Thursday, April 02, 2009

Are you being flogged, Sir?

Sometimes it may appear that, judging from my blogs, I am moderately-to-seriously oblivious of what goes on in the real world day-to-day. The political stuff above all, the global monetary and 'recession' crisis and all that good stuff.

Well, I'm not, but there are so many people writing and pontificating about it that my voice would drown in an ocean of babble. And it just isn't worth it. Besides, everybody has an opinion, just like—as the saying goes—everybody has an asshole. So what's one more opinion, especially if there are so many opinions by assholes? And there's only an inch or so... Ahh, never mind. Watch Team America!

But every now and then something comes one's way that seems to epitomize the basic dilemma of the existence of differences between people; which, when applied internationally, leads camps of entrenched opinion to either demand that we intervene and fix stuff and damn national sovereignty, or that we ought to intervene in some way but respect 'international law' at the same time, or that we should live-and-let-live.

The first won't work, because it'll lead to a state of perpetual war, may annihilate the species, and will also eventually terminally corrupt those who impose their way of looking at things on others—leading ultimately to oppression and into dark places that I'd rather not have our societies go.

The second won't work because 'international law' is a canard and there's basically nothing to be 'respected'. It's just an excuse to do nothing and gives a gazillion do-gooders ample occasion to demand stuff without ever really having to do anything serious about it but protest in the streets or in the media, or to use it to advance their pathetic political ambitions—because let's face it, to politics is where many of the otherwise useless often head.

The third won't work, because if we just let things be, then, like in Afghanistan, we provide safe havens for those who will most definitely not live-and-let-us-live.

Yeah, it's a shitty, messy, unpredictable world out there. Maybe it's most unsettling attribute is that we can't tell what's going to happen. A lot of people are deluded into believing that we can actually control it, but that's bullshit. We may be able to guide it, to prod a little here and a little there, to lean this way or that, to do our best not to allow things to fall to pieces, and so on.

But 'control'? Nahh, never. We can't even control what happens in our own lives beyond some small pathetic pushes here and there, based on our deluded ignorance of what's really going to happen as a consequence. We are immersed in the river of life; and a powerful stream full of unpredictable eddies and surface- and undercurrents it is. Swim with it we must, not against it. Adapt to its whimsy. Go with the flow and use the currents to empower us to steer this way or that, rather than waste our energy decrying them for being vicissitudes. And be grateful for the tiny measure of that kind of control we have, because there are billions of people—who won't be reading this blog—who don't even have that.

And be grateful that nothing truly terminal—personal or global—comes and steps on all our plans and schemes and hopes and dreams, and just snuffs us out.

Seen against that backdrop, the fact that one 17-year old got flogged in public by some Taliban while a whole bunch of (male) perverts watched and, I suspect, enjoyed it and possibly got a sexual rise from it—and that's ignoring the religious rise—seems to pale into insignificance. And, yes, much worse things happen to people around the world. But I'm not talking about those worse things. I'm not talking—not now anyway—about some general concept of the consequences of the brutality of all ideology, 'left' or 'right', 'religious' or 'rational', or how that affects 'people'. I'm just talking about one 17-year old girl being flogged in public. And for those who care to, you can, if you really want to dig into real-life horror stories, follow this up by looking at the stuff coming out of pre-invasion Afghanistan, where it wasn't just floggings but public beheading of adulterers, usually women. And stoning. Let's not forget stoning.

If you really need something to hang your own opinion-making on, forget about all the ethics and morals bullshit for a moment. Forget about your precious politics or ideologies, religious or secular. Forget them if you can, and maybe you'll be set free for the few moments that you're not referring to the usual bullshit bouncing around in your head. Forget about 'right' and 'wrong' and your convictions and what they dictate. I know they're still around, but you can still try not to let them intrude into your thoughts as justifications.

Instead just make an effort to see that one person. More than that even, try to see the world—for a few moments anyway, and probably very inadequately so—from her point of view. Try this, because it's easier to relate to her than to someone who is more 'distant' if you will. Very few of us will actually be able to assume even fractionally the point of view of a near-death starving child or of a victim of extreme torture. But we all should have sufficient imagination to relate sufficiently to that girl, lying there on the street, being held down and flogged, while all those men were looking on.

And then just allow yourself to feel. If your mirror neuron system is working all right, you ought to be able to do that. If your brain hasn't been completely taken over by somebody else's ideologies you ought to be able to do that.

And when you're done feeling, then tell me if that's as things should be. Ever.

But it's the way they are, in that great swirling river of our existence.

I think it was in the movie Welcome to Sarajevo that a character said something about just saving one person. You can't save the many, so just save one.

Not that 'saving' is necessarily the right term here, because you actually can't really 'save' anybody. You can just make their life more livable.

"I just don't like people to suffer," says 'Angel'. Maybe that's a better way of looking at it. And it's not just about 'people'. Never think about 'people', because 'people' are faceless things. Always think about a concrete individual. Every 'people' is an individual. Very few of us can feel the suffering of 'people'. But most of us can relate to the suffering of this person or that, if they're lifted out of anonymity and brought into prominence and close enough to touch.

Imagine it's you lying on the cold stone ground and being flogged, while everybody and sundry looks on. Just imagine that.

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