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Who’s Afraid Of A Little Love?

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We are really scared of love. Why? For we have been living suffocated lives where love is viewed as vulgarity. We are caught within our societal norms and toxic culture where it is okay and completely normal to exercise brutality, violence, street harassment, rape, domestic violence and sexual abuse publicly, but it is not okay for two consenting individuals to express love for each other in front of public. Here it is okay to watch stage dramas organized in state owned theatres where women are objectified and are subjected to sexist comments, body shaming and vulgar jokes that get a huge round of applause and laughter. But it is not okay for a consenting couple to convey feelings of love to each other and be respected and applauded for that. Here it is okay not to help a woman in the neighbourhood who is screaming her guts out because her husband is beating the life out of her – taking the view that it is their personal matter and we shouldn’t interfere. A public display of violence is OK but we dare not appreciate a couple engaged in a public display of affection. When the police is finally called to take action against the abuser, they try to make the victim understand that it happens in a marriage, so it is best to try and sort it out at home. Yet it is also okay when police drag a consenting couple to jail just because they were having a good time conversing with each other in some park.

And so, it is also okay to suspend two students from university because they celebrated love – but while never suspending extremist groups roaming around in university practicing violence on students and teachers!

A video went viral on social media recently. It was made in the University of Lahore, capturing a moment of love between two students in which a female student went on her knees to propose a male student for marriage, presenting him with flowers, which he accepted happily and gave her a side hug which was an expression of how overwhelmed he was. As expected in a conservative suffocated society, the video stirred controversy where the students received serious backlash from the public, who accused them of being vulgar and in defiance of our cultural norms.

After the viral video attracted a widespread reaction, the UOL administration formed a special disciplinary committee which held its meeting on Friday. The committee decided to expel the students for “violating the university’s rules and regulations and serious infraction of the code of conduct.” Furthermore, as per Section 16 of the General Discipline Rules and Code of Conduct on the Campus, the students have been debarred from entering the premises of the University of Lahore and all its sub-campuses.

The step taken by the university is being condemned by progressive elements in society. Quoting political activist Jibran Nasir as he took to Twitter on this issue, “A country where pedophiles are defended and protected in the name of child marriage and converting religion of little girls we are uncomfortable with two consenting adults expressing love for each other. We reduce our so called morals to a joke every day.”

The Progressive Students Collective (PSC) condemned this by calling it an act of moral policing, highlighting a serious issue prevailing in universities nowadays. “Moral policing in universities has become a norm lately. UOL’s action against students on their private matter is extremely condemnable. Ironically, there has been no swift action against known harassers and harassment cases on campuses.”

A lot of women specifically have to face virtue-signaling online by patriarchal men, which was very observable in the days around the recent Aurat March. In the aftermath of the Lahore university fiasco, a lot of men yet again resorted to virtue signaling by calling it obscenity and a violation of our culture.

The question remains that in a state which is one of the most dangerous places for women to reside in, why is there such extreme indignation over a public display of affection?

The answer could be found in the philosophy of the 19th century German philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche. As quoted by journalist and political scientist Syed Muzammil Shah in his recent talk, the dichotomy of master-slave morality of Nietzsche makes it clear that a slave rather than pursuing a path of self-mastery and developing his own morality from the scratch starts despising freedom, strength and the proclamation of virtue by an independent person. The slave asserts that anything which is unattainable for him is rather demonic and there is virtue in being slavish, weak and being herded like a flock. The slave thus develops an abhorrence towards freedom. Same is the case with people who feel wrathful about this particular public display of affection since they are the subjects of a state where gender segregation is normal.

Nietzsche also proposes a solution: that actions should not be judged according to their intentions rather from their outcomes. Since PDA has no adverse effects on society – nor is it threatening to anyone – there should be an exception and validation of such benign expression.

A revaluation of societal morality is the need of the hour. The state should hinder parochial indoctrination of its subjects. It should also facilitate progressive attitudes and exercises in society and put its weight behind scientific and economic advancement rather than conservatism and outdated norms – some of which it has recently been promoting in the garb of educational reforms and the promotion of ultra-nationalism.

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Naya Daur