After a quick puff of the gateway drug, I settled down for dinner. We were joined by some cousins who have decided Amsterdam is the place to temporarily put tent while figuring out ways to permanently flee India. I was slightly giddy from the haze, moderately peaced out and extremely hungry. So read further with a pinch of salt.
Vegetarians and Food
Very rarely do Indian vegetarians comes across as genuinely nice people when talking about food (with due apologies to the rare good ones I have met). One of the people we were eating with was one such grating character. His first words out were that he was a vegetarian by choice (a common and harmless enough salvo). Then he went on to add that he was a Tam Brahm (not a very crucial piece of data) and that he gave up eating chicken for health reasons like we would eventually without doubt end up doing. By now, even through the floating unicorns I could feel a slight sense of discomfiture. He rounded off his introduction by announcing that he magnanimously allowed his wife to cook “chicken or whatever it is that she eats” in the afternoon when he is not home.
Over time I have learnt to block out such furniture occupants, especially on my dinner table, but this time we were eating Ethiopian food where we were all supposed to be sharing one plate and all the dishes. If there is one thing more annoying than a hereditary vegetarian at dinner, it is the hereditary vegetarian who claims “I have no dietary restrictions, please choose a place” and then bombards the waiter with a dozen embarrassing questions about each dish and then make a disgusted/disappointed face when explained.
As mentioned earlier, I want to re iterate that I was not in my senses. So he could have been a real gentleman and it was the weed playing tricks on me.
Then came the conversation of taxation. That necessary revenue stream by recognized sovereigns to ensure public services and goods. As Indians, we naturally are skeptical about any services provided by an elected government. But even by those standards, it does not take a lot of living in Netherlands to observe that the government actually does put thought into how they spend the money conscientiously. The roads are amazing. Public health services are commendable. Schooling is efficient. Safety is a guaranteed afterthought. Work life balance is ensured because of employee friendly labor laws that prevents hiring and firing at will. In short, one can safely assume that I failed to see how too much taxation is a bad thing to anyone other than the hit and run migrant worker looking to amass as much wealth without worrying about the damage they are wreaking on a well spun societal fabric.
When were were leaving I was doubly sure that it was the spliff playing tricks on me. They were such a nice couple.
This is where it gets tricky. The Dutch seem to have taken an extremely practical approach to sex trade. If a customer is in need of sex, and there is a person who is willing to sell it, maybe all it needs is transparency. In large parts I agree with it. Without judgement of the ethics behind buying and selling love, sex and other miscellaneous human foibles, the approach works. The sex workers are guaranteed licenses, legal protection, taxation and social welfare. This almost takes the pimp out of the equation.
The danger of prostitution stems mainly from rapidly closing exit options and shady customers who take advantage of the helplessness of the sex worker to reach credible medical and legal personnel. The dangers of a rogue john is still high, and the job description leaves out more hazards than perks, but at least the sex worker is in the spotlight and not left to flounder in the black market of quacks and pimps.
Is this a fool proof way of sex trade? No. Is this a long term career? Probably not. Does this prevent girls being forced into the trade and parting with their profits? No. But within the confines of many boundaries, the evils are contained.
The Banality of Shopping for Sex
The often overlooked aspect of the moral policing industry is the moralistic stand on monetizing sex. Mostly we happen to have an opinion on the sex worker. Very rarely on the customer. There is a tendency to view the purchase as demeaning, unnecessary and defeatist. Why pay for something that you can get from a loved one?
There is an underlying assumption that fidelity is an unassailable virtue, love is supreme, is embodied and enshrined in marriage. That love cannot be shared, is monogamous and pious. That the need for sex is lecherous, lascivious and lacks imagination.
I find the psychology of the customer, not the violent pervert, but the regular Joe much more interesting. How they rationalize the trespassing, the philosophizing husband who goes home with a straight face and unharmed conscience. The compartmentalized common sense of a lusty individual’s satiated logic.
How with a pat on the back, a circle of friends can condone someone’s adventures but without fail quote “but I won’t do it of course”. How many unfulfilled fantasies are subliminally catered to through books, music, arts,workouts and clothing. How conditioning defines sexuality.
How easy it is to judge an action. A profession. A person.