Writes Bob Cesca on the Huff Post blog about hor Martin Luther King’s dream is still, well a dream: ‘The violation was known as “vagrancy.” If you were a black man in the South following Reconstruction, and you were unable to show proof of employment on-demand to the police, you could be arrested and delivered into what Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name, called “neo-slavery.” Beginning in the late 19th century through World War II, various Jim Crow laws required that African-Americans carry pay stubs or, if they were lucky, a letter from an employer; some form of evidence proving to a police officer that they had a job.’
He goes to note that recent laws that enable arbitrary stopping and frisking, demand of immigration papers and Voter IDs in some cities and States in the US are just modern versions of the same sort of discriminatory laws used against African Americans earlier.
In India too, the urban poor are often stopped randomly and asked for identity or employment papers. Indeed, there are drives to ensure that employment is not offered without police verification about the citizenship of the employee. Whereas in the US,a defaulter would end up in jail, in Indian cities he doles out bribes to police constables and carries on, further embittered and impoverished.
Colonialism, racism- we never defeated them. They are here in other virulent forms. Class bias, insecurity tantamount to paranoia fuel discrimination perhaps more widespread than ever in human history. Clearly, with resources perceived as limited and a general fear psychosis across the planet as economies limp along, we are not moving toward a society of increased justice and tolerance.
So what must we do about it? How do we teach our children to think beyond the confines of the war all around us? If we don’t, aren’t we signing away the last opportunities to enjoy our beautiful world?
I told Aadyaa a story about a carnivorous plant last night. She was really upset with the idea that a beautiful flower could snap up a butterfly! Stung by the unfairness of this, she struggled as Udai and me tried to explain the concept of survival and the food chain. Overpowering and annihilating another creature for survival is so fundamentally different from doing it for malicious ends. And then, I thought, we believe we are in a race for survival in which there isn’t enough to hate with the ‘other’!
It really isn’t that dismal folks! There is enough to go around if we can be rational and logical about our needs, place the best human values at the core and collaborate to achieve breakthrough solutions to problems.
‘Small Remedies’ by Shashi Deshpande. I just finished it today and I must say it has completely absorbed me for the past few days. Such fine insights into how we think, and particularly about the many fears and insecurities we harbor and how much we lie to ourselves.
A line of thought that particularly struck me- that ultimately we only want to keep away the negatives from our life; everything we do is about that. But the thing is, disaster, misery, disappointment and many other negatives await us, round the corner. Of late, I’ve caught myself having irrational fears at the strangest moments. I miss a call from home and I wonder if my child is unwell. Rahul doesn’t call at the end of a flight and I wonder….the more you have invested in certain relationships, the more you fear for the ones you love.
I am aware of the pointlessness of fear. I really want to break out of these cycles of negativity. Reading the book made me realize that we hold on to the fears because we perceive it as a proof of our love, because we seek our own attention through it, because we are ashamed to express these fears and let them out of our system. We feed on our fears and become objects of pity in our own eyes. Yes, its ridiculous, but life is very strange.
I guess it is important to reinforce the positives in your life. I’ve taken to doing that every time I experience negative emotions. I tell myself to enjoy all the good stuff while it is there. Life is short. Its good to live the moment, take the pleasures on offer and move on. For not moving on is the only option we do not have.