WHAT MAN HAS MADE OF MAN!

One of my favourite poems by William Wordsworth which I can’t help but reproduce in entirety reads thus –

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sat reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

 

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

 

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure: —

But the least motion which they made,

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

 

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

 

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

When we stop for a moment on our tracks to think of all the various acts of violence that can come to our mind, we will quiver at the enormity and increasing novelty of them all. Properties damaged or destroyed by violence can still be restored, but precious lives? Can people killed in violence be brought back to life? Can their loved ones recover completely from the brutal fact that snatched a dear one from their lives? Acts of violence are always external, but their causes and impacts are largely internal. The idea of violence is conceived in the mind and then takes birth as visible actions. And, at the root of such conception of violence is hatred – sheer hatred – rising either out of differences in thoughts or beliefs or judgement. Volumes can be written on the topic of violence, but I’ll briefly touch upon few of them and their ramifications.

  • Violence in the family

Heated aggressive exchanges between husband and wife, alcoholic husband bashing his wife in a fit of drunken stupor, in-laws beating the daughter-in-law to press for their demand for more dowry, bride-burning for dowry, beating the wife/ daughter-in-law for conceiving a female, forced abortions, mother beating children mercilessly – either because she is frustrated for unspoken issues of her own or because her children are truly a handful for her to handle, beating one’s own self because the situation is out of hand, siblings killing each other over property, homicide – are a few of the many instances of violence in the family.

  • Violence at a societal level

People groups behaving violently towards each other – race against race, tribe against tribe, ethnic groups against each other, religious groups against each other, a neighbourhood ganging up against one person or family for some conflict of interest, in Indian context – caste violence, honour killings or villagers inflicting atrocities on newly married couple who have tied the knot in deviance to accepted cultural practices – the resultant arson and lynching paint a shoddy picture of human affairs.

  • Mob violence

When protests for rights take violent turns, they often result in mob violence and riots. Either clashes of protesters with law enforcement agencies or clashes among rival protesting groups, a sudden angry exchange in the traffic leading to group formation, stone pelting and vandalism often leading the way to organized acts of criminal nature, not to mention gang rapes and/ or murders.

  • Violence for experimentation and thrill

Alfred Nobel did not invent the dynamite to blow up roads, bridges, houses in order to demolish developmental works, cause fear, havoc and mayhem. Nobel just discovered a new method to blast rock! He did not intend to spread violence for the mere thrill of experimentation. Today, the principle of the invention of dynamite is applied to invent variations of explosives which are used for destruction and devastation. At the same time, we do have some crazy creative minds (psychos, I would call them) who gain saddistic pleasure from experimenting, inventing and discovering stuff that are intended to propagate barbarity.

  • Violence as political vendetta

Violence resulting from political vendetta is not unknown to any country in the world. Most countries in the world have had their share to witness such violence during some periods of their political history. The gains from such vendetta politics are minuscule and short-lived, but the scars they leave behind are long-lasting and generational – at times heaping the onus on the future political clan to seek forgiveness for or make amends for the losses that the previous generations have caused.

  • Violence wrecked by terrorism

Terrorism arising from cultural or religious indoctrination serves NO PURPOSE save destruction. Well, that in fact is the sole objective of various terrorist outfits – mere devastation!

  • Random violence

Random acts of violence are the saddest of all. We are aware of the mass shootings in school campuses, road rages and accidental celebratory gun shots. Though there may at times be some reasons beneath such random events of violence, none justify the actions.

  • Silent violence

Is there something called ‘silent violence’? Have you experienced fist fights in your head at times – the times you feel you would rise to bash up someone and counter their attacks as well? That’s silent violence. It does not cause immediate visible destruction, but eats you away from inside.

I deliberately refrain from quoting instances for each of these categories of violence. But, I want you to recall episodes of each such type that you might have witnessed, read or heard about. No matter what be the reason, was violence the only answer in all those cases?

Violence is not God’s design for mankind. God has created humans with thinking and reasoning minds, just like His, that can debate and dialogue over diverse issues, that can agree to disagree on conflicting interests, that can tolerate each others’ differences and still continue to coexist in harmony. That we are created differently in appearances and thoughts is an evidence of God’s creative genius. So, aren’t we mindless to clamour for uniformity of thought and expression?

It is such a paradox that we are liberal to tolerate sin, but are intolerant towards views, opinions and practices of others simply because they are not in line with what we consider to be right! I have always maintained in my articles that the only absolute for what is right and wrong is God’s standards and His standards hold true universally. Practices or beliefs rising beyond God’s standards are relative – they are not binding on anyone and cannot and should not be imposed on anyone.

Wars have been fought over land borders or revenge. Countless soldiers have been martyred rendering mothers childless, children fatherless and robbing the happiness of wives as they enter into widowhood. The United Nations was established in 1945 after World War II with the intention of preventing future wars. It has remarkably succeeded, hats off to the wise think-tanks and diplomats of all countries that have got together to keep dialogues going on in volatile regions – we haven’t witnessed a World War III!

But that having been said, wars haven’t been deleted off the pages of history. It is good to feel proud for the martyrs and marvel at their valiance. It is noble to provide financial security for their families in exchange for the lives that have been sacrificed. However, have we ever gone beyond to think of the untold mental agony the widow goes through or the psychological damage caused to the child who never got to have a glimpse of who his/ her father was? Long after the wars are over and the fumes have cooled off, we are left with soldiers maimed for life. They may win medals of gallantry, but we cannot understand their mounting frustration of each day as they depend upon others to go about their daily chores! We cannot even begin to imagine the battles fought by soldiers off the battlefield – with PTSD. Even the most empathetic civilian cannot claim to understand them because civilians do not experience or witness the toughness of battle scenes as soldiers do.

None of us is an eternal occupant in planet earth. None of us is the custodian of a given set of values or beliefs. None of our self-interests weigh more than lives of others. Do egos cost more than lives – those lives which we do not have the power to create?

Reflecting on all acts of violence, I can only lament in Wordsworth’s words – ‘What man has made of man’!

Each act of violence causes irreparable psychological damage. We cannot eradicate violence from the face of the planet. But, each of us can pledge not to endorse, encourage, enjoy, practise or propagate violence in any form, whether within the four walls of our houses or outside, whatever be the reason.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – The Bible

 

 

SPREAD SMILES, NOT VIOLENCE

In the year 2003, a Bollywood movie Pinjar was released, which was based on the novel of late Ms. Amrita Pritam. It was a period movie depicting the stormy times of the people during the India-Pakistan partition. I went to watch with my family members as I was looking forward to it, especially after listening to its songs on loop and dancing on a few as well. I never imagined that the movie would be so heart-wrenching and traumatic. As soon as the interval came, I said to my cousin sister, Prabhjot, “Thank God, we were not born in that era!”

In the light of recent violent activities, I don’t feel lucky either. So much hatred and so much anger was witnessed in Delhi that everyone got worried. More than worry, most of the people like me felt bad and miserable about the incidents.

What did the rioters gain? The departed soul had no religion. What are we going to teach our children? Have those people lost their sense of feeling? Such thoughts were erupting in mind. I was careful enough not to watch or listen the news in front of my children. And there, on the screen, I saw a child weeping over his dead father. “Stay away from the news”, I told myself. I preferred clicking on the ‘Hide this post’ on the disturbing posts that I saw on my Facebook and prayed for peace to prevail.

I commend one of the posts written by Randeep Hooda 3 years back:
If you are Muslim and suddenly start feeling unsafe in country where you lived for more than thousand years..
If you are Dalit and start feeling insulted on every moment of life..
If you are Hindu and suddenly start feeling that cows are being slaughtered everywhere…
If you are a Jain and suddenly start feeling that your religious piety is being compromised…
If you are Punjabi and think all the youth are on drugs.

Just do one thing…
– Stay away from social media…
– Don’t watch news…
– Stay away from debates on religion…

Just look around you at your friends who belong to different castes, communities and religions…
And you will find that you are living in one of the best countries in the world!! 

This is so true. The moment we watch anything on social media, we tend to get agitated, share it more and get trapped into the vicious circle. These debates are not going to do any good for you and the discussions go on endlessly.

Just look around you at your friends who belong to different castes, communities and religions…
Each one of us is a creation of God, so respect everyone and treat them equally.
And these lines from a Punjabi hymn have been running over my mind ever since:
Awal Allah Noor Upaya (In the beginning God created light)
Kudrat Ke Sab Bandey (Then He made all the mortal beings)
Ek Noor Te Sab Jag Upja (From that One light, the entire universe welled up)
Kaun Bhaley, Kau Mandey? (So how can some be good and some bad?)

 

 

WHAT MADE HUMAN TO TURN INHUMAN?

According to the World Health Organization’s report, every year 1.6 million people (majorly between 15-44 age) worldwide lose their lives to violence. It says, “Violence is the intentional use of power, threatened or actual against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either result in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”

Whether it is a riot on the street, frantic students strike, or domestic violence it won’t be wrong to quote “violence is always an organized crime”. Each time its barbarism reminds us how devilish is the human heart and its unity for a wrong cause is destructive. Recently, we witnessed the North East Delhi riots in which 49 people lost their lives, more than 250 people injured, and there is 25,000 Cr economic loss. My friend Prabhjot in her recent article HOW DO YOU KILL poured out her heart saying,

Delhi, my dear Delhi

Why did you stoop so low?

How do you kill your fellow Indians?

Where do you get this extreme hatred from?

Do you not think what will happen when that bullet you just triggered hits somebody on the chest?

Does it not even strike you even once that you are destroying a whole family?

How does your religion and belief become bigger than life?

How do you think you get the right to end a life?

Why does your hatred become bigger than your sanity?

Do you have no fear of God and no love for humanity?

Is your religion and politics above life and death?

It makes my heart weep that you could stoop so low!

At present, it ties to the Delhi violence but passing through the pages of history, every time we have witnessed any violence the only question that haunts and is rarely addressed to the entire human race – “WHAT MADE HUMAN TO TURN INHUMAN?”

Well, the dichotomy of human among living beings is, humans have the mind to be tolerant in their own ways and reasons to decide between good and bad. In response to the magnitude of reasoning, his actions will always be constructive and commendable. But alas, in the ‘Me n’ I’ age man has grown accustomed to intolerance. In the flux of priority, each of us pursues the “I cannot be wrong” principle. Fine for a moment, if each of us is right in our thoughts and none of us is wrong though our viewpoints are poles apart, logically, the unavailability of common ground will clash our ideas erupting untamed physical force to conquer and prove each other wrong. Now, undoubtedly INTOLERANCE precedes REASONING. The Bible responds exactly saying,

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Whether it is the home-grown terrorism of fanatics or foreign terrorist groups, terrorism or violence is caused by religious thinking. According to the Economic and Peace Organization report, in the last two decades, the Global Peace Index (GPI) is deteriorating like never before. Religiosity is man’s attempt to save God but how pathetic it is, a mere man whose life is nonetheless than a vapor that can vanish away any time is trying to save God, the One to whom each day he calls out for survival. God has created humans for righteousness (righteous living) not for religiosity. Religion divides humanity and hand cups him with traditionalism and rituals whereas the first call of Righteousness is to have a consummate relationship with the LORD God and loving humanity as we love ourselves. Religiosity abandons us from God but Righteousness communes us with God. Alas, in the face of violence all that we find “RELIGIOSITY is preceding RIGHTEOUSNESS”. Prone to righteous living, Bible the inspired Word of God says,

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.

As Intolerance precedes Reasoning and Religiosity precedes Righteousness, we find MAN playing GOD in the face of violence. In violence, when each Man considers himself as God and strives to magistrate every thing and everyone, all that we find in the picture there is no more God but self-proclaimed gods fighting between each other with all their might. Of course, its repercussion pulls down the curtain of God’s grace and the Wrath of God takes the lead role. Time unknown but there is not a spot of doubt, all those whose hands turned red in violence will be answerable to the True, Living and the only God, the Creator and the highest judge overall. How dreadful it will be a moment for them who play God! That’s why the Bible says,

For God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”. The LORD will judge his people. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

P.S.: This is an attempt to present the inner side of violence and counsel people to stay away from violence. Hurting or targeting any particular religious sentiments is not at all intended.

HOW DO YOU KILL?

Delhi, my dear Delhi
Why did you stoop so low?
How do you kill your fellow Indians?
Where do you get this extreme hatred from?
Do you not think what will happen when that bullet you just triggered hits somebody on the chest?
Does it not even strike you even once that you are destroying a whole family?
How does your religion and belief become bigger than life?
How do you think you get the right to end a life?
Why does your hatred become bigger than your sanity?
Do you have no fear of God and no love for humanity?
Is your religion and politics above life and death?
It makes my heart weep that you could stoop so low!

 

IS VIOLENCE ONLY PHYSICAL?

Violence as a weapon have distorted the face of our planet innumerable times. From road rage cases to world wars; from open wars fought on line of controls to proxy wars fought within the boundaries targeting the innocent population violence has a history as old as human civilisation. The Charles Darwin’s Theory of (Survival Of The Fittest) Evolution found undying patronage in Man, where the sheer want to demonstrate dominance and hold onto the power have influenced him over ages and centuries to use “Violence” as tool of elimination of everything and everyone opposed to his ideas, perhaps seeming threat to his survival. Invasions, mass murders, crucifying the icons / leaders to instill fear, blood and gory – history has seen it all!

What is the purpose of resorting to Violence? Hitting / attacking someone physically has its core agenda – to hurt, to overpower, to silence, to instill fear – though the intent, the intensity, the reason / provocation differ in every situation. Physical wounds heal and might or might not leave scars behind apparent to the naked eyes but impact is beyond what we can see. Petty examples:

  • A 10-year old son is beaten up by his father for being mischievous to discipline him because he believed in the saying “Spare The Rod Spoil The Child”. For few years it did discipline the son, few years later the son pretended to fear/ listen to his father and then gradually he lost both fear and respect for his father. In fact, he lost the fear of punishment for the rest of his life.
  • A child saw her mother being beaten up and insulted daily at the hands of her father so much so that she was killed one day. Her father believed strongly in patriarchy to dominate his wife but his brutality has left his daughter fearing relationships for her life.
  • In the momentous heat of a road rage a person kills another leaving the family of the deceased bewildered and broken.
  • The brutal attacks of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have not only left generations crippled but has blemished the history pages.

I can go on and on like this. The mental impact of physical violence is something we rarely discuss or just brush and forget. Irony is that all the laws around the world are formed to curb violence as in the physical nature of it and since the mental assaults are unaccounted for, rarely laws are formulated to address the issue. Even if few are chalked out, the onus of proving the cause and effect relationship is quite a job for a person already hit.

Another Angle: Well since we all care about “Materialistic, Tangible, Physical” dimensions of things we completely undermine and underestimate or sometimes ignore the murderous impact one’s Words can have. The greatest asset a human being possesses is his ability to communicate, and words as a part of that process are really powerful. They can build and destroy with equal magnitude. An instance from lives of innumerable women pinned down by patriarchy: A well educated man who believes he is liberal in his thoughts, boasts of never raising his hands on his wife but would constantly pick on her -criticising her, demeaning her, mocking her, abusing her verbally and always getting away with, “I was only angry but you know how much I love you. And I am not like other husbands who hit their wives”. But his constant banter would leave the poor soul depleted in confidence and shattered. And his behaviour influences others as well to take her for granted, for instance children, in-laws and she herself. This is murder of the zeal, courage and enthusiasm of the person turning a soul into a lifeless machine. Depression, suicidal tendencies, anxieties and many more mental health complications are a result of such mental assaults. And since assault is not physical in nature it goes unnoticed, unreported most of the times. In India which is a patriarchal society laws are framed to curb domestic violence cases but the mental assault done by degrading banter is conveniently sidelined.

That was just a drop from the ocean of brutalities words have caused/ could cause.

How not to inflict “mental” violence: As much as you hate to be a victim of someone’s angst you must be careful enough not to inflict the same pain onto others:

  • If words are silver, silence is golden. Don’t speak when not fit to, lest you put many things/ relationships at stake.
  • Walking out of the heated or uncomfortable moments momentarily might save the day for good.
  • Just put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Don’t spew the venom even if it is in humour, if you yourself can’t take it.

The mental impact of violence – physical or otherwise needs much more deep rooted discussion. I just tried to bring the required focus on the neglected issue. It requires much more introspection, doesn’t it?

WANT TO STOP VIOLENCE? START AT HOME!

Last week, I met a ‘gentleman’ in one training. I have put the gentleman word in quotes because that’s his feeling and not mine. While we were talking over dinner, he told me that this is the first time he has ever come to Bangalore. After a few more questions, he said he had never been to any place out of Hyderabad. That sounded a little stupid to me. He was married, and I really wondered why no one would want to go to any other place other than their hometown and workplace. He expressed that his wife has the interest to travel, but he doesn’t want to. I told him that he should let her travel if she wants to, for which his response really bothered me. “You know, women should be kept in control. Once if I leave her to her will, she would never listen to me again”, said he nodding his way as if he was acknowledging it again. I was furious listening to those statements of his, yet, it was not in my power to say anything. Where do you think that hideous thought of his came from? 

Often our behaviors are dependent on our upbringing. There is a saying, “if you want to know how a man is, get to know his friends.” That’s because we get attracted to people who are like us or who we inspire to become. Our childhood has a significant influence on who we are today, either positive or negative. When I read in the news regarding domestic violence, political, religious, or economic, I often wonder if they had any prior exposure to this. Let’s consider economic abuse – When a person wants to abuse another economically, it is usually carefully planned. At the least, the person should have enough talent to fool the other person. To not get caught, it should be executed with the utmost care. If we think about domestic violence, these men would have grown up as boys who witnessed abuse. 

I am no expert in criminal psychology, but the results of certain studies on men who resorted to violent acts are linked to prior acts of violence at home. A recent study has revealed that 50% of men accused of mass shootings or bombings have either been charged or were sentenced for killing or abusing their wife or girlfriend. These studies point only to one fact that violence starts at home. Violence at home is a child’s first experience at a tender age and becomes a justifier in the future. There is a pattern to all this. Don’t believe me? Read about some of the key convicts of popular violent crimes, and you would start to see the pattern too. In most cases, the courts have not taken domestic violence acts very seriously.  

How can we help to reduce violence? I am only going to talk about two points that can really help, in my opinion.

  1. Social media sharing: Violence is a disease. You don’t cure a disease by sharing it.
    • Whenever there is a violent outbreak, we often see people updating their statuses with videos or news articles. If you intend for others to exercise caution, that’s good, but please do mention that along with sharing the article. 
    • When I see someone updating, “My heart hurts,” or “Furious of these acts” kind of messages, I really want to question those people. If you intend to help, please reach out to the victims or NGOs who are trying to help. I do not really understand how it helps if your social contacts know that your heart hurts or head aches. These don’t do any good; instead, there may be others who do not even have an idea of what actually happened, just keep liking/sharing the status, and it isn’t necessary at all. Write a private post to someone who can help instead. 
    • Unfortunately, when we are not part of the violence, what we know is the least, and please respect privacy. 
  2.  Teach kids at a tender age how to stay safe and prevent violence
    • The difference between good touch and bad touch should be known to all kids. 
    • Tell them, it is wise to settle disputes with dialogue and not fistfights. 
    • Never fight before kids. 
    • Speak up when something is not right 

Remember – Language matters. Our words matter. Our actions matter. If we want a society free of violence, we should be part of that change. I understand that it cannot happen in a day or two, but it has to start somewhere. Why not our own home? 

 

“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
― Yehuda Bauer

 

THE YOUNG REBELS

This topic of rebellion has been discussed by my fellow writers throughout the week. I am writing in the fag end of the week but even after reading all the articles I am still not sure of my own opinion about rebellion. 

Is ‘Rebellion’ good or bad? The course of world history has changed due to the major rebellions or revolutions. We have grown up reading about the French revolution or the American Revolution. And the rebels have been hailed as heroes in these revolutions. 

But a rebellion need not always be of astronomical proportions. We see tiny rebellions in our everyday life. I will give you a few examples.

As a teenager I was a rule follower maybe because I was a bit timid and didn’t want confrontations. But my rebellions were visible in tiny ways- like my nail paint colours. I used to put all sorts of colours combinations on my nails. The horror expression on my father’s face when he saw my nails used to give me immense satisfaction. Once I had put a dirty grey colour speckled with gold and silver dots and my father commented that it looks like I have dipped my nails in the gutter outside and come. You won’t believe it I was so happy hearing this comment. I was just trying to assert my freedom by rebelling against the norms of those days. In today’s times I think almost everyone experiments with their nail paints so it would be considered normal. 

Even a small baby can rebel. You know how? Well almost every mother with a small baby will be able to relate to this. The child is crying for a feed and the mother is a little held up in some work. She finishes her chore and then comes to feed the baby. Now the infant’s patience has been tested in these couple of minutes delay. He will show his rebellion by crying out loudly and not taking his feed even though he is hungry now as he wants to show his displeasure at being put at second priority. Controlling this rebellion is a huge uphill task for the young mother. First the baby has to be placated and then fed.

Well those days are long gone in my life. Now I am a mother to two teenage boys. The outbursts of small mutiny and rebellion happen many times in my house now. Mostly it is against the rules we lay down for them. And usually I am the one who does the job of the mediator between them and their Dad. What I have noticed is that children try to test the limits set for them by their rebellions. And mostly succeed in pushing the boundaries a little with every tiny mutiny. We as parents have to balance between giving a little and keeping the discipline.