Are we a forgiving species?

Scene – 1 : 2016 – India beats Pakistan on 27th February. While the match is largely remembered for Virat Kohli’s skillful 49 in a difficult situation, the true-blue fans of cricket also remember this match for a brilliant spell of blitzkrieg bowling by Mohammad Amir.

Scene – 2 : 2009 – One of the most successful captains ever for Indian cricket team – Mohammad Azharuddin gets elected as Member of Parliament from Moradabad. 

Scene – 3 : 2001 – American President Bill Clinton leaves office with the highest end-of-office approval rating for any President since World War II. 

Seemingly unrelated events but critical apropos to the point I have to make. Mohammad Amir is back after serving a 5 years ban in light of spot-fixing allegations on him. Mohammad Azharuddin came out from a life long ban after match-fixing allegations. Bill Clinton was almost impeached for the White House scandal pertaining Monica Lewinsky and he came back to find greater acceptance in public.
Though there can be many such examples that can be cited but I suppose the point has been made. The question is what does it take for humans to forgive and forget. What goes into our mind when we think – ‘Alright, let it be.‘? Why are a few people easily forgiven but a few are completely erased from memory? A recent article on Huffington Post discussed about the ironical contrast between the fates of Sanjay Dutt and Zaibunnisa Kazi who were found guilty of almost identical crimes. While one has been released on the basis of his ‘good conduct‘, the other one languishes in jail without anyone paying any heed to her conduct. There are many such examples that can be put on the table to substantiate the fact that we tend to forgive and forget differently depending on how we bond with the individual in question. While Salman Khan was fighting his Hit & Run case, the entire Hindi film industry and his fandom had come to support the man without waiting for the court proceedings to get over. I do not know whether justice was delivered but to come out in support of an under-trial man without studying the case and without understanding the (un)available evidence, was preposterous to say the least. There were very few voices in the film fraternity and outside who kept quiet, preserving their sanity while the trial was underway.

We need to think this through. Are we biased towards the people who are in public life? Are we biased for the people who we love perhaps more than ourselves? Why do we react differently to different people who have hurt us in some way? Let’s discuss a case here that might help –

Asaram Bapu has been a hugely followed religious figure in our country. With that, all such religious leaders also have perhaps equal number of detractors who either maintain an antipodal position or remain indifferent to their presence. When Asaram Bapu was arrested in 2013 for sexually assaulting a 16 years old girl, the followers cried conspiracy. The detractors cried vindication. I doubt if the number of followers decreased drastically. People like me who keep looking for ideas from different sources without deifying the source might have shut their doors on him but the core followers generally stick. Are these followers blind? Do they believe nothing of such sort happened or are they just forgiving the person in question?

Let us now change the setup – say, a husband and a wife. You will find different kinds here as well. One – where he denies till he witnesses the act of cheating by his own eyes or by an admission from her. Interestingly, there are people who tend to forgive even after learning the culpability. A classic case is presented in Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics)
when Stepen Oblonsky‘s affair is exposed to his wife – Darya Oblonskaya. Throughout the story, Darya isn’t able to forgive Stepen but has to compromise and be with him with the knowledge of his misdemeanors. So, do we accept Tolstoy and conclude that we just make compromises to keep our feelings for a person on ventilator? One of the reasons for Darya to not leave Stepen was her financial dependence on him. Times have changed now. Women have greater financial independence and as a result, we see a spike in the number of divorces year on year basis, but we will be making a huge mistake if we believe that financial dependence converts into forgiveness. There are these second kind of people who forgive no matter what you do. Therefore, the right question here would be – Did Dolly (Darya) still love Stepen? The answer I find is yes, she did.

I believe human brains are wired that way. People who we love and can’t live without, we tend to forgive them more easily than the ones we can live without. As a result, we see parents forgiving their children more often than not. Now, can one not live without a Salman Khan or a Sanjay Dutt? Not counting their immediate family members, I think it is our love for them that blinds us and we are not ready to believe that they could be wrong. Personally, I was having a difficult time when Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was campaigning for Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav a few years ago and I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was when he severed his ties with them.

I don’t have a definite answer to why this happens. Thinking about all of it, I think there are two kinds of people we tend to forgive –
1. people who we love and can’t live without. 
2. people who we look up to or have in some way made them a part of our being. 

We run the risk of supporting wrong people at times in such cases. A great conflict is seen in how we respond to the decisions made by the courts of law. If I hate Asaram Bapu, no matter what the court says, I shall find him guilty. If I love Salman Khan, my facebook status will read something like – “I knew it. Didn’t I say he was innocent? Indian judiciary rocks!” This can be resolved if we start supporting/opposing the acts of people instead of the people in absoluteness. To appreciate/criticize the act and not the actor is not an easy job though. It is a heart-wrenching feeling to see your Hero falter; you tend to shrug it off as an aberration rather than routine.

I hope Mohammad Amir makes use of the opportunity and makes it count. I believe forgiving is a good thing and people must be given a second or a third chance to set things right. It is a healing touch, an ability that we have and must make use of. We know the rules of evolution – disuse leads to extinction. Let’s not let the skill of forgetting and forgiving disappear.

I am not an authority on human psychology. If you (the reader) are, please shed some light on such a contradiction of human life in the comments section. Thank you. 

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