Culture & the reason for the obnoxious rage at Ranjini Haridas

Sandhya's assessment of the Malayalee man's anger at Ranjini Haridas may be spot on, but it misses out one key variable that's at the root of such anger.


Before I get to explaining why a resident culture is to blame for such obnoxious anger-behaviour, let me first address the shaping of the human psyche. To evaluate an underlying psyche that gets exhibited via behaviour one has to make an assessment of harboured attitudes. Attitudes people harbour are a result of learning. Much of social attitudes come via social learning. Such social learning starts within the family and gets extended to what's imbibed via community. Communities in turn draw from culture. In fact such learning at a personal level combined with inherited genes are pretty much why people have personalities, including obnoxious ones.

If you live in Kerala (extend that to India) you are almost all the while taught via culture that women find value only through their 'conformance' to masculine norms. Note such norms are in place legitimised by what culture considers appropriate. (Also note such norms even extend to people of lower castes.) Therefore what is appropriate in India is for women to stay submissive to men, operating within strictures laid out by men. Step out of such norms legitimised by culture, meaning if you flirt with or live out non-conformance you will be branded not worthy enough. Not worthy enough automatically means you are subject to scorns, the way Ranjini is. Note the judgers of non-conformance aren't just men, they include as many women too (though they may not be as vocal). Also, non-conformance is always judged on a relative scale, which explains why the scorn heaped on Ranjini far exceeds the kind Manju Warrier is subject to. You see, Ranjini is out and out non-conformist in Kerala's eyes. Manju on her part is currently lurking on the edges, which is why she isn't subject to the the filth Ranjini is.

In my the book, the principle reason behind the anger against Ranjini is her abandonment of conformance to cultural norms, and her merry acceptance and exhibition of her non-conformance (way to go, Ranjini!). You see, for the likes of Ranjini to find acceptance, Malayalees (men and women) must alter their current obnoxious attitudes, which will then automatically see an abandonment of their obnoxious behaviour. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an impossibility as long as current cultural norms operate. Which means a new set of norms must arrive and take root for Ranjini to expect better behaviour.

I am convinced a change will happen, and is happening. The change I look forward to isn't happening because reformists have sprung up within the current cultural set-up. The change is happening and will be completed over a few future generations thanks to technology and its applications. Rapid changes in the media landscape have ensured a quicker arrival of a foreign libertarian culture into India. Such a foreign culture that stands for libertarian ideas, that puts in place values and beliefs that give women the right to choose, is why attitudes have a chance at changing in India, and of course in Kerala.

How long will such change take is debatable. In my book, it will probably take another two generations for us abandon what we currently hold as the base to our obnoxious behaviour. Until then the likes of Ranjini will be 'subject to' what the Kerala populace sees as wilful abandonment of our 'cultural values'.



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