Friday, February 03, 2006

All in the name of..........?

I was reading another blog- I can't remember the link right now, but basically a bouncer from some really hip clubs in New York started keeping a blog about all the crazy things that would happen to him and now he has a book deal. But along with fame comes recognition...and you are no longer just someone writing a blog, but people can identify you. I found another blogger talking about the same issues, wondering what it means if you cannot (do not) give out your blog address to people you know; what does it mean? Are you more honest when people aren't looking? Is it easier to talk in the dark? Funnily enough, when I was in Delhi over the winter a friend of mine called me very excitedly saying that she had just been introduced to this blog written by a delhi girl- a journalist- and it was very well written, she could recognise some of the people being talked about, and was trying to guess who the girl was. I actually know that girl- not well, but we were friends in pre-school and so we always have a chat when we bump into eachother now. But I wondered, perhaps I would have been writing about more personal issues if I knew that no one reading my blog knew "me" but instead I went and gave this link to everyone I knew. Its interesting. But the way I see it, my diary (which I'm too lazy to write!!) and my blog have two distinct purposes in my life. One is private. Even if I changed all the names to secret codes and left it in a coffee shop in New Zealand, it still wouldn't do! One is not. Because I'm not trying to discover myself, or figure out my life, I'm actually trying to figure out this crazy world we live in. And so here goes::

Now something very appalling happened to my friends recently. They got attacked by some drunk British-Indian guys on campus because the drunks thought my friend was pakistani and proceeded to assualt him. The girl with him jumped in to stop the attack and got punched rather badly in the process. The next day, she had some boys come to apologize on behalf of the attackers. In the light of day things seem clearer, embarassment is more pronounced. Or so we hope. It makes me really sad to think, and even if I give them leeway for the drunken excuse-- that it would be a cause of hatred to these educated Indian boys who are essentially British by birth, to find a pakistani boy in their midst. I've put out my hypotheses on what could be the root cause of such an action... I am a student of history and political science after all. But it really hurts me more now because I have some really great friends from Karachi-- and random acts of violence by Indians against Pakistanis just seem so misguided now.

Two days ago after dinner with some friends from class we went to my friend Noel's house. He described how, when on the India-Pakistan border he saw Pakistanis waving to him from the other side. It was an emotional experience, and also one that made him think about how political the problem between the two countries are. He said something to me that rung so true; that when the press in both countries blame the other for any sort of problem, it creates an impression that the ENTIRE country is just plotting and planning... that we really do hate eachother. But real life experiences and friendships teach you more than ever that political propoganda is a scary and powerful tool. One that breeds hatred, one that divides us on religious lines, and affects people who are not geographically in either of the countries.

Last week in my International Media Management class I argued that Samuel Huntington was partially correct; there is a clash of civilizations- something the Prof said he did not agree with. Religious clashes are as old as time.. as far as I can remember, the Christians, Muslims and Jews have been at eachothers throats. Sometimes when you walk down the street, having a great day or deciding where to go this weekend, its not tough to tell yourself you have a nice life. But no doubt about it, we live in a time of war. Everywhere, all over the planet, there is death and disease. Although I imagine every period in history was the same; we just have better media to actually bring all of it to our living rooms now. A Danish cartoon, offensive perhaps, but a cartoon nonetheless, has led to a string of demonstrations and even led to Syria and Saudi recalling their ambassadors. But shouldn't we try and practise tolerance and forgiveness, the pillars of religion that people are ready to DIE for? I'm not going to point out the obvious here.

Sometimes, sitting in this tiny room on campus I don't quite know what to make of all these things. More appalling than the cartoons is that the Ayatollah called for Rushdie's DEATH after Satanic Verses, or that a documentary filmmaker (on violence against Muslim women) was killed too. Somedays I'm really happy I don't subscribe to any particular religion. Because by now I think I would have changed my mind anyway.


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rohinic said...

i love the undeleted comment! anyway- i'm a believer in the whole jared diamond idea that civilizations clash. but i think its easy for a person to give up responsibility for their actions by claiming that violence is a outward projection of the most basic instincts of humankind...
i mean-- war is essentially administrative and social propaganda by a group with an aggresive agenda. maybe people need to accept that they are in control of their actions and not blame it on some sad-ass "violence is the nature of man" type excuse.

Cyberswami said...

Here's an idea.

You say you don't subscribe to any religion. Is that to say that if you did, you would have to embrace it wholeheartedly? Is there a freedom, within a religion, to choose in particular which values you would like to believe and which not to?

Moreover, by not subscribing to any religion, does that make you a subscriber to the religion of no religion? After all - religion is just a collective identity for people with a common belief; everything else is a subsequent politicisation, you can argue. By not subscribing to any religion, do you not belong to the collective set of people that don't subscribe to any religion? Maybe you do not use it for political gain, but it is a collective identity, nonetheless, isn't it?

By not subscribing to any particular religion, do you feel you avoid the dangers associated with restricting yourself to a particular ideology? Or do you feel it is easier to agree with bits and pieces from each and not the whole of any.

And then, would you say that religions today are mutually incompatible in terms of belief, that forces people to have to pick and choose between them? Of course, choice of religion is largely pre-determined; I concede that, but people like you and I who have had time and opportunity to think about these things, what do we say?

mahima said...

Madhav.. great points. I've considered it too-- do I subscribe to the non religion religion? I can't say I'm a spiritual person at all but I'd like to believe that I'm trying to be a moral person.. more now than I ever was. And my life is hopfully guided by this basic morality... and I don't study any of the religions to take the best out either.. I think your basic rules of right and wrong everyone figures out. I would hope that for people who are religious it would be easy to pick and choose within their religion and maybe even from others... but sadly its the ones who do not and cannot who make the headlines. The difference is this too- you know Vir- well he and I would have long fights about fate and so on because he believes that EVERYTHING can be explained by science and I always protested saying come on!!! Some things must be fate... there must be a higher power.. some brand of magic in the world. SO Vir and I both belong to our incompatible non religion... but if we did belong to a particular religion then instead of agreeing to disagree we'd be actually agreeing.
Jeez long sentences made me lose my train of thought. Jeez!