Being We: ‘The Rest of Us’

Once again… Once again we are attacked. Once again we are shattered and once again we point our fingers. But, hold on, before we drop that finger, we should seek answers, answers to these continuing hostility and violence. No not from our governments, but from ourselves where the other three fingers are pointing towards.

Well, we all know, there are a few fanatics in our society, in every community, and these miscreants are responsible for creating communal tension in India. In their twisted minds, killing innocent people is the way to take revenge. But the rest of us, the majority, we do not believe in violence, we do not approve of such violent acts. We believe in secularism and communal harmony. So these terrorists should be caught, punished, and if possible tortured and hanged. This would serve as a deterrent to future criminals and hence would prevent further such attacks. We will all live in peace and harmony!!!

How easy, and yet how untrue? Have we ever wondered from where these miscreants come from? Aren’t they a product of our own society and as such a part of our very own society. How pathological should our society be to create such monsters? Considering that society is nothing but you and me, this implies there is something rotting deep inside. So while we continue blaming the few, let us try and understand this rot.

I believe, if not hatred, at least a dislike or discomfort or mistrust is running through the majority of us towards ‘the other community’. It doesn’t matter whether I am a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim. It is what I am not that constitutes ‘the other community’.

We hate to accept it, and we try to suppress it, but if we ask a few questions we should get the answers. How many of us would prefer to live in a locality dominated by ‘the other community’ residents? How many of us are comfortable when we are standing amidst a group of ‘the other community’? How many ‘the other community’ friends do each one of us have?

Don’t we find the mistrust, dislike, and discomfort running through all of us?
More important is why we find this mistrust, dislike and discomfort? Answer might lie in the way we derive our identity. Our identities are derived, developed and consolidated on the basis of similarities and resemblances, often inflated and often forged. We are taught to live, love and respect these similarities, while relationships with ‘the others’ are to be temporary, and on need basis. We fail to respect reciprocity and mutuality, but worship the identity of similarity. But it is not the case that it is similarities that lead to identity creation, often it is the identities that enforce and maintain these similarities. The identities that were once formed on the basis of similarities and differences are now enforcing those similarities and differences.

Let us probe a little more about ‘the identity’ which has had a definite impact on the history of modern India, the identity of being a Hindu or a Muslim. Our heroes of national movement considered Hindu-Muslim unity as the most important ideal to be upheld. And like most of their visions, we did not fail to uphold this ideal. But we made sure it remained an ideal, even better, as merely an idea and never as the way of life. Like our other ideals and ideas, of compassion, patriotism, selflessness, whoever brought these ideals to action are considered as heroes and we hail the heroic act. What should have been a simple, normal way of life, gets elevated to the higher planes of idea, ideals and ideologies. Thus the act of saving a member of own community is a considerably dull act whereas saving the life of a member of ‘the other community’, being fully aware of his identity, becomes a heroic act.

Transferring the burden of doing good to the heroes and blaming the villains for all that is bad, we, the rest of us, rest…

But hey, as seculars we must have at least a few ‘the other community’ friends no? And we do. The ones we often justify by saying he is not like other members of his community. He is good you no? Despite being a “”.
He does not hold the sentiments/opinions that the majority of his community holds.

Thus he is an exception. He being good, is your friend, others being bad are not your friends. I am reminded of what Spinoza once wrote, “You do not like it because it is good, but, it is good because you like it.”

Coming back to those few miscreants, who are hell-bound to create havoc in our society, aren’t they only expressing the collective feeling that we have for each other? Don’t you think they are the children of the atmosphere of mistrust that we have created? No, I am not telling that we, the rest of us, accept or approve of this violence. Rather, I believe, knowingly or unknowingly the suppressed dislike, discomfort and mistrust that we hold for each other is being converted and channelized to hatred and hatred alone by a few. So can we blame the few, and absolve ourselves of our responsibilities?

Before we let our hands search the coziness of our jeans pockets, we need to answer those three questions that the three fingers are asking:

Have I in slightest possible way contributed to all these hatred and violence?

Could I have done anything, anything at all which would have prevented such hostilities?

Can I in any possible way contribute towards a better and peaceful society?

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