During these times, it may seem like we are enemies, standing on opposite sides of the battlefield. But are we really enemies? I don't think so. I have nothing against you and I hope that you have nothing against me. I am just your average person, trying to go through life in search of happiness and peace and I am quite certain that you are trying to do the same. And I am certain that you and I are similar in more ways than we are different, no matter how much anybody tries to convince me otherwise. As a child, I wanted to play, have a good time, do well at studies and everything else that I participated in, and make my parents proud. As I grew up, I wanted to find good friends that I could share my hopes and fears and moments of happiness and sadness with. Friends who would be loyal to me and look out for me, and in turn, I would be loyal to them and look out for them. Later, I wanted to find a loving partner who would be with me in sickness and in happiness, till death do us apart. And finally, I want to have kids who find this place worth living and who can grow up to lead normal, happy, content lives. Both you and I, feel happy when we do well or someone we love does well. And we feel the pain, when we lose a loved one or when a life is unjustly taken away. We feel the same high and we cry the same salty tears.
So then why does it seem that we are so different from each other and why does it seem like we are enemies? I think that it is so because people in power have a vested interest in making enemies out of us. It is no secret that there is bad blood between our countries. But I also think that it is self-evident that the leaders of your country care only about staying in power and not about the good of your people, and they are either unable or unwilling to improve the living conditions of your people. They are using the bad blood that exists between our countries to further their own perverted hidden agendas. The circumstances of war have been maliciously created because nothing unites a country behind its leaders like the prospect of war. If the leaders of your country really cared about the Pakistani people, they would take concrete steps to improve the living conditions of your people. They would spend less on defense and stockpiling nuclear weapons (which can only wipe out the hopes and aspirations of generations) and spend more on social-welfare, health-care, and education programs. And most of all, they would allow democracy to come back to your country so that you can have a say in the affairs of your country. Not to say that democracy is the silver bullet. Just because there is democracy, it doesn't automatically imply that the living conditions of everybody in the country will dramatically improve. That is not true even in the US after 250 years of democracy, where there are people with unimaginable riches but also lot of poverty, hatred and crime. Democracy and freedom, more often than not, brings out the best in products but the worst in people. And so people in power can always collude with the rich and elite and further widen the divide between the richest and the poorest. One can abuse any system, if that is what one is bent on doing. But still, it is incredibly important to have a democracy so that people have the freedom to speak their mind, pursue their dreams, and have a framework in place to change the system if they don't like it.
And this is not the case only in your country. I would be naive if I thought that was true. This is happening all over the world. The job of politicians, really, is to run the affairs of the country and do things to improve the lives of the people. But somehow when people get into positions of power, things change. The only goal that remains is to get into the position of ultimate power and to hold on to that position as long as possible. It's really true what they say: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And it's not just that the politicians are evil and that is the end of the story. Sometimes, the choices that the people of a country collectively make, forces the politicians to make certain choices. For e.g., the US consumes a lot of oil and the smooth running of the US economy is contigent upon that. So the US politicians have no choice but to maintain cordial relations with oil-supplying nations of the world. So all of us are collectively responsible for the choices that the leaders of our country make.
So what can we do, being the two average citizens of our respective countries that we are? I think we can do a lot. If nothing else, we can at least make a start and do our part. We can choose not to fall prey to the gospel of hatred that some leaders preach. We can become more compassionate human beings and we can try and make our kids more compassionate human beings, instead of planting the seeds of bigotry and hatred in their minds. All we really have to do is make sure that our kids don't grow up hating each other. And then if everybody does the same, collectively we would have achieved a lot. If you look at it this way, the overall task doesn't seem that daunting, does it? I have taken inspiration from Gandhiji, as I do many other times, who once said, "No matter how insignificant you think your actions are, it is very important that you do them." When he started his compaign against the social injustices that he saw around him, he too must have wondered (at least that is what I feel anyway) what he could achieve alone. But how different things would have turned out had he not done his part! Maybe, we wouldn't be citizens of different countries today. Maybe we would still be under British Raj. Who knows?
One other very important thing that we can do is never resort to violence to solve any problems. On the contrary, we should condemn violence in all its forms because violence doesn't really achieve what it promises because it leaves a trail of blood and hatred. Violence begets violence. Period. Look at what's happening in the Middle East if you need any convincing. And speaking of violence, I want to take this opportunity to condemn the Gujarat violence. Killing the 35 people on the Sabarmati Express was a ghastly act. But letting the mob rule and kill innocent Muslims was just as ghastly an act, if not ghastlier. What the Indian government should have done is impose and enforce a strict curfew in the region to prevent the mob from ruling, and reign in the people that actually committed the crime. I also want to take this opportunity to express my condolences for the death of all the innocent that were killed in that violence. Each one of the lives taken was unjustly taken. I know that my words cannot bring anyone back but I still want to say it in the hope that it heals at least some wounds.
And above all, we have to see and understand what is really happening in the world today. We have to see that the worst of humanity is at play here. And I don't want to sound as an embodiment of virtue, because I am not. I have all the vices in me as well, and I often wonder what choices I would make if I were in the position of ultimate power? (I have no way of knowing but I only hope that I would make the right choices.) But even when I am not in the position of ultimate power, I still have to fight everyday to make the right choices, when I have the power to make the wrong ones. In such circumstances, we often think to ourselves, "How is the world going to become any worse if I make this wrong choice?" But it does. What goes around, comes around. Lot of times, we make the wrong choices because everybody around us is making the wrong choices. So it is not inconceivable to think that if everybody around us was making the right choices, we would too, right? We have to constantly battle our darker side; we have to fight this jihad everyday. Or else, there will be nothing left to fight for!
Previously, I used to read what's happening in the world and feel bad about it, but I never used to do anything about it. And that used to multiply my feeling of helplessness and despair manifold. But now, I have chosen to do something about it and hence I have written this article. And I sincerely hope that I have converted you, not to Hinduism, or Christainity, but to humanism, a faith that is tolerant of all other faiths, a faith that looks at other faiths as simply different ways to get to the same destination.
In nature, all the species are continuously fighting for their survival. But man has thoroughly dominated the environment and there is no threat to our survival from other species. We have become our biggest threat. If we don't take a hard look at ourselves, if we don't check our greed and lust for power, and if we are not willing to share the world, we will end up destroying not only ourselves but a lot of other species as well, especially in this nuclear age. But at least, I am not going down without a fight.