Friday, August 13, 2004

Justice and Freedom

One of the most common refrains that I hear on news these days is "freedom". "Freedom from dictatorship", "Freedom of speech", "Freedom for gay marriages" etc... And underlying all these phrases is another complementary one: Justice. This word pops up often this being an election year. Both Pres. Bush and Kerry have been liberally sprinkling it in their speeches. "bring terrorists to justice", "upholding justice", "retaliation", "protection"....I get saturated listening to all these terms.

In moments of tranquillity, I wonder who are we to play judge and jury. Bush might hate Saddam but does that give him the right to depose him? The question boils down to whether we have the right to hurt and force a change on those we hate or disagree with. I might not like dictatorships but does that give me a right to convert all dictatorships to democracies? Are we really sure that the Iraqis wanted to be rid of Saddam? And if they did, what vested power did the rest of the world have in waging a war that was none of their business? Are they better off now with civil infighting and regular bomb blasts rocking their daily lives? And who said anyway that democracy somehow becomes a harbinger of prosperity and sanity? Does democracy and freedom prevent export of terror? Isn't the export of terror a reflection of a more basic problem unrelated to dictatorships/democracies?

Of course, one can always find millions of people who don't like their leaders. Even in America, I am sure we can find millions who don't like the Prez. In India, I can virtually guarantee that not many Indians would profess a love for their netas. But does that mean that all netas should be bumped off or deposed??? Hell, I might not like a person but I cannot just shoot their head off!

If one pauses to ponder all the issues involved in dispensing justice, a greater awareness dawns. And with greater awareness comes a sense of our own failings, mistakes, consequences of our actions and our place in the scheme of things. And this knowledge makes it hard to reach a decision because you see the consequences with crystal clear eyes....

I've asked a lot of questions and I am sure no one has definite answers to all of them. Sometimes, I think that it is better to be ignorant than to have knowledge. Knowledge is a double-edged sword and if the wielder is not skilled enough, it can cut violently and cause a lot of heartbleed.

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