Thursday, January 8, 2009

All In The Spirit of Being Right

When I was a kid I would hear the news and people talking about the Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestine... Now that I'm in my thirties with kids and having spent twelve years building up a company, and having to deal with people who just CANNOT let go of politics and righteousness and smallmindeness, I finally understand what war, genocide and violence is all about.

It's about being right.

It's not really about politics - that can be dealt with in non-violent, economic or social ways, right? Embargoes, trade conditions. I suppose they could end up violent once people start needing water, or food, or proper living conditions or whatever their trade affects.

It's not really about money or property - though those could be the crux of the fight. Who owns which side of the beach? They could start arguing over it, fighting and finally killing each others' children over it, but really, it comes down to wanting to be the one who won the argument.

In EVERY war, not just this particular one (which isn't technically a war, it's really just ritual devastation by one side of the other) someone decided that the other side was wrong or had overstepped the boundary, or had provoked a rightful, vengeful attack.

Look at the way we all fight with our families (if you're dysfunctional when you fight, then maybe you don't fight at all, just sit around hating on each other) - we tend to be more honest with them on one hand, but more rude too. We tend to express our rage, even when it's the silliest, tiniest thing by someone we actually love. And yet, in the real world, we are kinder to strangers, more polite to bosses and dignitaries, than we are to our own wives, husbands or children.

How many of us practise thanking our mothers (or fathers) for the food they cook every single BORING day? And for those mothers out there who love that act of giving, how many get thanked for it? A real, proper, look-her-in-the-eyes "thank you". It's harder than we think to be constantly "on" to think of others in this way (though I reckon most mothers out there practise it). It's hard to watch families dining out, and seeing them ignoring each other, and ignoring their badly behaved kids. Personally, I have no problem asking my kids for thanks when I feel I deserve it - I just don't make it a big, emotional, martyric, guilt trip for them. I ask directly and then thank them for thanking me. It's the only way they will learn to be truly civilised - by being reminded that other people besides themselves have needs too.

So back to how people fight. In the end, everyone is right, and everyone is wrong, especially when the goal is to conquer. But if the goal is to WIN, and I mean, WIN ONE FOR HUMANITY (and I'm talking perpetual, forever, looking-to-the-future good and well-being of all humans) - not WIN SO THAT SOMEONE LOSES, EVERYTHING - then either side would find it easy to let go of the need to be right.

Honestly, it's just a change of heart and change of mind. That's all it is, and it speaks volumes of the power of the human spirit to heal and mend and bring love and kindness to the world.

You may find that impossible to believe.

"What, you mean ADMIT that someone else is right? That makes me wrong, weak, a coward, unloved, undesirable and financially poor (fill in the gaps with whatever "reasons" not to)!"

It's not quite what I mean. Let's break it down:

Firstly, mind the language. To say, "admit he is right" immediately places you as 1) wrong for not admitting it 2) wrong in the first place 3) stubborn 4) proposing to subordinate yourself to "him" - at least that's what the general connotations are. What if you were to say instead "What, you mean, not care who is right or wrong and have absolutely no stress anymore while he goes crazy trying to make ME admit he was right?" is kinda what I mean, but it does have an air of condescension to it, no?

Really, you just have to decide it's not worth the hurt anymore. It's like when you are a teenager, and everything your parents say is embarrassing or hurtful or wrong, and then you go to college and you open your eyes a little and realise there's more to life than what your parents do or say. And then you make friends and fall in love and start work and realise there's more to life than whether you were right or your parents were right. And then you have children and lose friends and have illnesses and find out that people are fighting and killing for no reason, and realise that it's so much easier just to be okay with some things, and to fight for other more important things (like your children's health, education and rights to safety, good health and education) than whether mum drove the right way, or dad said the right thing.

So what is it that makes the difference? Sure, you could say that life experience teaches you new values.

But ultimately, you simply change your mind about things.

And that's what I mean when I say, just decide to be different.

So how does this relate to the Gaza Strip? Well, if either side decided that it didn't really matter whether they lived to the West or East, or that someone SHOULD have this side, or SHOULD have that side, then they wouldn't be 1) killing innocents and justifying it by wanting to be RIGHT and 2) spending millions producing and using weapons and sending armies to their deaths - when that money could be educating their children, treating their sick and feeding their poor.

This brings up another sore point for me: when people use religion to justify breaking the rules of their own religion! How can anyone tell themselves it's alright to kill a heathen, a person of the wrong colour, a woman, man, or even a child, when their own religion tells them it's a moral travesty to commit murder? To take away the gift of life! The disgusting act of twisting God's words makes the murder even more heinous.

Feeling defeated by cruelty abroad and at home,

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