Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q&A with students

affected by the 26/11 episode, students from grade 7 and 8 from the riverside school created a list of questions.
i present my responses to these questions. you can also get to the site and present your answers.

1. Why is there so much anger?

Ans: Anger arises from a mismatch in 'what we want' and 'what we get'. This is not restricted to the material world alone. For e.g., 'I want a peaceful life' and 'my city gets rocked by a tragic terror attack'. And these mismatches get compounded when we see others getting something we wanted. In a society which celebrates and encourages 'more wanting', these mismatches are bound to increase.

2. What is going to happen next?

Ans: No idea. Don't trust anyone who predicts tomorrow. I plan to do a series of things to help me understand things better and try to improve myself. (I am leaving it a bit vague).

3. What can we humans do to accept each other?

Ans: Accept ourselves first, then our family. If we manage to do these well, then start expanding the circle. Kabir says "Bura jo dekhan main chala, bura na milya koi, Jo mann khoja apna, tho mujhse bura na koi" We will be helped on this path if we build our patience, our listening, our smiles and similar stuff.

4. Till when will we have to suffer?

Ans: Suffering is mandatory for a happy life. I rather die than live a life without suffering. Failures and suffering are our best teachers and we would be wimps if we do not endure them. Even the damage and suffering inflicted by the terrorists is now a text-book for us. As Kahlil Gibran says "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

5. Is the world safe any more?

Ans: From the perspective of climate change issues, I would say that the world is becoming more dangerous. But from the perspective of human society, the world is as safe as you think it is.

6. Are the terrorists also insecure?

Ans: Most certainly. Who isn't? They face the exact same issues that we all face. Their angers stem from the same seeds.

7. What do they get by killing innocent people?

Ans: Tough one. They probably get the same sense when a soldier kills his enemy on the battlefield. Innocents, victims, enemy, friends are labels we give to each other. Our teachers say that those at the Taj are innocent, Kasab's teachers must have told him that they are the enemy.

8. Is our future negative or positive? What about peace?

Ans: That depends on what we take forward in our lives. The future is not fixed, it depends on the choices we exercise today. If we continue to deplete the rain forests, our future is bleak. If we are able to quickly restore the rain forests, then our future is bright.

Peace is a choice we all have. We need to continuously choose it. The more we do it as an individual and more it is done in the collective, the better is our future.

9. Why should humanity care about being human?

Ans: Who else will? For sure, the animals, insects don't care. Each of us is responsible for each of us. It is our duty and responsibility. So what if a few are not doing their part of the bargain.

10. Has killing innocent people given the terrorists their reason for living?

Ans: In most cases, the terrorists die in the same episode. They are somewhat like the insects which come just before the rain. These insects have a very life span and have a very focussed 4 hours of existence. The terrorists are also trained like that.

11. What is the role of education in terrorism?

Ans: The same role as its role in any other sphere (education/training creates V Anand and Kasab through the same structures). If education is the lighting of a lamp, in the case of the terrorist, the wick is stuck into a bomb.

12. Is technology securing our security or disabling it?

Ans: We ourselves are securing or disabling security. Technology is just a tool like all other tools. Don't blame the hammer if you whack your thumb while putting a nail in the wall.

13. Does a human life matter anymore?

Ans: All living things matter. Nobody can change that.

14. How should we deal with these situations?

Ans: It is tough to have one standard mechanism for all to cope and deal with such situations. First recommendation would be to purge the rage from the system. Second would be to discuss with one's peer group and come up with a list of questions (like you guys have done). It is a slow process and we need to be prepared for the long haul as the questions that will crop up in due course will expand to cover larger issues and topics.

15. Is the world going to break up into tiny groups? What about democracy?

Ans: So what if it does? Once upon a time, it was a collection of thousands of almost fully independent villages. We will need to understand the relevance of the multiple identities we carry (country, state, language, caste, locality, school, college, etc).

Democracy is certainly the most desirable form of governance. It will have to evolve from its current state. It needs more participation and more decentralisation.

16. When will the governments wake up? And wake up to what?

Ans: We have the responsibility to wake up anyone who is oversleeping including ourselves. The governments and the politicians are smart enough to know which way the wind is blowing. The onus is now on us (the wind) to blow in unison.

17. What will the new definition of freedom be?

Ans: Freedom should continue to be defined by what gandhiji defined as 'swaraj'. Swaraj implies self-transformation, self-discipline and self-restraint on a personal level.

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