Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A Passion for fruit

Think back to a late Sunday in March 2004. It was a celebration day for India’s test match delivery. I was walking down Southall Broadway and was amazed at the number of Indian flags wrapped around necks, backs and from poles. Every 30 seconds cars would zoom down from either side of the road with passengers leaning out with Indian banners and flags. With their sunroofs open people were frantic and eager to communicate how India had raised the hope of the series.

Unfortunately, the air of happiness was quickly disturbed by a group of youths that started a brawl. The brawl appeared to start with three young men venting their anger against one person. The fists turned to kicks then the flag poles were instantly broken into shared halves, converted to form convenient weapons. A tide of youth gathered and commenced to chase this person down one of Southall’s hump ridden backstreets. It all happened at a fuzzy rapid pace. Although we may not be party to the issue or possible argument between the youths, the negative power unleashed at that moment showed the potential for someone to take advantage of harnessing it. Everyone should feel good about some success, this can lead to friendly rivalry. One could describe the spirit of the moment as being just ‘good fun’ and based on pure excitement. My impression is that some humbleness and graciousness appeared to be missing. There appeared to be a lost opportunity and need for joint celebration – the need for supporting sides to come together in good sporting faith, confidence and unity?

One extreme is to imagine a cage with 12 monkeys. At the top of the cage sits food (delicious fruit) but a pole leading to it is wired by a small group of observing and controlling scientist’s with an electrical current. Upon any monkey attempting to climb and touch the tray of food, they will receive an electrical shock. Over time, the monkeys will resist the temptation, as they understand the negative implication and expectant pain. Every week 2-3 monkeys are swapped for new entrants in the cage. The new monkeys somehow learn the ways of the others, not interfering with the norms and status quo. After a while, unknown to the monkeys, the electrical current is switched off. They are unaware of this and are therefore conditioned to continue to ignore the fruit.

The moral to the story of the monkeys is that people too can be conditioned to function and behave in a particular way, even if situations opportunities to change the world around them appear. National pride and opinions can also be exploited for the gains of a controlling negative minority. Episodes of the growth of fascism during the last two world wars show how ethnic cleansing can become acceptable. Those that once lived next door to each other in peace and harmony may choose to either protect or forget to save the hunted. Minorities can become easy targets in a world of ignorance. The ignorant majority become unaware of lessons from history and can be forced to limit their confidence to take the risk of changing present day situations. Let’s be careful to heed the negative side of patronism. We need to understand that access to the fruit doesn’t lie in the hands of others. If we want to change the world, let’s neither alienate nor be used by others. Celebration of unity must be better than alienation. Rejoicing in each others differences and the spirit of taking part in life and being alive has to be better than celebration of each other failures.

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Monday, March 15, 2004

A negative tide

With the terrible bombings in Spain on Thursday 11th March, the world continues to watch as an unknown evil force unleashes its destructive power. With many affected both physically and mentally, a view of resilience and defiance to the terrorists was shown the next day. Over 11 million people, approximately 25% of the Spanish population took part in a march. Today’s worry is still the uncertainty that surrounds who was responsible for such a deadly act.

Early investigations reveal that possibly mobile phones may have been used to detonate each bomb. Their use at peak commuter times has caused maximum devastation. It’s ironic that an everyday communication device has been used to transmit a signal of death.

Communication is a term often used in business to describe the need to bring people together under a common cause or simply inform them of direction. However, communication is now out of control. Clarity amongst the fog of finger-pointing, labelling, inconsistent past polices and truth distortion by some of the perpetrators of evil has become difficult. Killing is correctly condemned. Unfortunately agents of evil also exist to capitalise on the situation. I remember just after the September 11th 2001, bombing, Sikhs were encouraged to communicate their American settlement to ensure that everyone knew that Sikhs had no connection to the situation. Unfortunately Balbir Singh lost his life from an ignorant individual.

At a time where people need to spend more time understanding each other, through direct dialogue and appreciation of our diversity, instead the potential seed of alienation is being planted by the terrorists. The minority element that are causing havoc are unaware of the ripple effect that they are causing to themselves. The terrorists believe that their struggle can only be communicated through a route of killing the innocent. This is clearly short-minded, short-lived and unacceptable.I read one report of a husband that was to start his first day at a new office. On the morning of 11th March he decided to board one of the Spanish trains so that he would arrive early and create a good first impression. Little did he know that the trip he would take would be his last? His wife had kissed him goodbye in the morning, yet by evening was frantically searching for him. There are unfortunately other tales that are just as saddening. Any killing creates a negative ripple effect.

Somebody recently questioned the purpose of writing articles, suggesting ideas and making people aware of issues – basic communications. The central question is: does writing down ideas or suggestions actually help further assisted towards a joint solution? The pen in its own way is quite mighty. Ideas can be expressed and analogies can help people understand and introduce empathy with a situation. ‘People understanding people’ is only one of the steps to understanding and resolving problems. However, with violence for the sake of violence, the only result is the escalation of the number of people being killed.

We need to collectively stand-up and suggest that further killing are unacceptable. Let us suggest a free talk zone. Here intellectuals, those with grievances and representing parties could be brought together to be educated in the perils of war. For example, orphans, mine field injuries, broken families, economic stress and personal injury stories. A realisation then may result in the pointlessness of terror campaigns. The conditions for attendance would be the immediate ceasing of any violence and the establishment of joint terms of reference for dialogue and resolution management. The recent events in Madrid show that Mankind has learnt little to nothing over the years, regarding ways of peaceful problem resolution strategies. Let’s now try to empower people to stop the terrorists and then get sensible people together with specialist advisers and panels to broker peace.

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