Monday, July 13, 2009

Are we also criminals?

The other day I was pulled over at Panjim by a traffic cop for not wearing the seat belt. He asked for my license and enquired whether the car belonged to me. I replied affirmative. He told me that I had committed an offense by not wearing a seat belt. My mind started racing. What was the fine gonna be? Should I try to bribe him and get of lightly? Or should I pay the full amount? I decided to go with the flow. He didn’t seem to be interested in a bribe and proceeded to write a receipt. It turned out to be Rs 100.

I began thinking about my attitude to the whole incident. Would I have bribed him if it had meant a lesser fine? Bribing traffic cops is very common. But in doing so aren’t we cheating? Aren’t we stealing from our own country? The money given as bribe goes straight into the cop’s pocket. So in order to save some money we are ready to ignore our moral values. Now if you consider a rupee saved is a rupee earned, does bribing amount to stealing? Just because no one will catch us, we are ready to steal. So how are we different from thieves? And spare a thought for the honest officers who always issue receipts and the honest traffic rule violators who always pay the full fine. Both these honest parties are at a loss. Their crime? They are honest. Is this how we reward honesty?

I always felt thoughts are as important as deeds. In Christianity, having evil thoughts and intentions is also a sin. In short, most of the general public has the same mindset as a thief when it comes to bribing. Besides, there are other instances when we are ready to resort to unlawful behaviour when we are sure we will not be caught. I the feel, the only difference between us and criminals is that we lack the courage to do such things when there is a good chance of being caught and the result being public defamation and maybe even a jail sentence.

Another instance of bribery, albeit on a much smaller scale, commonly observed is in public buses. The conductor charges you less than the fare and doesn’t issue a ticket. Both you and the conductor are happy. It is a win-win deal. But doesn’t this amount to stealing from the corporation that runs the buses? And what about the honest conductors and commuters?

Take another example. Mob mentality. Violent protests are commonplace in our country. You see a huge mob going on a rampage destroying lives and property. Now the people of the mob draw courage from the fact that they are part of a huge group and the odds of being caught are negligible. So then we have normal people behaving like hooligans. Why? Just because they know they will not get caught. I know psychologists will have other reasons for mob mentality. But this is definitely one of the main reasons.

Then we have road rage. Incessant honking, rude facial expressions, obscene words and hand gestures are a common site on Indian roads. Why are people so rude on the road? Agreed driving is quite stressful. But you don’t see people abusing loudly when someone cuts the line at a post office or someone stamps your foot in the bus. Why? Again I feel it because of the ‘pay back’ factor. On the road there are no repercussion for bad behaviour. You just drive of, never to see the other party again. But at the post office or in the bus, you have to be in the vicinity of same people for at least a few minutes. So shame and guilt as a result of your abusive behaviour may force you to hold yourself back when offended.

Even brilliant minds are not free from this scourge. Take the ‘guest register’ at the I.I.Sc. mess. Here there is a system wherein non members can take meals at the mess by making entries in the guest register and paying the dues at the month’s end. It used to be a voluntary exercise until the authorities realised hardly anyone was making entries. How could mature and educated people think that they could save some money by cheating the mess contactor? And mind you I found the rates very reasonable for Bangalore. Again I feel it is the ‘I can get away with this misdeed’ factor.

So here we are then, lay ‘innocent’ people with a criminal mentality. We look down on the criminals who have been caught. But in reality, how different are we? It is just that we are lucky to be coward enough not to act on our evil thoughts. Jesus said, only a faultless person can cast a stone on a condemned sinner. It is time we clean up our thinking. Good words and deeds will automatically follow.


  1. very true...der was a buffet organised fr d indian interns in Berlin and it began wid a tea party...aftr seconds,the tea bags had all found their way into everyone's pockets...nt as much a misdeed as lack of manners...nonetheless related :P

  2. That was a simple optimisation technique.If that were the case. the Europeans who colonised are also thieves, the allies post world war stole everything from the axis are also thieves, the Indians placed in all the IT companies are also thieves, the Chinese just coz they can make cheap elctronics are also thieves. What differentiates an Opportunist from a thief? Bill Gates does that too.SO is he the richest thief in the world or are moral standards the ramification of intelligent beings who know how to preach and are idle enough to do so?

  3. europeans thieves? yes

    allies thieves? not really, dey had 2 recover watever damages caused 2 them due to the war.. if they took more, then they r thieves..

    indians thieves? no.. its just better economics 2 outsourse jobs 2 india.. maybe if the westerners charged less for labour then dis thing wudnt crop up..

    chinese thieves? sometimes.. wen dey copy R&D from other companies.. if the stuff is chiep just becoz of cheap labour then they r nt thieves.

    Bill Gates thief? I am nt sure on that.. yeah he did get sued in europe for destroying competition. I guess the law will take its course if he has wronged. After all MS is a public company..

    @chosen1.. if u steal tea bags at a shop u r a shop lifter.. if steal at a party, its only bad manners.. i guess it depends to the situation then!

  4. So money is the root of all evil?...or maybe it is greed, desire..; what is good then? Evil thought complemented with good actions or good thought complemented with evil accidents or call it fate?

  5. i m nt getting the point.. i m nt talking bout gud and evil. I m jus saying our thoughts count. I guess good is good thoughts wid good actions.. as i said in the last sentence of the post.. i dont know wat r evil accidents.

  6. @ ratpik -It all depends on how far anyone can go to meet their interests...everyone looks for their interests and its alright until it does not involve subjugation (economic, social or political) against any particular individual, community or nation...only if any one of the above happens, is the motive designated an unjust yes, some of them you mentioned are thieves.
    anyways as far as the activities at the bottom of the pyramid is concerned it all boils down to your conscience...!

    Daineee -- Nice post


  7. Interesting post. Though a lot of times people are forced to give bribe. A lot of times police just harass people in to giving it. Better to give 50 rupees and be let off then first haggle with the police officer, get your licence confisticated. The thing that is needed is pure discipline. Like in western countries. I recall a post by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in which he had said that Indians when they go abroad follow traffic rules, donot spit on pavement etc etc.

    Nice post. Never thought from this point of view.

  8. @nimit.. yeah if the cop is bent on getting a bribe, then i guess it will test ur will power 2 remain honest.

  9. Nice one... thought is actually where it all starts... though I would not agree with one thing. I am sure many of us, at times, have thoughts which will not be termed 'right' or 'correct', but it is not necessarily lack of courage that stops us converting them to action. We also possess a sense of right and wrong, and if after having the thought we realize its wrong, we end up not doing it. Punishment and infamy need not be the only hurdle, and I wouldn't call everyone a coward.

  10. Yeah there is a fine line there.. jus a passing desire is fine. I am talking about things you ponder for a while.. Like want material stuff yo cant get or wanting to hit someone who hate.. If you know ur thoughts are wrong who wouldnt think or at least want to think of them again..