Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Intolerance - the seed of a carnivorous monster!

Tolerance – a simple word and yet its attainment has become as elusive as the mythical fountain of youth. For a species that owes its existence theologically to the first 2 humans Adam and Eve and scientifically to the first Homo Sapiens that emerged out of Africa the amount of hate we show our own is astonishing. No animal kills its own species unless their lives or territories are threatened. Even then their fights are more a display of strength meant to scare rather than annihilate the other party. But humans are different.

We kill sometimes for the pure pleasure of watching others suffer, sometimes we kill the innocent whom we don’t even know in order to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, at other times we kill simply to make our point of view heard or accepted. The funny thing is that we also have justifications to make ourselves feel better about these acts of violence. Even the psychopathic serial killer will have some kind of justification for his behaviour – granted that the justification is warped and sick, but in his mind he is right. The rational for most of the other crimes are labeled as honour, self-preservation, justice, liberation, rebellion against oppression etc. But I feel at the heart of all these rationales is one root cause – intolerance.

As humans we have developed this great urge to be photocopiers, we only want people who are like us to be around us. Those who have wealth cannot tolerate the poor and similarly vice versa. Those who are corrupt cannot tolerate those who are on the straight and narrow. People in power cannot tolerate the helpless and the helpless cannot tolerate the powerful. Followers of one religion cannot tolerate the other religions and people from one geographic area cannot tolerate the rest of the world. And the worst part is that after all this intolerance towards everyone else at times we cannot even tolerate ourselves. Our sub-conscious tells us that there is something not right within us and our life is not as it should be and that is where our internal intolerance manifests itself as depression and even aggression. But being humans we readily find another external source for our intolerance and put all our energies into resisting that reason.

I am no fool and I am certainly not in search of Utopia. I know that as long as we inhabit the planet violence will be a part of our civilization. It started with Kane and Abel and will continue to the end of the world. Tribes, kingdoms, countries and civilizations have always gone to war and will keep doing so. But there is one big difference between the past and present – in the past wars were fought by soldiers defending their people’s right to live. Today we kill because we feel the others do not have a right to live.

We have got to come to terms with the fact that the beauty of this world lies in its diversity, if we do not agree with someone's philosophy it does not give us the right to decide that they should be terminated. We tend to cover up our most heinous crimes under the guise of morality and ethics, because then we convince ourselves that we were right. The next time you catch yourself or someone else implying that certain people or even entire communities are in some way lesser than us in terms of morals and ethics be scared, be very very scared because this is the seed that grows into a full fledged carnivorous monster in no time at all.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Vote For - None Of The Above

Years ago I saw a movie - I'm not sure but I think it was Brewsters Millions. In the movie the lead character starts a campaign 'Vote For None Of The Above' which was meant to be a nonsensical way of wasting money which became a full fledged movement. Although it just seemed very funny at that time, I'm now beginning to think if there was some wisdom in it after all.

I know most of us keep talking of democracy and how we need to give it time to strengthen etc etc. But come election time and what do we do? Do we really select the best candidate for the job of representing us? Or is our choice based on opting for the lesser of the evils being offered to us? During elections we make huge ethical compromises which have massive consequences. Often we elect people who are incompetent, corrupt and thoroughly devoid of all morals just because they represent the political party which we support, and at other times we select candidates who seem a bit more benign, a bit more competent than their opponents. Sometimes we make up our minds based on who we were against in the last term or even on the basis that we haven't tried a particular candidate or party before so why not give them a chance? We choose our hairdressers with more caution than this!

Perhaps, at least for a while in our country the concept of "Vote For None Of The Above" isn't such a crazy idea after all. Think about it - if we don't vote it doesn't really make any difference to the outcome, it simply decreases the volume of total votes and even worse somebody else votes on our behalf without our even being aware of it. But if there was a space for "None Of The Above" then we could cast our votes and show our choice of rejecting the candidates on offer. If the majority votes are cast for "None Of The Above" new elections with fresh candidates must take place in that constituency.

Now I know most of you are saying 'how impratical' or even 'how can we afford to waste so much money?' Well our so called 'practical' approach hasn't worked so far so why not be a bit crazy? As for the expense, frankly I would rather that I was wasting my own tax money myself than the politicians and bureaucracy - at least I will get an immense amount of satisfaction and empowerment from it! By-the-way folks for those who take everything they read seriously and consider it their civic duty to convert people who have insane ideas - chill! This is not meant as a way of starting a movement, just my frustration manifesting itself as craziness and in this very sane world blogs are perhaps the last frontier of insane ideas.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

And The Winner Of The Blame Game Is ....

Lately I seem to be getting more and more angry. My anger is not directed towards any person in particular, it is not directed towards the ‘West’ as seems to be the popular past time these, days nor is it directed at our Pakistani government – the last one just makes me laugh hysterically in despair, not anger. I am angry at the rampant hypocrisy running wild amongst our nation.

We are a nation that starts to wave the banner of Islam at the slightest, most trivial issue, which claims that it is founded on the ideology of Islam and which is so very concerned with the rituals of the religion that they are willing to take up arms on the mere differences in which these rituals are practiced. Yet the very reason any religion needs to be followed i.e. love, tolerance, equality, joy and salvation are completely ignored. Religion is supposed to give us courage to face our challenges and yet we seem to have become a nation who finds great solace in blinding ourselves to our problems. Religion is supposed to make you accountable for your own actions so that you correct and repent whenever you stray from the right path, yet we hold everyone responsible for everything that goes wrong – except ourselves.

Avoidance of responsibility is our best defense against everything. In our individual capacity we blame the society, our bosses, our colleagues, our relatives, our social structure, our destiny etc for everything that goes wrong in our lives. As a nation we blame our government (it doesn’t really matter who is in power, we’ve been doing this for decades) anti-Islamic forces, vested interests, global economy and global politics for everything that goes wrong in the country. Never once have I come across anyone who says ‘my life sucks because of my own choices’ or ‘the only person who I can blame for my failure is me’.

This avoidance of responsibility is taught to us at a very early age by over protective parents. Children especially teenagers are hardly ever given the chance to make their own decisions hence they are never taught to understand the concept of being responsible of the consequences. Since we have never been given the confidence to make our own choices and stick by them, as we grow older and more mature we panic when faced with any major decisions in life. We tend to seek advice of anyone and everyone we can get hold of, not because we want to improve the quality of our decision, but so that in case anything goes wrong we can turn to all these people and say ‘I asked you and you told me to do this’ – basically we line up people upon whom we can shift the blame.

As a nation we bring this characteristic into our politics as well as economy. The capacity of every Pakistani to find, discuss, and analyze convoluted conspiracies in the most mundane incident is amazing, we put the best mystery writers to shame – Dan Brown spend 1 month with us and you will go away with material for your next 6 books! But not once do we hold ourselves accountable for our shortcomings. If the whole world seems to be gunning for us and if the West seems to be running our country by proxy, then who is to blame? Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Nobody can make you inferior without your own permission”. No power can destroy our nation unless we give them permission. But spouting rhetoric and spewing out clich├ęs is not going to change anything. When every individual finds the moral courage to make his/her own choices and stand by the consequences of those decisions without blaming others, that’s the day we will become invincible.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Science and Religion

They say Islam is the “Deen e Fitrat” i.e. the Religion of Nature. The question is which nature? It is not the nature of humans that is referred to here, it is the Nature of the Universe, and the Nature of the Universe is governed by laws or principles. The study of these principles is the domain of science. Hence Islam and science go hand in hand. To understand Islam at a deeper level beyond the rituals of religion one must study science. In fact its not only Islam, but every major religion in the world is an attempt to explain the correlation between humans and the Laws of Nature. As humans we have an innate curiosity to make sense of our own creation and our place in this Universe. The earliest man gazed at the night stars and discovered constellations, modern humans spend an immense amount of time and money on peering deeper into the outer realms of the Universe to find out how exactly were we created and what will happen to us eventually. Ancient religions explained the laws of nature through metaphors which humans at that point of time could understand. As time progressed the latter religions especially Islam which is the last of the great monotheistic religions, the allegories became more evolved, the messages more direct since humans were reaching a point where such complex information could be understood and even validated. For example the description of the arrival of Doomsday changes dramatically from the Bible to the Quran. Where one mentions the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse Quran describes the events more directly and the description seems to match what scientists now say will happen in the event of a meteoric impact.

Let's now take the example of the most basic and fundamental concept of all religions i.e. Good and Evil. According to the Big Bang theory, Astronomers and Physicists tell us that within the first few fractions of a second, particles entered the Higgs Field and acquired mass. The first atoms of matter appeared, and with them appeared anti matter. Good and Evil both appeared at the start of the Universe. When matter and anti matter collide they annihilate each other, but not all particles collide hence the world we see to day. There is an asymmetry between matter and anti matter.

Which means that Good and Evil is not a human concept it is a principle of nature, and hence it is also part and parcel of human nature. The asymmetry of good and evil exists in humans just as it does in the Universe. Good will prevail at least until the time that the laws of the Universe change and when and if they do the Universe itself will be annihilated.