We vs. Them


“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” 

                                                                                               ~Franklin Thomas, 1964 AD

On the screen, I hear the father of slain Indian student Anuj Bidve speak, “The world is finished for us – that is all I can say,” Anuj, a post graduate student , had been shot in the head  by a man describing himself as “Psycho Stapleton” in Manchester in a mindless act of violence. Seeing the old parents forlornly trying to cope with the loss of their only child, an indescribable feeling of sadness engulfs me.

The incident is being described as a Race attack. One of the many similar attacks that have plagued newly arrived immigrants and students in the UK, US, Australia over the years. Many reasons are up for debate. Is this an anger against new residents getting access to “scarce” resources which otherwise was the prerogative of the old community? Are these attacks a sign of increasingly disaffected youth with limited work and employment opportunities? Are these problems temporary and would “go away” once the incoming folks integrate with the community at large? Was the victim at the wrong place at the wrong time? There is much talk regarding strategies needed to reduce such race attacks through community development and deterrent police measures.

As I reflect, I wonder if these underlying beliefs about race attacks are not merely chasing the symptoms rather than trying to unearth the core cause. And if this be so, would the strategies being talked of be really effective?

What makes a person, without provocation, brutally attack and kill another fellow human? Is this from a distorted self image, itself a product of a distorted belief and need system? Or is it due to an egoistic self- centricity, a product of a selfish and materialistic world? To my mind, these aspects are responsible for much of the created sufferings in the world. These become the arrogant starting points that separate us from others. These make us feel that others are a threat and that the world is a hostile place. We get forced into undesirable behaviour – reacting to others’ words or actions. We end up needlessly competing, being envious or judgmental and feeling threatened by others’ successes.

So what can we do? I believe the strategy needs to start from within. We need to look inside, increase our self awareness. It is this awareness that aligns us with our inner values and brings lightness and a sense of purpose. It is in this space that our ego starts subsiding. Freeing us from that endless loop of Desire and Dissatisfaction, Freeing us from that eternal hunt and chase mindset.

“What is tolerance?  It is the consequence of humanity.  We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.”            

                                                                                                               –  Voltaire, 1764 AD

In Learning…………..                            Shakti Ghosal

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21 thoughts on “We vs. Them

  1. Shakti – I particularly enjoy reading your blog because it leads to great comments from followers that ask really good questions or look inside themselves and that urges me to do the same. I believe a step in the right direction was made when ‘hate crimes’ were prosecuted with stiffer penalties than a murder/homicide/stalking and the list goes on. Crimes that once would have gone unpunished are now being prosecuted in the U.S. simply because ‘hate’ can be found somewhere in the equation. It’s probably naive of me to say I wish for less hate and more hope but I’m tired of violence.
    I am seeing people of all nationalities come together and work for the common good in community gardens in cities in the central US. These community gardens are becoming more and more popular as it becomes more difficult to get fresh vegetables without pesticides, etc. There’s no fighting over the harvest of the vegetables. Everyone shares equally in the harvest. Thank you for these open discussions.

    • Hi Sheri,

      That was quite a pleasurable surprise to see this old post of mine surface like this with your great comment. Thank you!

      Yes, it is indeed refreshing to note that Governments and Administrations have woken up to the menace of such hate crimes when in earlier times these would be pushed under the carpet while being rationalised as something linked to biases and prejudices, our social and cultural embeddedness.

      I can also envisage Technology playing a hugely enabling role in broadening outlooks and lowering prejudices. I believe as technology continues to ‘flatten’ the world and transform it into a Globalised village, ‘hate crimes’ arising out of ignorance and the need to stick with one’s own flock would significantly go down. I remain positive about the direction the world is heading, a few blips here and there notwithstanding.

      I so appreciate your taking the time to review my old posts!

      Shakti

  2. The reasons/causes of the tragic case of Anuj Bidve ( Anuj’s home is less than a kilometer distance from our home in Pune) and other incidents involving new immigrants are not insurmountable and much can be achieved with more sensitive and critical orientation of both the immigrant and the local community thru information, interaction, exchange and being aware of the ground realities of that place and the precautions needed.
    The bigger question You raise of killings in general and the path of greater self Awareness that you prescribe are fundamental and essential.
    It is fascinating that your posts raise current issues of our outer reality and create a bridge to Truth by calling us to look inwards.
    This is the key to Meditation and at the cost of being misunderstood I take the liberty to express and share further.
    The Universe is One, a perfectly balanced Whole and we are but a part of this Oneness. A Microcosm which should be but a reflection of the Macrocosm which is Balanced, Non Judgmental, Amoral and is not dialectic as good or bad, right or wrong, black or white…
    In that way Consciousness is One, and all in The Universe is connected to this Consciousness.
    A meditative state is a silent mind (no mind), not clouded by thoughts, emotions, beliefs…and is a witness of each moment. Just Consciousness.
    Many meditation techniques are there, and looking ‘Inwards’ is the ‘Key’ to Awareness and this ‘One’ Consciousness.
    This is my conviction and not an ideal, that We, by being more Aware and Conscious will stimulate Consciousness in others and in Our Environment and this will go a long way in evolving Humanity away from Evil and Destruction to Harmony, Creativity and Beauty.
    Humanity is in a phase of such accelerated growth and phenomenal technological achievements in the last two centuries that currently we are concentrated on fulfilling our Materialistic Lusts after Aeons of deprivation, survival and enslavement.
    There is great hope that now we will turn Inwards .and channel our Energies Creatively in the service of Truth, Love and Beauty.
    Thanks Shakti for your ever enriching and motivating posts.

    • ” There is great hope that now we will turn Inwards .and channel our Energies Creatively in the service of Truth, Love and Beauty.” Wow! Beautfully put, Renate. Powerful… like you. This is what self awareness is all about, and as you opine, the bridge to consciousness. To be truthful, I had not visualised my argument to this point but had merely seen Awareness as the vehicle to subsume our ego and bring in a lightness. The lightness necessary to free us from the heaviness of our old fears and notions.

      Thank you Renate, for taking me further on the journey.

      In Learning….

      Shakti

  3. Nice read Shakti……but, frankly, I do not see such attacks as anything new or as an emerging phenomenon…… Like any other ailment, some amongst us are born with a form of neurotic disorder that leads them to resort to mindless violence on the weak and the defenceless……and for no specific reason! Perhaps in a relatively calmer state of mind, there is a tinge of regret, which they respond to by ‘creating’ a reason, a justification!….. ‘Blacks’, ‘job stealers’, ‘invaders of culture’ etc are simply some of such justification ‘labels’………. Tell me, how the school bully or the local ‘dada’ any different in how their mind works or their acts – except, perhaps, the ‘magnitude’, the ‘scale’?……Today – thanks to TV, FB, Twitter etc – we are only getting to know of such in incidents more than we did three decades back….. The moot point really is whether such sickness of mind is on the rise…….and if so, how do we go a out countering it…..

    Tilak Ghoshal, South City Residents forum

    • Dada, Fantastic overview of the issue. And that is why , as a reader has nicely commented, the bullet is but a symptom. And that is why we need to look inside ourselves, inculcate that self awareness and lower our ego. Idealistc? May be but what is the other way, if one has to go fro ther underlying cause. May I take the liberty of posting your comment on the blogsite for the benefit of more eyeballs

      Regards

      Shakti

  4. yes Shakti, I am always have this admiration for your work from all the insights, thoughts and wisdom you shared from your post, and honestly learned a lot from them…
    I am nominating you for 7×7 Link Award, sorry for late link back to u :-)…. Congratulations…

  5. There are vile and violent people in the world. Everywhere. The edges between ‘we’ and ‘them’ are blurred.
    There is also the delta factor that seems to be a precursor and predictor of violence . Indian in a white neighborhood. White person in an Indian environment. Woman isolated among a group of men. Child in an unprotected and vulnerable environment. Every delta seem to have the potential for violence. We have seen every one of these delta situations turn deadly, over and over again.
    It is hard for people outside of the US to understand the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms…by the weak and vulnerable was the intent. It unfortunately does not always work well especially when thugs get to carry the guns.
    As you know, I also learn and teach self-defense, specifically Aikido. Self-defense beyond the martial arts aspect is something like defensive driving. It is to follow some simple principles when in a compromised situation. Like avoid walking late at night. Going out in a group, if you are in a questionable neighborhood or better still avoid the neighborhood. Also just to be aware of danger. Turning back and walking away if you see a threat a few blocks away. The self-defense skills are to be used in the last resort if violence is imminent. Again there is very little you can do against a gun if you are surprised.
    Indian students sometimes do not realize the potential for violence. Sad to say, but it always better to assume that there are violent people around than walking around with rose-tinted glasses.

    Again I do not know the circumstances that lead to Anuj’s terrible death but feel so sorry for his parents.

    • Hi Tathagata,

      I loved reading your comments and would like to acknowledge you about the perspective provided.

      All you say is appropriate and the principles to be followed in compromising situations are clearly spot on. But my intention in the post was to try and ” make sense of it all” , as always 🙂 and separate the symptoms out of the way to try and drill down to the core causes.

      We and Them” need not always take the form of outright violence, as it did in the unfortunate case of Anuj. You and I, living the way we have been outside our homeland, are fairly aware of the various shapes and sizes that discrimination can take as and when it rears its ugly head.My recipe therefore veered towards starting with our ownselves, build self awareness and thereby lower our fears and ego shields.Long lasting solution can only be found in this manner.

      Tathagata, I would love to have you visit here with your considered thoughts.

      Cheers. More power to you with Akido, which clearly seems to be a passion.

      Shakti

  6. Hi Essgee,
    Your blog title reminded me of a play called ‘ Us and Them’ I had put up in my early ITC days which had relevance to the cross-functional situation there, much smaller issues than life-and-death.

    Much as one would like to believe in the idealistic viewpoint of self-reflection and change from within being all-pervasive but the few madmen amongst us are enough to create the kind of pain and suffering that the Bidve’s must be going through now. Till the R-brain disappears with evolution, if it ever does, conflicts are a part of the human condition and in many cases with unwitting, innocent victims – like the gun-toting maniacs in EU and USA, terrorist attacks across the world etc. Unlike the dream of a famous song of John Lennon’d, the world will take many years and a pralaya or two to be as one.

    • Thanks Rex, love to read your comments as always. I would be curious to know what was the theme in your play of the same name at ITC.

      I know my recipe’ may seem idealistic… which it is. But I believe for sustainable solutions, a dose of Idealism can be crucial. And I also believe that with every person improving his own level of self awareness, there is a high probability, we would have one less psycho Stapleton to contend with.

      Cheers.

      Shakti

  7. Your post covers so many issues and raises so many questions, that I can only add to it.
    Every community is always vary of outsiders and the basic issues are always economic and cultural invasion. If the Outsiders shy from integrating with the Native Community, learning their ways, appreciating their culture, respecting their tradition, it creates greater hostility and a hatred settles in the psyche of the masses. This is where the Psycho-Stapletons come in, a minority with a chip on their shoulders and willing to go to any extent to prove their bravado to their peers. Attacking an Outsider, not only proves their worth in their gangs, but appeases those hostile elements in that society.
    As an Indian, I have experienced the behaviour of many ( not all) of our countrymen. I saw a tendency of groupism, a sudden surge of patriotism and religiousness which was displayed loudly and boisterously on every warranted occasion, ridiculing the local population in public amongst themselves in Hindi, giving no regard to safety precautions that even the local people adhere to, (as not walking by lonely alleys at odd hours as economic gain is the only goal).
    When I was in Australia, many of my Australian friends did point this out to me and as recently as 2 months back, in the rush hour train in Berlin, I overheard as three smart, well educated young Indians made derogatory and obscene remarks about each commuter in Hindi.
    If you count away the mugging attacks, then I would not call these attacks Racial. Let us not forget North Indians in Maharashtra, Biharis in Punjab, Bengalis in Kerala,… the list is endless in our own country…
    And Anuj Bidve, and his devastated parents seem to be the innocent victims of such a crime

    Note. The pattern of these so called racial attacks are mainly by really young, as you say distorted minds and coming from the lowest echelons of their society.
    Also the recent racial attacks in Australia was preceded by an overblown and provocative Racial abuse standoff between the Cricket teams of the two Nations, played out aggressively on field and through the media, raising passions. Is there any connection?

    There are so many types of killing. Racial, Religious, Political, Psychotic,… and really All Mindless even if premeditated…

    I find your last paragraph very significant. The common factor in all killings seems to be that they stem from Unconsciousness. Be it distorted egoism, materialistic, fanaticism..etc etc
    Awareness (Consciousness) seems to be the only solution.
    Thanks for this post Shakti…

    .

    • Wow Ramani ! The span of your thoughts is truly all encompassing, full of insights.

      The groupisms and the ‘huddling together’ mindset you have so vividly elaborated on are indeed so real. But then they do remain a product of insecurity and fear. External displays are but manifestations of weak and confused minds. Unconsciousness…. is a great way to describe this. Does mindlessness comes out of unconsciousness? To build self awareness is thus the first logical step forward.

      Cheers and keep writing

      Shakti

  8. My take is that according to many of us, “Life is not fair” and we tend to blame someone for it. Maybe the local politician, parent, children, spouse, the middleman, the giant retailer, and so on…the list is pretty long. Until we figure out that it is not someone else, but us, to a large extent, who choose to be what we are, the tendency towards violence and hitting back in other ways will not go away. It’s a long haul.

    • Rajendra,

      Your views are so close to my heart ! I could not agree more. We need to build our self awareness and thereby improve our conviction of self choice. It surely is a long haul but we need to start… A thouasnd miles journey starts with that first step. The intention needs to be there.

      Cheers and look forward to your comments.

      Shakti

  9. Whether there are race attacks or minor brickbats that one faces in everyday life the only way to deal with them is by promoting the importance of building good human relations. Technological advancements have enabled us to just build connections. We should take those connections to a much higher level by promoting mutual respect for fellow human beings.

    • Hi Amrita,

      Thank you for commenting. As you have so rightly pointed out, we need to ” take connections to a much higher level….” But how do we do that? My guess is that the place to start is our own selves. We need to build our own self respect, a prerequisite to lower our false egos. Which in turn should allow us to respect others as you have so correctly mentioned.

      I do look forward to your further visits and comments.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  10. yes I agree with you and Hormaz Muncherjee the questions lies is what are we going to do to stop this kind of system, it is always starts from us. If people will be more open minded to all changes and learn how to be fair no matter what is your race this world will be at peace…

    • Hi,

      Thank you for your kind acknowledgement.I hear two wonderful aspects in your comment : (1)It starts with us, we need to be the change agents.(2) We need to learn to imbibe certain qualities.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  11. “The world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people.” – Napoleon
    What did the Indian 5 year old innocent do to get raped by her Indian school bus attendant in Dubai? She didn’t stray into the wrong part of town like Anju or tempt providence. Beliefs, passion, self-preservation, pain, hatred & resentment are triggers that get pulled in the human mind. The bullet is the most harmless factor in the equation. The question is what can Manchester & the world do about it. The question is what can you & I do about it?
    As Simon & Garfunkel sang ” no one dared, to disturb the sound of silence”

    • Wow! Hormaz, what an absolutely brilliant insight. I can only hang my head in shame when I look inside me and try to answer the question asked by you, ” What can I nay have I done about it?” And the answer hits me, ” I have not dared…” As you have so beautifully put it, ” the bullet is but the symptom….”

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