…..The ferocious desert tribes that spread like wild fire across Asia, Africa and Eurasia armed with a new religion, had no room for compassion and mercy. They left behind a trail of pillage, plunder and carnage. More and more invasions and more and more empires created more and more gory pages of bloodied history. They were on the move for plunder, carnage and rape. The believers and infidels became two distinct entities. Man’s inhumanity towards man made and still makes many thousands to moan. People are divided and set against each other, in the name of God infant marriage, slavery, carnage and ethnic cleansing are practiced, man becomes his own bete noir. Where is compassion here, where is mutual respect and tolerance? From Nero to Al Bagdadi, it is the same old story. All the empires established by the central Asian satraps were bathed in blood. The Turks specialized in decimating the infidel population in Eurasia. Genghis Khan and the black death engineered by him killed two third of the population of Europe. When Somanath temple was plundered by the ferocious Central Asian hordes under Muhammed Gazni in 1025, fifty thousand devotees were butchered around the temple. And all these tyrants were on an incensed mission to civilize the world, to turn the world into a sepulchral cultural monolith. In the 17th century most of the German states were devastated and depopulated owing to religious wars. Compassion was not a cool shade at those times. Here the demographic dichotomy- their people and our people – came to play. This tragedy happens because of lopsided social conditioning. Many factors divide us, some are manmade factors such as religion. On the ground suffering is colour blind, but compassion isn’t. Religions have different gods, but god has no religion.
A potent question is whether all people deserve compassion? The compassion of the western mind is being exploited with a diabolic political agenda by religious extremists. They have pushed millions into Europe with a mission to install nuclei of socio cultural turbulence in Europe. Capitalizing on the humanist conventions in the west, they are waging a perfidious biological war against the west. Those cancerous cells implanted in the unsuspecting corpus of Europe will come of age in the none – too – distant future.
Leaving behind the nasty geopolitics of misguided compassion, one could more comfortably dwell on the real humane dimension of compassion. Compassion is essentially a cultural attribute, and culture itself is a process of aping, we ape the people around us. Such an induced and nurtured quality air lifts us to the neighborhood of divinity. In the western world many a paradigm highlighting the touching effect of compassion has emerged. Love is selfless and ecstatic sacrifice. God sacrificed himself in the bout of love, compassion is tag less love expressed in subtle ways of self sacrifice. Compassion is unconditional applied love. Man is not by birth compassionate or violent, the cultural cues make him this or that. Hattie May Wyatt was a miserable little girl from the poor quarters of Philadelphia. From birth she was tied to squalor sickness and starvation. At the poor jam packed church, she could not make her way inside being a poor frail girl. Russell Conwell, the pastor noticed her and scooped her up to be placed close to the pulpit. Thus a deep relationship developed between the child and the pastor, he visited her often. After a few days she died of penury and deprivation. But when the pastor visited her, under her soiled pillow, in her handkerchief she had left behind 57 cents with a note. She was donating the money to the pastor for building a big church where all children have space. This touching event triggered a chain reaction, so much so that within a short span of time the Temple Baptist Church, a land mark of Philadelphia, Temple University, Medical college and a well cared for orphanage for poor children like Hattie May were erected. An insignificant gesture of pure love had gone a long way to be translated into palpable paeans of standing compassion.
Howard was a tired child. He had almost given up hope in life and in humanity. He had been struggling from early childhood for survival. He had to go from house to house selling sundry little things before going to school. On a particular hot sunny morning he could not sell anything and out of sheer exhaustion he was going to swoon. He knew that he needed some essential nourishment, but he had no means. He, in desperation, went and knocked at a door. A young lady opened the door. He wanted to ask for food instead he asked a glass of water. The lady thought that the poor child needed something better, she gave him a glass of sweet milk. Out of shame he proudly asked her how much he owed her. She said that her mother had not taught her to demand money for helping others. This event changed Howard, he saw a golden streak in the thick infinity of menacing dark clouds. Years came to pass, Dr. Howard Kelly grew to be the best known surgeon and doctor in the US. One day a woman was brought to him in a critical condition. Her cancer had reached an advanced stage, there was only one man who could possibly save her. Dr. Kelly immediately recognized her and decided to do all he could to save her precious life. After the surgery she recovered but worried about the huge loan needed to pay for the expenses. Doctor told her with a heavenly sheen in his affectionate eyes: you have long ago paid in full with a glass of milk.
Theodore Stoddard was a dull impossible student who was hated by all, including teachers. Miss. Thomson, while going through his records, realized that he was a good natured and precocious child in the early stages of schooling. The death of his mother shattered and changed him. He had become an unwanted child. She loved him like a mother. Slowly he changed, very slowly. When he graduated from the school, he was one of the best. Even during his brilliant academic career he used to send her letters always ending with a sentence: you are still the best teacher I have ever had. He too became a post graduate medical doctor scoring the highest marks wherever he went. At last he had one more request to her, that teacher of a Pygmalion who transmuted him, to occupy the space of his mother in the church for his marriage. Little gestures of love and compassion will trigger a chain reaction which will transcend time and space. Such precious gems gleaned out from the jumble of memories will be our sole solace in the evening of our lives.
Joe was a rugged and poor mechanic. Still he had faith in humanity, gratefully he remembered the good things many people had done to him, he gratefully remembered the little blessings he received every day. On his way back home from work, Joe noticed a lady standing out close to her car on the free way asking for help. He stopped his old rickety car and offered to help her. It was a freezing evening with flakes of snow settling softly all around. The lady was on her way to Maryland, her problem was a flat tire. He looked like a criminal, she couldn’t trust him, he could even molest her. The night was gathering forces around them. He offered her the warmth of his car and proceeded to fix the problem. After having accomplished the mission, he stood up and smiled meaning she could go now.
‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked flashing wads of dollar bills.
‘You owe me nothing’, he said, ‘but don’t let this chain of love end with you, if you think you owe me something.’ He drove away. The lady went to a cheap pub for a glass of beer. She noticed that the bar girl was struggling with her advanced stage of pregnancy. But she was too poor to take rest. The lady offered her a hundred dollar bill, the bar maid went in to get change. By the time she returned the lady had vanished leaving behind a message on the tissue paper: ‘you owe me nothing, keep the change, and also the four hundred dollars left here. You need it more than I do. If you think that you owe me something, just let not this chain of love end with you.’
Once, a middle aged black man came to visit a parson in his death bed in downtown New York. The visitor was a renowned doctor in the US. He thanked the old man for all that he had become in his life. The sinking man could not make out what he had done for the visitor. ‘Once you came visiting our ghetto. I was seated outside on the pavement. My ambition at that time was to follow the heels of my siblings and friends, to be a drug peddler, bootlegger and a seasoned criminal. You patted on my shoulder, looked deep into my soul and told me from your heart that I was capable of doing great and noble things. It changed me and your words made all the difference.’ This could possibly be the greatest reward the old man could ever have received.
In many male dominated Asian communities, valor and conquests are extolled, compassion is looked down upon as a soft feminine attribute. This attitude and this kind of social conditioning have substantially influenced the mindset of almost all violent communities, including that of the Taliban. When greed and lust for conquest, for devouring the world, takes over you, you cannot be compassionate and gentle. India’s problem, as in the case of Africa, is poverty of the mind. When mind is full we can only give and the greed for grabbing will be cured. Then like a lingering phosphorescence, compassion keeps glowing on us. If we had even an iota of compassion for the fellow beings, the vegetables flooding the markets will not be bathed in persistent pesticides, the fish on the market will not be saturated with formalin and the grocers’ goods adulterated to hazardous levels. Our proclivity to jump the queue, under cover efforts to gain entry through the back door, the ubiquitous corruption and prevalence of bribery etc. are symptomatic of the selfishly sick society we are part of. There is no room for compassion and fraternity where avarice and selfish greed rule the roost. Religions and spiritualists also have joined the race for grabbing and hoarding ill gotten treasures. Our society is rooted on sanctimonious hypocrisy. Money was not a significant factor in Indian and African communities until after the colonial period. We used to share goods and services and money had little or no role to play in the essential dynamics of social life. People never used to work for wages, they did their karma. Money was by far an absurdity. Now people are money centric, money-centricity has become an obsession and all the hallowed gentle values in life are gone sans a trace. However, there will come a stage in every society, when it will be cured of greed and avarice. Beware of the jurisprudence of time.
In fact, baseless jingoism and vacuous hubris are absolutely honest confessions of inferiority. Still waters run deep. Terrorism of any kind is unceremonious confession of inferiority. No religion and no glorious achievements somewhere in proto history will come to our rescue in moments of crisis. Suffering is a very personal experience. There is no collective suffering. Hence there is no sense in being vainly proud of being part of a particular religion culture or race. We experience life and all its pit falls individually. Jingoism gradually graduating to terror and intolerance is a misunderstanding of the ground realities, and it amounts to escapism. Have some degree of self esteem, be graceful and at peace with oneself as an individual, and you will be compassionate. Collective identities and fissile fallacies of being the custodians of truth, god and all that are formidable expressions of inferiority. When we are exorcised from all such airy furies, we tend to be compassionate, we tend to be full and glowing as an individual not hitched to puritanical medievalism. Indeed India is an anachronism, medievalism and techno-centric modernism make strange bedmates in India. Amidst ballistic missiles and thermo nuclear bombs to boost our ludicrous jingoism, we draw our inspiration from the ghosts of a nebulous and distant past. The culture we imbibe decides it all. Man is all the same in terms of his drives and vulnerabilities, his physical and intellectual endowments may vary though. Cultural conditioning and lost identities bring out the god and devil in us.
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