By Sonya Rehman
We live in unpredictable times. Unpredictable and at the same time, volatile, because everything seems to carry with it, big, looming question marks. Economically, socially, politically, and emotionally, we are bullet-ridden with doubt, suspicion, angst, hunger and hatred.
Strangely, even with a preponderance of TV channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and e-zines at our disposal to choose from, a majority of us still suffer from a lack of information, and therefore a lack of good, sound judgment. Instead of truly sinking our teeth into a subject matter and understanding every angle of it, we rely on scraps of information that come via word of mouth, and/or a brief skim-over of the daily headlines.
Therefore this lack of information immediately culminates into a never-ending blame game, one which further fuels and breeds intolerance and deep-rooted prejudice.
The horrifying siege which lasted three days in Mumbai (in November this year) was incredibly nerve-wracking, one could well imagine what the city of Mumbai, across the border was going through. But we watched on, powerless, at CNN and BBC’s live transmission.
You see, Pakistan and its people too, have of late, witnessed carnage and destruction up close and personal where thousands of our men, women and children have perished. I do not state this to undermine what happened in Mumbai, I state this to remind you that we’re all in this together. Please always remember that.
This endless ‘War on Terror’ (albeit punctured with loop-holes), this endless fight for justice, for safety, for security, this endless hope for harmony, love and freedom from fear and bigotry – we all stand through the lashes of change as one. No matter how painful, and no matter how trying, the world now needs a greater dose of compassion.
Treat a man, woman or child as a terrorist, and they will become terrorists. Subject the populace to continuous price-hikes (which will leave their children hungry) and watch them come for your jugular with cold rage in their eyes. Subject the masses to a lack of education and watch them get swayed into an ocean of lies and promises of going straight to heaven if they blow themselves up at a particular location. The general public will be unstoppable if you rob them of their basic necessities. And perhaps this is one of the most glaring and foremost reasons of the birth of crime and terrorism.
The media continuously dishes out facts, figures and dates – churning it all out, like one big, well-oiled machine of propaganda without getting to the root of the cause. And the root of the cause is just this: where, how, when and why are these terrorist groups operating? How did they come into being? What can be done to make them stop? Who’s funding them? Bombing them to high heavens sure isn’t helping, because the terrorist attacks seem to be ongoing occurrences the world over.
“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism”, Naom Chomsky had once stated, “Well, there’s a really easy way; stop participating in it”. Most apt, wouldn’t you agree?
In addition to the information overload and the lack of inseminating and dissecting it properly, it has become a rather tedious trend for people to over-intellectualize the basics by peppering it with conspiracy theories and utter speculation.
The portrayal by the media of the vast Muslim peninsula as barbaric hooligans makes only one thing evident: that the media has, is, and always will be an instrumental player in the game of international politics – via raising counter-terrorist, agenda-based issues.
Encourage fear, and you gain further control over the minds of people. Encourage abhorrence and intolerance, and watch the citizens of a country belonging to different faiths rip each other’s throats out.
With the onset of the Mumbai siege, and within barely a few hours, the Indian media kicked itself up in a flap and began finger-pointing towards Pakistan and its involvement in the attacks almost immediately.
But do you think we ought to hang our heads in shame? In humiliation? In a false sense of guilt? Should we now, allow our lives to be governed by anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments that seem to echo from each and every direction of the wind? Should we now allow the India-Pakistan rift to once again increase and deepen into aching crevices of misjudgment, pain and antagonism, when it took decades to reach some sort of camaraderie?
I think not. Because the world’s war, is very much our war too. Perhaps the artillery needs to be put down, once and for all, to channel peaceful dialogue in the hope to reach common ground.
But then again, maybe that approach would be far too simplistic, because after all there are much bigger elements at play in this real-life chess board of international politics.
Yes, perhaps, there is far too much greed for power and dominance for comfort. But those of us – the pawns – caught entrenched within this endless façade of ‘war’, we can make it easier by being better informed and learning to be more empathetic again.