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Human Cruelty

Monday March 21 2005 08:17 IST

By Karmayogi

The world is in love with Love, but shuns cruelty. There is no use saying that philosophically love is the reverse form of cruelty. We are not living philosophically, but leading practical lives.

As years pass by, human cruelty decreases. School children being beaten up till they bled is no longer an acceptable behaviour. Punishment is replaced by discipline.

As a rule, the earlier the period we examine, the greater the cruelty permitted. It does credit to the Indian civilisation that 2500 years ago a king officially renounced war because it was cruel.

Individual instances of exquisite compassion, as depicted in Edwin Arnolds Wounded Swan, though isolated, are still a feather in the Indian cap. Sibi Chakravarthy offering his own flesh to save a hunted bird is literature.

The deeply embedded Spirit of India showed itself as aspects of compassion to the dreaded victim. In the measure a nation officially gives up ways of cruelty, she is considered civilised.

Historians who have a mass of data on every conceivable behaviour of the collective to the Individual are in a position to construct a scale of progress of societies, as evidenced by their official status.

At every turn of events, legislation is passed, an event is reported, an eye-witness records. These are landmarks of human progress.

It was given to the Britisher to legally prohibit the habit of suttee, the burning of a widow along with the husbands body. The very existence of suttee alongside a high ideal of non-violence proves the rule that opposites are always true.

Towards the end of the 17th century, the witch-hunt in America reached a climax. In a particular case, a good many people were jailed, interrogated, compelled to confess and hanged when they refused.

One man sturdy in mind refused to speak, as he vigorously resented the brutality of the law. There was a law that one who committed contempt of court could be pressed to death by heavy stones. He was so tortured to death.

The extremity of their action perhaps revealed to their inner eyes the brutes that they were. The special court was dissolved, the habit of pressing one to death was given up.

Humanity outgrows its cruelty thus, but not without an intense taste of it once as a parting shot. Perhaps India, having reached the fourth place in the scale of corrupt nations, is undergoing a similar experience.

Maybe the experience is not yet over. Personally one can see in ones own life whether his cruelty rises or decreases. If so, what were the landmarks in his life of such a changeover to humanity or greater cruelty.

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