Category Archives: Blog

Panic Buttons, Technology, and Women in India

Can a ‘panic button’ on a phone really help deter violence in India?

Last April India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, announced the government’s order that by 2018 all phones include a panic button and GPS. And this February, pan-India installation of panic buttons was slated to begin. Since then, a debate has raged about whether this is really a step forward to stem the tide of violence against women and girls.

There are a host of technical and access issues, of course. Most phones in India do not include GPS. Feature phones would be reconfigured to accept a single digit ‘alert’ number. Functionality is another issue: in 2016, Indian railways installed panic buttons in the ladies compartments of trains, only for it to be jammed with false prank calls.

But more importantly, do we really need yet another commercial device which serves only to delay the actual work necessary to change male behavior? Why are we dumping yet another burden on women to ensure their own safety? Inquiring minds want to know. 

India – Girls of Holy Family Update

July 2018

This is Namita who studied with me all the time I was in India. She eventually went out on her own and is now working in a call center in Gurgaon. We got together when I was back in July. She has grown to be a delightful young woman.


Sister Suja (right) was the Sister I spent the most time with at Holy Family. I last saw her in 2015 when I traveled to see her in Punjab, where she was transferred for two years. She is now back in Najafgargh. Her laugh is better than ever.

This young woman, surrounded by her husband and in-laws, is Yogita. She studied with me and went on field trips around Dehil while I was living there. Yogita later dropped out of school. She is now married and working in a shop. Suja Sister and I visited to meet her husband and in-laws.

I brought a weaving project so the girls could make something new. It was a school holiday when I visited, so many girls are away, but those who stay at Holy Family all summer are especially interested in new activities.

Education and Thought

Believe it or not, Chris Hedges wrote this in 2011, when our current political climate was nowhere on the horizon.

When you think about education and what it should do, contemplate this afresh:

The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves….

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.

From “Why the United States is Destroying its Education System”