February 9, 2009

Grey Matters

This series of posts is written in collaboration with my mental-twin, Vidhya. We're calling it the VJ Diaries.

As children we are taught how some things are right and some are wrong. It's pretty simple, really. You copy on a test - that's wrong. You report someone who bullied you to the teacher - that's right. Lying is definitely a big resounding wrong. Easy enough, right? Well, at that tender age, probably yes. As we grow up, the matters that concern us are not so simple, nor are the answers to the seemingly simple question - Is that the right thing to do? The motivation behind this post was a recent discussion that we were having. It was based on the movie, A Wednesday. You can read a short review here. At it's core the discussion involved the ending of the movie, as to whether it was 'right' for the police officer to let the civilian who got 4 terrorists killed go scot-free or not. However, the discussion transcended the movie and went on to generic issues as well. On how it was no longer a simple yes or a no answer (black or white) once issues increased in complexity. Take the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 26/11 for example, can one completely answer the basic question of - Should the last remaining terrorist, Kasab, be given a lawyer for defence? The answer to this question is likely to vary with every person that you ask, based on their connection to the Mumbai attacks, based on whether they lost someone they knew in it, based on whether they live/lived in Mumbai, have family there and probably a million other factors. Sure, the textbook answer, if we were still children, would be pretty black n white - Yes, legally he is required to be given a lawyer. It's not that easy when your age and comprehension of matters increase. It all fades into a zone somewhere in between... something grey - an answer with arguments playing on both sides, something that different factions of people will agree/disagree with - the grey area.

In life, you either turn out to be a black n white person or a grey person. Most of us knowingly fit into the grey zone. You are surely 'greyed' if you've ever considered the other side of things in any matter. Killing someone for instance is a crime punishable with death. However what about cases where it was self defense or life long emotional and physical abuse (as shown in the movie "Provoked")... The black n white people would be crystal clear in claiming murder is murder and punishment should be irrespective. However if you contend that circumstances of the crime should be an essential factor in deciding the punishment, you sure as hell are a 'grey' person. And it's far easier to forgive/forget things and view things objectively when you are not at it's core. Take the Mumbai attacks again, it's all faded away in the hearts and minds of many living abroad who've never lived in Mumbai or don't have family there, etc. only because it's hard for them to relate to and not because they don't care. The fire for justice still burns strong in everyone else who's actually more involved in it and that is why so many of us think it's ridiculous for some lawyers to offer to represent the lone remaining terrorist for a 'fair trial'. I bet the family of the terrorist, however against all reason, hope something comes off it and the guy is spared. It's all about perception and the side/faction to which you belong.

The other thing is that obviously the black n white people and the grey people don't see eye to eye on many things. While the grey people realize the fact that most of our decisions and views are colored by our emotions, the black n white people probably (Don Quixote-cally) view everything in terms of logic. Logic. Logic is something that entirely justifies things but can also be just as easily thrown out of the window by any other strong human emotion. That doesn't make logic wrong. It just means that logic has been overpowered and most often, quite involuntarily. How many times have we been caught in a situation of having done something illogical because of love/anger/hate or anything else? Quite a few, I'd bet. Eventually it's upto us to accept that while in life, being black n white would probably make a pretty picture, nothing really is. It's all pretty muddled.. All monochrome n grey.


Ramu uncle said...

I dont think there is something called absolute including black & white. It is also a relative term, may be called grey. We are all grey probably with few unknown exceptions.
The whole world revolves around two words, LIKES & DISLIKES. All others Good/bad, just/unjust, truth/false,honest/dishonest etc etc are used for matter of convenience.

Jaya said...

Ramu uncle -> The reason the discussion came up in the first place is bcoz we encountered someone pretty fair n square, black n white and that set us thinking of they were one-of-a-kind or if hidden somewhere were lots of black n white people. And anyways, the context of the post made for a good discussion. Likes and dislikes can also be grey. For example, I like the idea and benefits of green tea but can't say much about it's taste. It's grey again. Thanks for the comment n keep visiting :)

krish said...

Interesting coz I was having a very similar discussion with a friend almost along the same lines. Our discussion wasn't abt the Mumbai attacks though. It was abt the US' war policy and how the different presidents were dealing with it and how it was any of the USA's business to regulate wars across the world n all that. But yeah, not that we went along to discuss "grey" people.. but we were playing Devil's Advocate amidst us where we were tyring to see the pros n cons of each situation hence. Good post.

Vidhya said...

Thanks krish.. The fact that u were trying to see the other side of things means you are a grey person :P

On a serious note the reason behind this post was basically the realization that the distinction between right wrong blurs as we grow. One would think maturity and knowledge makes the distinction easy but it has only made it harder.

AJ said...

this is a wonderful post. i loved the way u tied things in the movie, the recent mumbai attacks and how we view lying or not as good or bad. i had a recent discussion with someone regarding lying. the general consensus is that lying is wrong...however, sometimes u need to resort to it...becoz u gotta protect yourself or get out of situations.

AJ said...

lol...looks like everyone seems to be discussing this with others! i just saw other comments...great synopsis vidya and jaya...keep them coming!~

Jaya said...

AJ -> Glad that you agree. Well, yes, once you are old enough to discern the way the world functions there are excuses for almost everything. Thanks for visiting. And keep coming back

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