The high moral ground is very slippery!

In my post Everybody is human, I had stated one simple truth that many of us ignore at our own peril: the fact that a person is highly educated and/or well-placed and/or wealthy and/or enjoys a good reputation does NOT mean that person will not succumb to the temptation of committing a crime. Little did I know that, less than a week before I had written this post, one Tarun Tejpal had, in his own words “violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between” himself and a young lady who happens to be his colleague’s daughter, his colleague and his daughter’s friend by a “shameful lapse of judgement” that led him “to attempt a sexual liaison” with her “on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013,” despite her “clear reluctance that” she “did not want such attention from” him.

The victim has described how, in text messages expressing concern that she had spoken about the attempted sexual liaisons to his daughter, the same Tarun Tejpal had used expressions like “What an absence of any understanding of a parent child relationship” and “Will let time and my love heal what it can”, and “Don’t think I’ve been more saddened in the longest time”.

On the one hand, this man was trying to tell the young woman that she should respect the fact that he is a devoted father with immense concern about his daughter’s feelings. On the other hand, this man had, in his own words, “attempted sexual liaison” with a young woman to whom he was a father-figure despite the young woman’s “clear reluctance”, thus displaying little or no regard for her feelings. This is what most people have found most outrageous about this incident. They say the young woman’s reluctance is immaterial. Even if she had forced herself upon him, he should have had the moral strength to abstain from such a horrible act.

People’s outrage is perfectly justified.

But isn’t there a large element of hypocrisy here?

I’ve come across many teenage boys who are very protective about their own sisters, but who themselves indulged in what they called ‘harmless fun’, but others called ‘eve-teasing’.

I know men who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of women, young and old, in their own families, but who have absolutely no qualms about circulating explicit photographs or videos of other women who are young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters. True, these men have not done what Tarun Tejpal has allegedly done, but this is not because they are morally upright. It’s simply because they have not had the opportunity. If they get the opportunity to do what Tarun Tejpal did, and are reasonably confident that they will not be caught, most men would go ahead.

I’m sure, before this incident came to light, Tarun Tejpal himself would have expressed outrage if another man “attempted sexual liaison” with a young woman to whom he was a father-figure despite the young woman’s “clear reluctance”!

Let us all remember that the high moral ground is very slippery!

Please do share your thoughts.

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16 thoughts on “The high moral ground is very slippery!

  1. The higher in society the culprit, the greater is his culpability. I don’t know how they believe they are invulnerable and cannot be touched – earlier there was a senior supreme court counsel spokesman of a national party, then comes a justice of the supreme court, asaram bapu and now tarun tejpal who have both the impunity and audacity to molest. Chemical castration is the only punishment, though it may sound harsh. With increasing minors committing rapes the Juveniles Act has got to be suspended if not withdrawn in toto.

    • “Impunity and audacity to molest” exists mainly because the chances of being exposed are low. Secondly, the perpetrators are confident that they can get away if at all the matter is reported. Both these factors need to be addressed. Most importantly, victims of rape/molestation should feel confident to report such crimes. For this, the police/legal system and the media must ensure that the victim’s identity is protected and details of the complaint(s) are kept totally confidential.

  2. If it were not for the media focus & glare this too would have gone without notice. Who remembers the Infosys case today?
    As for the high & mighty & double standards, it is somehow normal that they behave like it’s their right to do so. Maybe it’s to do with our centuries old culture.

  3. The color of what is just is very different from different perspectives, Pro. People think nothing of doing something that they would readily oppose when someone else did it. It is sad, but the truth. A sense of justice comes from within. And it takes a very very strong conscience to listen to that voice.

    • I agree that a sense of justice comes from within. But we cannot rely on each person’s sense of justice. There should be very strong deterrents that make potential perpetrators think ten times before committing a crime.

  4. Absolute love the title of the post and completely agree with it. When people take a stand on such important topics, that too so publicly, they have to do all they can to ensure that they behave in a manner which supports their moral high stand. And in this case, Tarun Tejpal and his brand of investigative journalism suddenly seem so hollow after all that has happened and been reported over the past week.

  5. Your observation is really outstanding & eye opening. Moral policing for self, profession & society could be different, & how one manages is important.

  6. I completely agree with you. When incidents such as these happen, there is a huge public out-burst and every one is going all guns blazing against the criminal. I feel that incidents such as these should strengthen the way we teach our children morals. Having high moral values should be the main objective. We don’t just need successful candidates who finish MBA, B.Techs from ‘world-class’ institutions, but people who value morals above any degree. As one rightly put it, education should change egos into gentlemen. And what an apt title to the post. Liked it a lot.

  7. The case involving President Clinton and the intern probably fits this category. Obviously different societies have slightly different value systems. I think in US they frown upon financial dishonesty much more than sexual dishonesty whereas in our desh it is the other way round. Clinton though impeached for his inappropriate conduct did not lose power. He is still a highly valued public speaker respected for his ongoing good deeds of public service. Take the case of Rajat Gupta who also did a lot of good deeds. One little phone call to a ‘friend’ – a human need – was taken unfair advantage of and put him inside for ‘insider trading’ ! But I am sure he will come out of this just like Martha Stewart did as public memory being short will forget and forgive.

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