The recent spurt in #MeToo, got me thinking about what makes people abuse power. Apart from all the laws and societal norms made to control deviant behaviour, the most important and foremost policeman resides in our head – our Conscience!

Surely when a man is misbehaving with a woman, a boss with an employee, a caregiver with a dependent, or a family in greed for dowry with the daughter-in-law, there would be a voice inside telling them – “this is wrong!” How do they manage this voice, tune it down or ignore it? How do most people live with themselves after committing such crimes? Several of them are dignified members of the society, perhaps even loving husbands and fathers or mothers, but they ALLOW themselves this deviant behaviour. They tell themselves – This much is Allowed! They wipe off the guilt by convincing their conscience that in the given circumstances, their behaviour is permissible. In this industry – it is allowed, in this community – this is allowed, in this organisation – this is allowed! But hey, who decides what is allowed? Does the perpetrator decide that touching is ok, as it is not same as rape. Is the boss allowed to abuse, as he is superior in position and holds the power to give the pink slip. Is the mother-in-law allowed to abuse, because, that’s how it has been for generations – she lived through it too – this much is allowed!

Where will the society be if each victim permits himself or herself to also victimise someone else – because – having been abused themselves, this much is allowed! Bollywood has to a large extent glorified revenge, setting off a vicious cycle of abuse and revenge abuse and exploitation of the weak. Yes, there are several views doing the rounds about why the victim didn’t speak up right then and there and stop the abuse, but we really do not have the ability to get into everyone’s shoes and know whether they had enough empowerment to do so. What power did the child in the orphanage have when he or she faced abuse? An employee desperate to earn a living and feed a family may not immediately have options to speak up and risk losing the job. A daughter-in-law facing abuse may not have an alternate roof on her head. Rather than keeping the onus on the victims, let us focus on what makes the perpetrator think he is allowed such behaviour. That he can go scot-free even in terms of the voice inside.

No law or authority will be able to fully control abuse of power in any form. It is upon us, Humans, to nurture our Conscience, listen to the wisdom of what ‘feels’ right and learn to say ‘No – this is not allowed’, Period!

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