Today, I read a news headline about how the world has been brought to a standstill by COVID-19. This type of news headline is not uncommon in times of great calamities, where planet Earth and human beings are used interchangeably, as if these words are synonymous, as if we are the world.
I find myself using these terms interchangeably and bite my tongue as I realize my ignorance stemming from the arrogance of being human, because as grand is the human ego, we are not the world. We are just one species on this magnificently intricate planet and as such we belong to the Earth. The Earth does not belong to us.
Therefore, the world has not come to a standstill because of the novel strain of the Coronavirus, humanity has come to a standstill which is actually a good thing for Mother Earth and our sibling creatures on this planet.
Have you ever stood by the luggage carousel at the airport, watching baggage flow down the conveyor belt in large intermittent bunches?
Well, if you stood at the international airport in Chennai, you’d see a few hundred people at crowded around a carousel with their eyes fixed longingly at the vertical flaps at the beginning of the conveyor belt waiting for the bags to appear. After an interminable wait, one or at the most two large suitcases would traipse down on the pleated rubber sheets.
After it gets picked up, the empty conveyor belt would do two more rounds before the entire sequence repeats itself at an excruciatingly slow pace. The passengers – several of whom would have flown half way around the world, would have finished their disembarkation process in less than thirty minutes but would have to wait for nearly two hours before they can pick up their bags and leave the airport.
On our trip to India last year, the frustrations of the slow filling baggage carousel at the Madras airport were compounded by trolley complications.
Recently, I came across a news-post about the purported correspondence by the mayor of Dorval city, Quebec about refusing to remove pork from the school canteen menu as requested by the local muslim community.
The so called “note” contains some harsh words for the muslim community from the mayor, chastising them for not adapting to their adopted country, which seemed fitting in the context. Turns out, that article was a hoax.
The muslim community living in Dorval city, never made such a request, and therefore there was no response from the mayor or anyone. This fake-news was an attempt to divide the community by pitting the muslims against the rest of the city population. This fake news has been circulating since 2015.
To those who claim superiority by not consuming non-vegetarian food, I say, there are no true vegans. Even if you wore a patch of leather, you are not a vegetarian, because leather does not grow on trees, neither does honey, nor silk.
That being said, vegetarians slaughter farmed plants for food, while non-vegetarians slaughter farmed animals and plants for food. Good thing too, because imagine if there was no food diversity and everyone ate just fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, there wouldn’t be enough food for the teeming billions, even if we eradicated the entire ecosystem from the face of this planet and turned it all into farms.
A monologue with God because dialogue seems impossible
God – The Omnipotent, Omnipresent, benevolent creator of this world
I have heard so much about You, growing up. I hear You are a kind, benevolent, just and fair God, although I am not sure if that was the case when You tested Abraham’s faith.
By the way, I am not here to discuss the Bible. I want to talk to You about money. Why do You need so much money? Why does The Almighty, who created this universe in a week, with a day to spare, need so much of his favorite creation’s legal tender?
Democracy – Self-governance of the people, by the people, for the people.
In his farewell address to the nation, President George Washington gives sage advice to the fledgling republic he helped found, as it tries to find its footing in self-governance, in an era of feudalistic societies.
Among other things, he lays down a case for self-governance without political parties. He puts forth a well thought out argument as to how the mere existence of political parties could imperil our democracy, because by their very nature political parties stand to benefit from factionalism and divisiveness. They achieve this by false propaganda, pitting communities one against the other, thereby weakening the Union.
He writes, “One of the expedients in party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts.” He cautions the voter, “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations.”
Given the unmitigated levels of toxicity in election campaigns and the corruption in our government, the truth in these eloquent words, sounds prophetic. What if we lived in a world as advocated by our first President?
Imagine, an election cycle without any political parties – no democrats, no republicans, no green or any other party. An election cycle, where the individual candidate, unbeholden to any political party, does not have to lean either left or right, but stand upright and run for public office only on the strength of their credentials and beliefs.
Prejudice – blind hatred of a stranger, based on superficial differences
‘I don’t know you from Adam, and even though you have not harmed me in any way, I hate you, I hate you so much.
‘When things go wrong in my life for reasons I cannot fathom, I blame you for that. And there are other times, when a little soul searching and self-introspection can explain the reasons for the bad choices I make, but instead of taking the opportunity to become a better person, I hate you viscerally.
‘And if you think that I will credit you for the things that go right in my life, you are stupider than I thought you were. All that credit belongs solely to me, only me. And if you think that I act like a petulant child, why not? When this hatred of “different” people is sanctioned by my own family and endorsed by the society either explicitly or implicitly.
In conversations with friends and family over a period of time, I have come to understand that there is a tendency to distort or stretch the truth. Such alterations make for interesting anecdotes and lively conversation. But, when it comes to regular interaction with people in daily life, staying close to reality keeps life’s flow relatively smooth.
Over the years after listening to numerous personal stories, I realized separating the husk from the grain can be really hard. I also realized that I don’t have to know the absolute truth about everything to have healthy relationships. All I need is a credible approximation of the broad reality. To ascertain this, all I need to do is to discount certain parts of the issues presented, according to the individual’s nature and character.
This is my current formula to get to the heart of the matter:
At first I take all things said in a conversation at face value. No assumptions, no presumptions unless the context is obvious or common in social parlance. In time, a pattern would emerge and some lack of consistency would begin to show, in the continuity of the narratives. Depending on the degree of this inconsistency, I assign discounts to the information presented to me.
You try to get out of the grocery check-out line after paying for the purchases, when the cashier pops the question, ‘Would you like to donate a dollar to such-and-such charity?’ You look around and see a lot of cardboard balloons with names on them, which brings to mind a related TV commercial, and you wonder how much of your charity buck goes to the ad agency.
The corporations who are the latest human beings, are charitable too. ‘For every product you purchase from us, we will donate 50 cents to such-and-such charity.’