March 15, 2015

The Color of Relativity

India's Daughter and BBC – Belgian Professor speaks out:
The fallacy of hasty generalisation is commonly used in propaganda and the politics of fear. Now, it is part and parcel of the discourse about rape in India... India and the West could together look for solutions to the problems that we share. Instead, Western commentators reproduce old colonial stories about India as an immoral culture.

Oops! Do I see a "hasty generalization" lurking somewherwe in there? Hint: It's not only "India as an immoral culture".

If I were to respond to this article, will it be a response from an Easterner or a Westerner? After how many years as a US citizen do I qualify as a "Westerner"? How many generations should have passed before Leslee Udwin's India's Daughter is not deemed an "old colonial story about India as an immoral culture"? When is Einstein's "General Theory of Relativity" a White idea, and A.R. Rahman's "Maa, Tujhe Salaam" a Muslim song?

Ah, well, "identity" is a statistical fiction anyway, so let's stop belaboring that of the messenger, shall we? What is left?

In empirical analysis, identifying outliers (read also as deviants) and how to deal with them is a difficult problem. There is no incontrovertible solution, and practical modeling remains a black art. If you are unfamiliar with the statistics of outliers but interested, you may read this for starters: Outlier.

Rapists are outliers and rape is a deviant phenomenon, anywhere in this world, including in India. So is murder, pedophilia, and terrorism. How we deal with it, what laws we enact and enforce to curb the deviants, requires a rigorous and thoughtful analysis. And, do not expect everyone to agree with the conclusion. I know, because I have dealt with it often at the risk of several years of data collection, modeling and analysis being thrown into the trashcan.

One thing for sure. Do not can it before debate and analysis. Certainly not because the data was collected by a "Westerner", modeled by a colonialist's compatriot's great grand child, presented by a human with a womb, or whatever.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what the Government of India did by banning the film.

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