Having lived in four different continents, I am always intrigued by the paradox of human mind and behavior. On the one hand, we show amazing empathy and ingenuity; on the other hand we are disingenuous and duplicitous. As I listen to the news everyday, the self-contradiction embodied in this paradox is constantly reinforced. The planet we inhabit is billions of years old. As human species, we are very recent guests on this earth that offers us abundant resources to sustain our lives. It saddens me deeply to see how grossly we abuse the planet’s gracious hospitality. I wonder if we have overstayed our visit. All species are destined to be extinct, but it appears to me that we have a flair for accelerating our passage to extinction.
I was born and brought up in Africa, a country from which a community of Homo sapiens migrated northward and spread over the entire planet about a hundred thousand years ago. They formed tribes in different locations creating individual legends, myths, values, and territories. Fear of insecurity in each tribe created abiding loyalty amongst its members; and paradoxically exacerbated their insecurity as inter-tribal conflicts and violence ensued. I believe that this psyche of violence has not changed over millennia: While our ancestors killed one another with spears, slingshots, and poisonous darts, today we are more sophisticated. We use bombs, missiles, poisonous gases, and other weapons of mass destruction. We are equally brutal to nature and the environment that we completely depend on. The crucial question I ask is: How can we shift our consciousness to a higher level? I believe that programs such as “This I Believe” help to raise our awareness of human suffering, and hopefully arouse compassion.
I was born in Africa, a Muslim of Indian ancestry. I carry many other identities, as indeed most people do. Conflicting values learned from my multiple affiliations drive me to seek alternate collectivities, which only add to the repertoire of my ideologies and conflicts. Like many of us, I am perennially trapped in a state of “becoming” something I am not, and rarely “being” what I am. This agonizing conflict sadly detaches me from being in the present—in the here and now. This detachment is the main cause of human suffering.
I believe that diversity of ideologies and values amongst different societies reflects the richness of human intellect. But, sadly, it also camouflages the psyche of greed and domination. For example, the so-called clash between Christian and Muslim civilizations is often attributed to conflict of religious ideologies. I believe that it has very little to do with the doctrinal conflicts in the respective faiths. It has more to do with the underlying psyche of greed and imperialism, which stem from our fear of diminishing the “self.” If fear is common to all humanity, does it not make sense that we all sit together and seek a way of transcending this fear and celebrate our ideological differences?
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