“Crime on rise!!” screams every newspaper today. Every person worth their words talks about changing the society to reduce crime. We need to change the way we look at things. What things? No one has a definite answer.

Why do you think crime occurs? Or even before that what is crime? Is it only murder, rape, violence? Or is crime a denial of rights? Is it ok to commit smaller crimes if I don’t commit bigger ones?

Crime is everywhere. Unfortunately most of them get blanketed by the bigger “news worthy” crimes. It has been ingrained in us that unless someone dies or is maimed or loses their “virtue” there is no crime.

According to me crime is denial of choice. This is one of the main reasons crime occurs. We may rant about broken families, poverty, abuse etc but the truth of the matter is that we are not taught to respect choices.

It starts very young. I remember attending the naming ceremony of a child. The poor kid was handed over to each and every relative despite its screaming protests. It was more important not to hurt the sentiments of the relatives than to see the comfort of the child. The kid’s choice didn’t matter. How can a kid that young have a choice? He/she may not have a choice about people but it has a choice about comfort or discomfort, right? Should we not respect that?

This continues through childhood. What we eat, when we eat, how we eat or sleep is pre-decided by the clock and not by choice. There was a joke that I read which said “The number of sweaters worn by the child is directly proportional to how cold the mother is feeling”.

We never learn to respect choices. Neither our own nor of others.  That someone could have a different way of thinking is not acceptable to us. It is not about not being able to respect someone else’s religion or faith, we do not respect any choice.

Think of the last time you went out with a group of friends. A couple of them chose not to come and were judged as spoil sports. Someone wore mis-matched clothes, he/she has no “choice” in clothes. And then there is the eternal debate between the vegetarians and non vegetarians.  If we can’t respect choices among friends where do we stand with the rest of the world?

Forget the serious matters, we are not even accepting that people can have different choices of how they want to have fun. An adventurer will ridicule the choice of a party goer who will ridicule the book worm. Isn’t fun a personal choice?

Let us have a look at our media especially our movies and television. How do they portray choices? The first thing that comes to my mind is the dialogue “uski naa mein bhi haan hai”. The hero of the movie happily ignores the wishes and the personal space of the girl he desires. He is shown to go to any extent to win her over despite she stating her choice clearly. From hiring fake goons to forcing her to dance with him everything is justified till the time she changes her choice. And this is the good guy in the whole movie???

What does this teach the impressionable generation watching this ridiculous disrespect of choice? Does it not encourage a person to believe that it is okay to ignore a girl’s protest? Does it not show that it is okay to force your choice on to a girl? Or that the girl has no right to say no? Does this not indirectly justify the crime against women?

How many times have we heard of lovers killing their object of affection because they could not accept their “no”. How many times have rapes happened because the choice of the girl was not respected? And how many times have suicides happened because one could not accept a difference in choice.

Why is it so difficult for us to respect the choices of someone else? Have we groomed ourselves that way?

There was this kid who came crying to his mother because no one wanted to play the game he wanted to play. The mother’s quick solution was “then don’t play with them”. Why? So if you don’t agree with my choice I will not be friends with you?

I remember a little girl who was angry with her dad. The poor father in all his wisdom had ordered the daughter’s favourite food in the restaurant. “So why are you angry? Did you not want to eat it?”, I asked. “No I wanted to eat exactly that but still he could have asked me what I wanted!!!”. So much wisdom in that little tantrum. We often presume we know what the other wants and we take away the right to choose.

One thing that is worse than not respecting the choice of someone else is ignoring your right to choose.

More often than not we see crime as an act of circumstances. Something that the protagonist does when he/she has “no choice”. Does that mean that all people in the same circumstances will behave the same way? No it does not.

While it is true that circumstances have a great bearing on the decision we make but ultimately it is a matter of choice. We often perceive ourselves as a helpless victim of our circumstances. What we forget is that the perception is also a matter of our choice. The circumstances may not be under my control but what I choose to do about those circumstances will always be a matter of my choice.

The choices that we make may not always be the best. Sometimes my choice and the choice of others will clash. But a respect for choices will take me long way.

Life is like a shopping mall. A wide variety of choices on display. Whether I choose the one that best suits me or whine about them not having the right size is a matter of choice.

 

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary

Working as a clinical psychologist since last 17 years. This blog is an attempt to raise awareness about the importance of mental health by combining the knowledge of psychology with day to day issues.

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