Sunday, November 11, 2007

Child prostitution and India

Yesterday I was at Kutichak's place in Ste-Agathe and we got into a conversation with a guest about India. As is often the case in Hare Krishna circles, Kutichak at one point launched into an ardent defense of India. It is easy for Westerners to see all the negative that is there in India--the poverty is usually what springs to mind first, but the litany of complaints piles up pretty quickly when one tries to live or function there.

But something that is little discussed is child prostitution. Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, who often writes about third world issues, wrote this article about The 21st century slave trade, indicating that this very unsavory practice is alive and well in India. Pedophilia is apparently a deeply-rooted sickness that has adepts in all corners of the globe. Marcus Gee's report in Saturday's Globe and Mail (For today's pedophiles, it's all too easy) about child sex tourism shows the extent to which such activities are prevalent in Thailand and plays up the Canadian sex-tourist angle.

Recently, the CBC showed a good documentary on Doc Zone about the new "sexual revolution" in China. Under Mao, women were "desexed" by putting them in the same baggy uniforms that men wore, with hair cut short and participating side by side with their brother revolutionaries. Sexuality was seen as inimical to the task of nation building, despite Mao's apparently insatiable appetite for young virgins. Needless to say, this resulted in a profound dissatisfaction with life itself. With China's economic opening up, this ethos has been energetically cast aside.

Just looking at these three rather different snapshots of different aspects of sexual morality in different societies, I don't think that I have any specific solutions. Sexual liberation in Western societies has not rid us of pedophiles; their appetites cannot be satisfied; no amount of commitment to personal liberty can trump the need to protect children from this cruelest lesson of material life: People are just out to use and abuse you; they will eat you up and throw you away. There is no real limit to evil.

The Chinese sexual revolution is not exactly a beacon of hope. It just shows how sexuality is the driving force in the mode of passion and the push for material prosperity. Dharma --> artha --> kama. The sexual repression of the early communist days (something similar happened in the long, cold days of the USSR also), was also a manifestation of rajas--where a little awareness of the benefits of delayed gratification is present. But the self-control of the modes of passion cannot last, because its raison d'être lies in the gratification that will come after the delay.

The other day I was listening to a radio program from Australia about a swingers' club in Sydney. It was pretty graphic for a national public broadcaster, I may say. But the participants who were interviewed seemed convinced of the beneficial effects of this primal, uninhibited orgiastic sexuality. One even went so far as to recommend it as a cure-all for society's ills. Somehow, I remain unconvinced of that. It's too one dimensional.

Let's take it as a given that no amount of gratification will satisfy the appetites:


na jātu kāmaḥ kāmānām upabhogena śāmyati
haviṣā krishnavartmeva bhūya evābhivardhate

You cannot quieten your desires by indulging them. By throwing clarified butter on the fire, it only becomes more enflamed. (BhP 9.19.14, Manu 2.94, Mahabharata 1.75.49, oft anthologized as well).
But repression is not a very successful strategy, either. Though the customary solution is found in Hitopadesa 4.97--



kāmaḥ sarvātmanā heyaḥ sa ced dhātuṁ na śakyate
sva-bhāryāṁ prati kartavyaḥ saiva tasya hi bheṣajam

Sexual desire should be given up with all your being, but if you cannot cast it aside, then direct it to your wife. She is the cure for sexual desire.

Despite having several difficulties with some aspects of what is stated here, this still is closest to the best approach. One has to add the bhakti/prema dimension.

In a sense, I feel as though I am somehow obligated to think that what I am attempting to devise here is a contribution to human society, somehow beneficial to at least some on the human spectrum. The point is simply that there IS a problem. And it is not wrong, really, to identify this as the central problem.

You cannot uproot or destroy the modes of ignorance. It is part of the plan for this world and I doubt that it will ever change. The Manichaean attempt to wipe out the darkness, to eliminate it forever, is pure foolishness. But it is possible for a culture of goodness to be established. In a world where the flames of sense gratification seem poised to roast us all alive, that kind of culture is needed more than ever.

Krishna bhakti is not about the mode of goodness, but when dealing with this world, we must support and ally ourselves with the representatives of sattva, wherever we find them.

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