassin years later.

Some of the novels published by Bayeux explore these issues. Unfortunately, there are no answers.