I will share with you a couple of thoughts that have been running through my mind a lot lately: one has to do with the need for minorities (class, racial, religious, etc.) to stick together, and the other with the need for us to listen to each other.
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said we should help our brothers and sisters whether they do good or bad, and when asked why anyone would want to help someone doing something bad, he replied that you help them by stopping them from doing that bad deed.
They say that people who hurt, hurt people. You will find some of the worst abusers of power are people desperately clinging to the little bit of pride they get from exercising authority over someone they consider inferior, basically strategically positioning themselves in the service of “power” at the expense of their colleagues, or “rivals.” Sometimes they’ll even invoke their own status of minority to justify their right to exercise force over other groups. You see it in the smallest things, and the most horrific historic events. This is how slavery flourished (and still continues to exert itself), this is how colonialism functioned, this is how apartheid worked, this is how genocides become realities, this is how abusive relationships become normalized.
Some times we build armours around ourselves to protect us from any perceived attack, and some of us will retaliate if we feel the threat to be serious enough. The problem with this is that we can become hypervigilant and suspect threats where there aren’t any. This limits our ability to interact effectively, and can cause rifts where there should be unity instead.
We need to recognize that we can achieve a lot more by working together, than we can as separate entities. I know it can be hard at times to bypass our super sensitive warning signals, but sometimes we really do loose out on significant opportunities for allegiance, because of our fears. We can choose to look beyond differences, and allow for a common cause to unite us, rather than allow for differences to destroy each one of us in turn. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but I do believe it’s worth the struggle.
I know for a fact that most people want many of the same things: safety, health, and a decent chance at happiness. And yet, I’ve seen people trying to “protect” themselves (their image, their status, their affiliations, their feelings) at the expense of other less fortunate ones, who were in real, immediate need. What did they gain from this? They are simply strengthening walls where there should be none to begin with. It’s a strange feeling being caught in such a situation, it’s almost as though you can sense the inner workings of a pain competition to determine who is suffering the most. Instead of alleviating distress, they inflict more suffering on others, to make themselves feel better.
Two of my favorite poems continue to do the rounds in my head:
Y lo peor no fueron los ridiculos gestos de las matronas, torpes animales domesticos,
ni el parloteo de los intrascendentes animalillos partidarios del orden y la compostura,
sino el distinguir, debajo de la pacotilla y de las flores de plastico,
su buena fe de gansos sonolientos.
(Guillermo Carnero, “El movimiento continuo”)
Vosotros, mientras en la noche resuena
la rutilante musica de circo,
decidme si merecia la pena haber vivido para esto,
para seguir girando en el suave chirrido de las tablas alquitranadas,
para seguir girando hasta la muerte
(Guillermo Carnero, “Dibujo de la muerte”)
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little struggles, that we forget that there’s a bigger world out there, filled with people who are struggling in one way or another. At times they may be facing much greater challenges than we could even imagine. Instead of dwelling on our own obstacles, perhaps it would help to extend ourselves outward and lend a helping hand, then we might find that life doesn’t have to be that difficult, that we’re not alone, and that contentment can be found by striving for good, not just our own good, but more generalized, more altruistic good. I think Mother Theresa said something to this effect.
The thoughts that I am trying to manage here have to do with the knowledge of suffering, with the actual experience of having felt that pain, and being willing to take the risk of feeling it again, for the sake of a greater good. That takes a tremendous amount of courage, and a determination that goes beyond imagination. Knowing fully well that there is the possibility of hardship accompanying your journey, and still going ahead with it, allows for endless possibilities, but you need to trust that you have the strength to endure the pain, and work through it. You need to believe in a goal that is worth the hardships you’ll encounter, and take the plunge.