Thursday, July 12, 2012

Story: The Peacemonger's advice

A short story (ie, short compared to novels!)

Once upon a time, a person once was witness to a crime. Let it be any crime... theft, murder, rape, beating, harassment, fraud, cheating, usurping... whatever. The main thing was, there was an aggressor who committed the crime within full control of his actions and fully knowing what he was doing, and the crime was planned in advance. And there was a victim and she was put through severe trouble and faced a bleak future as a direct result of this crime.

The aggressor, upon being confronted over the incident by the witness, showed neither any viable defense for his actions, nor any hint of remorse, nor any willingness to reconsider his actions. Instead, the aggressor then started to make moves to cover up the crime, including making attempts to land the witness, who'd had nothing to do with the whole thing except to witness it, into trouble. It did not help that the aggressor happened to be the witness's and the victim's boss and used his position to have things his way.

So the witness naturally had his task cut out. The only way to undo that trouble caused to the victim was by exposing the crime and the aggressor's actions to all. This was unfortunate, but the aggressor had put himself clearly in a position that would have to be overturned if there was to be any hope for the victim.

But then the witness was advised by a beloved friend.

This friend told our witness that every time he points a finger at someone, there are 3 fingers pointing back at him.
By some twist of logic, that was supposed to mean that if the witness points out the criminal, the witness himself magically becomes 3 times more guilty that the actual criminal. ( I know, LOL )

He said that this wasn't the witness's fight, so by even trying to help someone he must be committing some grave crime. (Must be!)

The friend told him that by exposing the crime, the aggressor isn't going to change his ways so what is the point, it will only increase the net negativity and spoil relations for a long time to come.

The friend extolled the noblest and most peaceful thinkers of our times, quoted them to justify not taking any action. (whilst conveniently ignoring all their activist sides)

The witness found it hard to put through to his friend that his objective did not even concern the aggressor. The victim's distress and the need for putting an end to that misery was far more important. Everything else... including the aggressor's feelings or his perspective or his relations with anyone -- were irrelevant. The act was done, the evidence was there, plenty of investigation had been done already. There was no room left for speculation of whether the crime had been committed or not - it had.

When he told this to the friend, the friend immediately said that he "does not know" whether the crime actually took place or not (despite all the evidence staring him in the face). And so the friend could not take any position on whether or not the aggressor was guilty, Apparently since his body wasn't glued to the aggressor's during each and every second of the crime and since he wasn't in the room (aka, he wasn't a DIRECT eyewitness), he could not even consider the faintest possibility that the aggressor may be in the wrong. He grandiosely gestured that the aggressor be given "the benefit of the doubt".

AT THE SAME TIME, this friend never bothered to apply this benefit-of-the-doubt theory to the one suffering as a result of all of this, the victim. As far as this friend's perspective went, the victim might as well have never even existed on this planet. Taking the same yardstick of neutrality that he had used for the aggressor, he could have at least pitched in some of his energy to help remove the suffering of the victim, to undo the adverse action that had been done upon her. The same way this friend refused to accept the aggressor as guilty, he indirectly refused the accept that the victim was innocent and something unjust had been done to her. Instead of practising benefit of doubt, he practised curse-of-doubt upon her. Just because HE was not in the same place or glued to the victim's body when the act took place. There were times when he even mentioned that he "did not know if that was true and so cannot comment on this", even when the witness as talking in the victim's defense -- hence directly casting aspersions on the characters of both the victim, and his friend the witness!

In addition to this, the friend exhibited a total lack of big picure or long term thinking. If it indeed turned out that the aggressor did do wrong, was there any merit in giving him a free hand, in the name of non-violence, non-intervention etc etc? Wouldn't that make him more aggressive and hurt others too? Wouldn't inaction at this point increase the net suffering and negativity for everyone in the long run?

The witness saw through this double standard. When he tried to persuade his friend to abandon the double standards and at least give the facts on the ground, the physical evidence some credit, the friend told him he was being too aggressive / biased, taking sides, that he was getting too negative, too aggressive, going into a downward spiral, etc etc etc.

And all this time what our friend the adviser was ACTUALLY doing, in the name of the noblest ideals around, was finding an excuse to not act, to not stand up against an obvious wrong, to not do the right thing. It was also politically convenient, seeing that the aggressor happened to be the authority. He also wanted to prevent others as well (particularly the witness) from doing it, for if that happened, wouldn't he have been exposed for what HE truly was - a coward, a charlatan? In the process, without fully comprehending it, he ended up giving blind, unconditional support to the aggressor and became a party to the crime wreaked upon the victim.

Luckily, the witness had other more sensible friends and a stronger internal compass. And he learned, the hard way, that this fence-sitting friend of his couldn't be trusted or consulted henceforth. It wasn't worth debating the facts with someone who respects people's perspectives and assumptions more than facts, someone who differentiates credibility solely based on hierarchy ("the aggressor is the boss so he must be right, while the victim was just an employee so she could be wrong"), someone for whom the words "Satyamev Jayate" do not have any real meaning. Such people can be a serious waste of time and mental energy.

He soldiered on, stuck to the facts on the ground and ignored the speculations, dug deeper, found the evidence required, exposed the aggressor's actions, got the whole community to acknowledge the facts and admit that a wrong had been committed, and got the harm to the victim undone. Sure, he committed a few minor faux pas, pissed some (irrelevant and highly over-rated) people off, and had to face some consequences of his own due to a large number of the crowd being of this fence-sitting mindset. But all that was trivial compared to the several more real friends and tons of goodwill and credo from across the board he earned on the way, and the lessons in leadership and systems of operating he learned at a much higher level of cognition than any passive spectator could have.

The friend had assumed that his "neutral" position gave him immunity from all responsibility or consequences relating to the matter. Had his "neutral" advice been heeded, the victim would never have seen the light of justice. So he ultimately ended up losing his own credibility, created a totally negative image for himself in the eyes of the victim and her loved ones especially, and lost his friendship with the witness forever.

Something we must keep in mind : Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of justice.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Poem: Thoughts from a secular humanist

Re-posting this image and a transcript of the poem in it.

Thoughts from a secular humanist

I have no invisible authority
I am not mentally enslaved,
I am not an unworthy sinner
Who is waiting to be saved.
My actions are my own
Responsibility for which I take,
Credit for the good and penalty for the bad
The payment for my deeds only I can make.

I'm not the innocent, confused child
'Humble' messengers try to find,
I'm a skeptic with adult reasoning
Who has left Faith behind.
The answers gifted by logic and reason
Are far more appealing to me,
I keep searching for the still unknown
No fitting baseless assumptions dishonestly.

Morality for me is not dreived from an ancient book
With tiring tales of brutality and occasional verses of love,
To be good and to care for my fellow beings
I don't need promises of gifts from above.
The knowledge and wisdom accumulated by science
Sincere and provable, without disguise,
Is what I find more comforting and reality revealing
Than ones given by power-hungry cults fighting over lies.

I'm not someone who thinks women
Compared to their men, are any less,
When her right to say 'No' is violated
I don't blame it on her dress.
Her body is her own, her character not just her face
Rather than a world of fear and suppression,
They deserve a better place.

Things that others do without harming anyone or you
Are reason enough to make some disgusted or depressed
But when I come to know he loves another 'he',
I find myself hardly distressed.
It is better to judge people based on their actions
Not for 'what' they are,
Whether your genes played well or decided to change the rules
All of us are equal humans, who've managed to come this far.

I don't believe that the Universe was 'designed'
With a specific purpose, keeping and of us in mind,
A creator-free Universe is not uninteresting or colourless
But a lot more spectacular with added wonders to find.
Meaning is what we derive from the things that we strive
To achieve during our brief stay on this dot,
Knowing that none is bestowed with any special privileges
How many less battles would have been fought.

My love for this world and concern for its inhabitants
Is not restricted by any boundary line,
Whether you're from the West and I'm from the East
We're still on the same beautiful planet
So ought we not to get along fine?

I respect your right to believe what you want
I respect your right to choose,
But at times when what you believe and choose has a bearing on me
Don't expect me to keep shut or not refuse.
As you read these words, if you find yourself offended
And feel that you need to complain,
I hope you'll first pause for a second and try not to forget
How not being allowed to say it had once led our species
Into the Dark Ages of suffering and pain.

Disclaimer: I didn't write this, but I love it! If you know the author, please connect us!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Illness, modern medicine, and my mom

My mom was obese all her life after her last pregnancy. (for no fault of hers, I might add. The fact of having twins, life routine, health problems all contributed.) She had a whole series of chronic illnesses the whole way - knee problems, ankle swellings, hernia, thyroid, tension... She took painkillers and medicines all along, nearly every day. Being first generation migrants of small town to big city (of poor upbringing to prosperity), my parents had no reason to doubt the marvels of modern medicine. She did take homeopathy as well but her intake of regular medicines, especially painkillers, carried on.

After she passed away at the bitter end of a 3-year long battle with ovarian cancer, at one point I came across studies that showed that all the various painkillers and drugs she'd had to take regularly, in addition to the coffee she was addicted to, had carcinogenic material in them and contributed to a cancer risk if consumed regularly. Plus the fact that chemotherapy practically destroys the body's defenses and sets up the patient for even faster degeneration should a cancerous tumour return (which in my mom's case, it did, with a vengeance).

I can't really express how much that hurt, knowing that what we had accepted to heal her ended up killing her at the age of 51, that too in a way I wouldn't recommend even for an enemy. Dying is one thing, but to see the most important person in your life get slowly and utterly decimated, to see her essence as a human being get taken away... no one should have to go through that.

Since then I've pretty much lost faith in conventional medicine, do my best to avoid taking any pills. For now, if I ever come at a phase where I have to choose between a natural death and chemotherapy, I'll choose death. Homeopathy rocks too, but I prefer ways which don't involve putting stuff into my body. Instead I've found its better to embrace and go through whatever lows come - the feeling of wellness when we get out on the other side is really awesome.

Over the past 3 years I've been through a couple of bouts of severe illness and prolonged depression and found myself recovering much better if I let it take its time. illnesses were resolved by merely fasting and giving the body's digestive system a break. Once a bout of high fever that had lasted 3 days escalated to a point where I was literally knocked out, and after a brief second of unconsciousness (I actually thought this was it and I'm going to die!), all my sweat glands opened up like a dam had just broken and my body immediately stabilized and in a few hours I was walking and driving as if nothing had happened!

Edit: If you intake addictive substances on a daily basis, like smoking, alcohol, drugs, coffee, tea, soft drinks etc then the above paragraph has no meaning for you. I'm free of all of that and that's how natural methods worked for me. They're not going to work for you so don't risk it.

Depression... that's a tougher cookie, but I've found that by immersing myself into the lives of others, by doing everything I can to help another human being, by literally living for the sake of others, I've been happier, healthier, more creative and successful in spite of the depression. There are tragedies in all our lives and it's silly and kind of insensitive to wish we could erase them (I cherish even those worst experiences as they've taught me how to be more human) - we just have to learn to multi-task, have a broadband connection inside our head and live our lives fully at the same time.

At the same time, always keep in mind that there are others with much worse problems than yours and if they can deal with it then so can you. Finding a role model like that and keeping on referencing to them works wonders. Oh, and crying your heart out like a baby HELPS like anything - it's nature's very own anti-depressant, let it happen, people! (advice to men especially!)

And what if we just don't have the time or space to take a day off and let ourselves heal naturally? Well, I left that kind of lifestyle behind a long time ago. Take the time, chill out / blow out! One day of down-time today will give you several years in return later. You only get one life. 500 years from now no one's going to bother whether you met all your deadlines or not, whether you met all of "society's expectations" or not. But if you live fully and allow yourself to do something amazing - there's your chance for immortality!

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