The eBook Zone Mind is out Now! Learn more...

The eBookZone Mind is Out! Learn More...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Holiday Meditation on Peace, Happiness and Compassion

Wishful Thinking


I know that many of you may be busy this holiday season. I am sure that many of you are busy visiting family and friends. I'm writing this on December 25, so I assume that you have already exchanged your gifts with your family and loved ones. As I'm having a rather quiet Christmas Day, I had some time to reflect on what this season means to me.
I think that the holidays were kind of magical when I was a kid. Sadly, I stopped believing in Father Christmas when I was very young and I guess that I wanted to believe in him just because he brought me all the toys I wanted if I behaved myself. I thought that getting a new toy or the gift I have campaigned all year to get would bring me happiness. But, like all children, I played with th object of my desire for days but then, after les than a month, it would probably end up with my collection of unwanted things - with few exceptions. 
As adults,we pride ourselves as having outgrown our childhood ways. But have we really?
Our objects of desire may be more sophisticated and probably more expensive. They might not be even objects but positions and titles. We want money and prestige in most cases. Yet, as adults, we hold the belief that money will bring us that happiness that we seek. Happiness that is really disguised greed and envy. It's not enough to have food on our table and to have a roof over our head or have a family. We aren't satisfied with what we have but we want more.  We are dissatisfied with our lives not because they lack things but because we want things to be just perfect. Instead of appreciating the present moment, we are absorbed in selfish desire.
Unfortunately, our acts of "charity" we are  so often reminded of during these times appear to enforce this idea that money and wealth will bring happiness to others. Of course, money can go a long way to improve the quality gf life of those who are living in poverty or who have been denied  opportunities in life due to circumstances or because of wrong choices they might have made.
While we may be comfortable to give away money for charity to quiet our conscience, how many of us are ready to reach out to those in need at an equal level. How many of us are ready to volunteer to help without making the world knowing of our acts of generosity? How many mistake pity for charity, or patronising someone we deem less than us for compassion?
Yes, I admit that the holiday season brings back good as well as painful memories. As a disabled person, I have seen too many charity telethons were people who are different or are facing difficult times become exploited by some, not all, charity fund raisers. How much the media and parts of the public appear to perversely enjoy in listening to  stories of tragedy allegedly caused by bad luck?
Have we ever thought that many of the social problems around us are often caused by social injustice and an economical system that often encourages waste and excesses, competition and impulsiveness? 
Do we take the time to stop and reflect on what we are doing? Or reflect on where we are going?
Will the promises and new year resolutions we make for 2014 last longer than the 2nd January? 
Will we go on wasting and ruining our planet because we believe that our planet is immortal?
Will we close our minds and hearts and minds to the suffering of others once the holidays are over?
Will we change for the better or remain the same… leading the same life… a life where we are always seekin but never finding happiness?
Just look around and take a deep breath.
Tell me what do you feel?
Enjoy the holiday season - or what remains of it!
May the spirit of peace and compassion be with you for all the days of your life!
If you enjoyed this entry, why not check out my eBook "Zone Mind". 
Learn more at:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Go Well, Madiba…

 

Photo of Nelson Mandela smiling I was listening to Nelson Mandela’s funeral service , also known by his tribal name, "Madiba". As I listened to the BBC broadcast, I felt something touched me deep inside.

I came to know about  Mandela and his struggle to end the unjust apartheid system when I was still a boy. I already felt that this man had something to teach me. Yet, it was only after reading his auto-biography entitled "Long Walk to Freedom" did I understand how Mandela's experience was similar to my own in many ways. 

True, I'm not black but the experience of apartheid I could relate to. Being brought up in a society that looks at us, people with impairments, as if we were “abnormal” and had to be “normalized” wasn't that dissimilar than the experience of the black majority under the apartheid system where they had to accept their inferior status. And, let’s face it, the “ideal” person in Western culture tends to be white, straight and non-disabled and, of course a man!

Up until this month , I didn't know much or, I admit, care, about Mandela that much. Yet, as I remember his real story, I realize how much I have in common with the man. Not, in any way, can I claim to have his leadership or believe I can achieved what he has achieved over the course of his life.

On the other hand, I can relate to his experience of segregation. As I recall how many civil rights black South Africans were denied or, else, how they were segregated on the grounds of their skin color,

I share in the feeling of being excluded or put apart as an inferior member of society - my own society! Not because of the colour of my skin but because my body seems to challenge the unconscious belief in a perfection.</>

Like the black South African who was denied equal access to some buildings, I am similarly denied access because I use a wheelchair and those who designed the building assumed everyone could climb stairs. How many years I have been denied access to public transport because, again, I use a wheelchair and those who had designed the buses never thought that I may want to travel as well. And, in the last years, I also face the barriers to information as a visually impaired adult in a world still so visually-oriented.

Worse still, is the fact that as the black South African was made to feel inferior to the white man, I am still made to feel, at times, that my value as a human being is diminished because my impairments make me less human.

In a sense, people tend to adopt extreme positions when it comes to difference. I have been perceived as a victim of tragedy and, at the same time, as a man who “overcame” his impairments. In both cases, those who don’t know me seem to be unable to look at me as an ordinary human being.

In praising Mandela as a person, many people have elevated him almost to the status of a holy man, described him as a pacifist, if not a saint.

The truth about Mandela’s life is that , like any other person, he committed mistakes - the reason he was on trial decades ago - for acts of sabotage and conspiring against the apartheid rule of the time which could have cost him and his fellow comrades of the African National Congress (ANC) the death penalty. True, he was a man of conviction and as he stated in his trial, which drew the attention of the world for the first time, he was “prepared to die” to see black Africans free. His early acts were, undeniably, less than pacifist.

True, he saw the need for white and black Africans to reconcile their differences. Yet, this could only be achieved after the unjust apartheid system was brought down an then, was the peace and reconciliation with the white minority become a possibility.

Glossing over this whole story and, as has been done in recent days, transform Mandela’s life into some kind of fairy tale misses the whole point of his life and his struggle to achieve equality between the white and the black South African. His struggle to make everyone in South Africa free from the shackles of an unfair apartheid system.

That’s why we should remember Mandela not as some abstract ideal man but as the man who fought against injustice. We should remember Mandela, indeed, for his humanity!

I can’t say that I can fully understand the impact this man had on the people of South Africa. Yet, I can relate to him as a man of convictions who achieved his goal of freeing his people from oppression. And yet, even if the battle to bring down apartheid has been fought and won, there’s still injustice in the world were the victims remain those who happen to be different.

We can keep the spirit of Mandela alight to remind us that each of us can do our part to change the world and bring about the equality and freedom that some still are denied to this day.

I end this entry here and, borrowing from what they say in South Africa I say:

Go well, Madiba!


_______________________________________________

> Did you know? The first 100 entries ever published on ZoneMind are now available as an eBook! Learn more…

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Forever Young

Feeling Older at 32…


When we start getting older, we start longing for the times when we were younger and healthier than we are today. Especially, when you realise that you have changed a lot since your childhood and when you know that those times will never come back.

I am just 32, I know, but my body feels much older than that. Ironic, if you consider that when people who don't know me see me on a wheelchair, they talk to me as if I was a child!
I confess, being treated as a child has always affected how I view myself. It doesn't help that I have a small stature and that my voice has never really cracked which means, yes, that over the phone I am often mistaken for a woman!.

Like A Voice in the Desert


I wonder whether my struggle to express who I am stems from a need to be, no longer, an outsider, a stranger - almost an alien. To this day, I remain feeling like the "other". A man who isn't quite a man. In many ways, I don't know how to define myself as there are so many ways by which I can define myself but nothing that fits.

Yet, I think, that deep inside, there's still part of me who is still the same child. The boy who dreamed of a future where he could be whoever he wanted to be. And, while that child has grown up and gained different experiences, that young dreamer still remains and he reflects on his adult self....

A child may dream of becoming anything he or she wants to be. As s/he grows, a cynical world crushes these dreams. But, I ask, is it that bad to keep the hope in a better world for everyone alive in spite of what the world says?

A Short Reflection...


Nobody can forbid us from dreaming. Nobody can force us not to hope. Nobody can make us act harmfully. We are the ones who choose our miseries.

What next?


I know that I need to do my part in this only life I've got. The question is whether I'm up to the challenge and,n in spite of what the world says, employ the experience and wisdom I have gained and have the courage to be forever young and believe that only if we believe in truth, justice and compassion, will we ever save our human family! .
 
> If you like this, you might be interested to get a copy of the eBook "Zone Mind" containing the first 100 entries posted on this blog as an eBook! Learn more….

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In Life, We Are Alone: Reflections On Living

Many of us are living a life where we’re always connected with the rest of the world. We also tend to be constantly on the go during work and even during our free time.
The rise of the Internet has meant that the traditional media have been supplemented by social media which are forms of media that are more interactive and personal.

We think of ourselves as individuals but, at the same time, we choose to become part of a larger community - the connected global society.
I wonder whether we’re spending too much of our time online trying to create our virtual persona. How many reflect on the implications of their online activity (virtual) on the real world. And, more importantly, is our engagement with social media and other forms of entertainment offered by technology a way to escape from our daily life?
I suspect that the Western world and parts of the majority world are encouraging a culture that is individualised, consumerist and impulsive. I’m aware that I am not free from these “vices”.
However, I believe that our over-indulgence are partly caused by our fear of being alone. Alone with our thoughts and feelings to be precise. We fear to stop and take the time to reflect on our life and how we feel about our daily experiences. I have found much value in meditation practice myself but this method may not be for everyone. However, I feel it’s crucial that in a fast moving society where we’re overloaded with information, we take some time every day to reflect on our life and get to know ourselves better.
Many believe they know who they are. Yet, when they find themselves in a difficult situation, they may discover that they act in ways that contradicts their self-image. It’s surprising how much you can learn about yourself just by taking the time to pay attention to your mind.
No one can live your life for you. If you don’t know yourself or never bothered to get to know who you are as a human being, you cannot expect other people to understand you. Yet, we often choose to avoid dealing with ourselves and, instead, try to distract ourselves through activities that may be physically harmless or, worse, to try to drown our thoughts using intoxicants or drugs.
We live our life alone. This doesn’t mean that we are physically on our own but that no one can really feel what we feel or think what we think. Our individual experiences are personal and they are what influence who we are. In turn, we may change how we think or feel if we choose to. As the Buddha said, we are masters of our own destiny (paraphrased).. However, if we want change, we must be aware of who we are first.
Of course, there may be friends and family that we can count on in our lives. We may find people who can relate to us as human beings. We can share in the experience of life which is full of ups and downs. While it’s good that we find the support of others in life, the fact remains that we must be ready to take responsibility over our own lives. No one can live in our place.
Blogquote We must be ready to take the time to get to know who we are better and love ourselves for who we are without falling into the traps of pride or narcissism.
Getting to know who we are better will not just make us more comfortable with who we are and help us change for the better but it will also improve our relationships with those around us. Indeed, knowing and loving yourself are essential for those who wish to pursue a more serious relationship such as marriage. For how can you expect another to love you if you don’t know who you really are?

POST SCRIPT
Just to left you know that now you can read more about my eBook "Zone Mind" I self-published last September by going to
http://ePub.ZoneMind.com
Thanks & Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, November 8, 2013

32 Years as an Earthling

 Back in 1981, a baby boy was born like many others at about noon, November 8. There was nothing particularly special or auspicious about this boy. This isn’t the story of the coming of a man who will change the world. Yet, he is the important person in my life. That baby, after all, was me.

An Auspicious Birth? I think not….This week has been a very  hard one  as I was admitted to hospital and had to stay there for over a week - only to be discharged last Monday or was it Tuesday? True, I'm very glad that I am back home - even if now I am down with the flu!

 However, being at hospital reminded me of the place I was born and where I’ll probably end this life - my "end". Yes, it’s not a very pleasant thing to reflect about death when you’re close to mark another year of life (so far). On the other hand, being in hospital having witnessed, once more, the last moments of a dying man, does force one to seriously question one's priorities and wonder whether you're doing all you  are contributing to a better society as you had aspired in your earlier youth. 

In addition makes one appreciate more the many known and unknown people whom, in  a way, saved you and made it possible for you to carry on for another year. In this, there’s an almost endless list of people that I would have to thank for making my life possible, including those who set up against me and who have challenged me to know better who I am and learn of my weaknesses which I have many.

I am experiencing high fever right now and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to write for longer. However, my experience at hospital - one of many others - has reminded me that, in spite of what modern society tells us, we remain beings who are dependent on each other. While we choose to avoid thinking about our future mortality and hide the dying, wherever possible, away in the corridors of a hospital, we know deep down within us that that person we reject may be us one day.

We may believe in an afterlife fervently but no one else knows. I wonder myself and have, rightly or wrongly, decided to live my life in the present and not speculating too much about whether there is an afterlife or not. I believe that it’s only in the present that I can provide a useful contribution to the welfare of humanity. Buddhism has taught me that lesson - that true happiness can only be gained by being compassionate to those around me - whoever they happen to be. After all, there will be a moment in time when all I have been given, including my very life, will be snatched from me in an instant. 

It forces you to focus on what you are doing in life to improve, your lot and the life of those around you that you can realistically touch and perhaps assist in our common journey. More importantly, it makes you aware that, while you may need to speak out injustice and needless cruelty against others, you remain responsible for your life and actions. You are  the master of your happiness or can be if you don't  spend your life as a passive, almost intoxicated, person. Drugged by the things other tell you are good or bad.  

I admit I may find times when I wish that parts of my life turned out better than it has. Like any other, I do fantasise about a future I wish to live. Right now, I can only think of regaining my health and  regaining a normal body temperature. Yet, I had - one day - much more ambitious dreams than that. 

I realise that while these may be worthy dreams to pursue, they too have their time and place and, like anything else, are subject to the same law of impermanence and entropy that rules the cosmos. 

 

One may feel despair at this statement. However, this is the way the universe works. Yes, I have lived for a 32 years but that doesn’t mean it will last another 23.

I am grateful for having lived another year. I appreciate the contribution of all those who have sustained me and helped me in surviving despite the times I was close to the end.

 

Thanks from deep within.

 

> Read what I wrote last year (2012

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sinister Eyes in the Sky...

Image of an Eye with Wings

Punished by Lightning

In the past, when people lived in times when pthey tended to be more superstitious,, many believed that the gods above could strike you with lightning if you acted in a way that displeased him. This belief might have died off with the old gods if this belief hadn't been adopted the Judaeo-Christian God who had the power to strike those who opposed his will with lightning.
Hopefully, only a few believe that lightning is a divine punishment. Yet, while being struck down by lightning today is understood to be the result of nature,The possibility of being struck down from an overseeing force isn't just a possibility but  a reality happening today in certain countries. However, even if the target was a legitimate target,, the person(s) struck down may be just suspect and thus may be even innocent.
Welcome to the world of remote killing by drones which are, yes, the "sinister eyes" which form part of the title of this entry. Of course, it has been argued that this technology employed, to my knowledge, only by the US is saving the lives of troops who might have died in ground combat missions. Yet, I fear that this kind of new warfare may have negative effects on war in the future.

The Implications of Remote Killing

The first danger is, of course, as remote soldiers become more accustomed to look at the images that they got back as if they were just one of those   "shoot then up" games I used to play in my early teens. Games which, with time, tended to make me more impulsive and insensitive to the act of blowing up things and killing people.
However, while the killing I executed during such games such as Doom and Rise of Âthe Triads had no bearing in real life, the murders performed during these military missions did affect the lives of those who were struck down and, worse, if they were  innocent, it would also impact their children or families.
In principle, I oppose the idea of war as a solution to any  conflict. However, if there's any justice in war is that, at least before, enemies were confronting each other on almost equal terms. Indeed, in the past, the enemies had the chance to look at each other. Drones encourage the remote soldiers to detach themselves from the enemy  to the point that, one day, they become more casual about the fact they were killing off people living in a place far away.
 Even if those families who had lost a loved one who was killed innocently may find a place in their heart to forgive, our tendency as human beings is to seek justice in the form of revenge.
Despite the fact that only a few innocent civilian lives may have lost their lives during drone attacks, that life is a number only to statisticians who forget that behind those numbers there are people and people who might also have had  an important role in their communities. As more citizens  witness these innocent people die, one should expect the fundamentalists and fanatics ail only gain more supporters to their cause.

Violence begets Violence.

One may find it terrible to consider because so far we still trust the US will make wise use of drones. But, it's a real possibility that in a few years, the enemies of the West, such as radical Islamists will get their hands on drone technology as well convincing the people that they ail be using the technology to "protect" them. What happens then? Would this mean that anyone in the West or the "enemies" of fanatics could become a target of drone attacks? 
One sad fact about this is that the technology that has the potential to improve on our life is also being used to bring more pain into our life.
Nuclear power that is being used to produce energy is also used to create nuclear weapons with the potential of bringing about  a kind of apocalyptic destruction. Medical research to find more effective treatments are also being used to develop germ warfare. The technology that is enabling people to live a better quality of life and help us get more connected is being used to identify and kill remote enemies and destroy innocent lives.
We can choose  on how to use this powerful technologies. However, given the immense destructive power we now possess, future warfare may potentially bring about the destruction of the whole human family. 

Peace: The Only Hope

In light of this, we can no longer continue to resort to war to resolve our conflict. Not just because the rules of war have changed but because our world has radically changed. The only choice we have if we want to save ourselves is if we learn to resolve our differences through peace and dialogue. Of course, there are those who won't listen but we all must make an effort to build bridges between each other.
 For, whether like it or not, we're even more dependent on each other than we were a hundred years ago. Our powerful technology requires us and our leaders to be more responsible and compassionate to the sufferings of people even in countries we might still believe too far away to affect us.

In the world today, peace is the only way forward!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Living Out of Control

If you think about it, we are living a life that is out of our control. Indeed, while we may believe that we have enormous choice and the freedom that we assume comes with it if we earn a decent wage. Yet, even if we don't make a lot of money, we still believe we have a lot of choice about many of the things we have in life. 

Upon reflection, however, I realise how many times, we give too much credence to this idea that we have choices. Of course, we do have some choices but, nowadays, as we are depending more on people other than us, one has to re-evaluate our perception of choice. Sadly, if we assume we have greater control over our life than we actually do, there's a risk wee live with pretentious and with an attitude of arrogance thinking that we have the absolute right to a service or a product with out even   bothering to thank those who provided us with the means to achieve our goals with a polite expression of gratitude.

Granted, many times it's just not possible to thank all the people who have enabled you to fulfil your goal or need. Yet one should at least acknowledge the fact that behind the decisions you take there were people who have been instrumental to give rise to the necessary causes and conditions to enable you to make a choice in the first place.   

I feel that, today, I must acknowledge the contribution, however small, of anyone who made a thing possible.

I started meditating one morning as I was being driven to my office. It is here, of all places, that I realised how many people I depended on to get to work. Obviously, I depended on the driver and his motor skills. But, then when I thought about it there are plenty more. More than would fit in an entry without making it read as the first chapter of Genesis. But, it's worthwhile if we recognised a few - perhaps just seven:¬

  • 1. The driver. 2. the people who designed and manufactured the van and all its mechanical components.. 3. The garage people who performed regular maintenance. 4. The ones who distribute the fuel for the engine and are responsible for transport and delivery. 5. The other drivers on the road who respect traffic regulations. 6. The people constructing the road network. 7. The environment itself who permits people to sustain themselves to be able to do their work.

The seven categories in themselves may be expanded almost infinitely. At the same time, given that we live our life in time and space, the environment remains fundamental to all else. Without the environment, life is impossible.

It's here that I felt that while I choose to ride that van on this particular day, many things had to be in place for me to be able to make that decision. This includes having had a proper breakfast and taking my medication which are individual needs to the wider context, including the social and political atmosphere of my time. For, indeed, while we have a choice over how we deal with our life situations, there are many aspects of our lives including individual mobility, in my case, that are out of our control. In this, it is worthwhile to think and reflect on this reality because it is diametrically opposed to our Western myth of a an independent, or self-made, person.

By acknowledging that we are no one without others isn't, I believe, a sign of weakness. Rather, it's recognising the fact that we are co-dependent beings - that we can't be without others for others provided us with a name and a basic identity.

I may have believed that I didn't have to thank those around me in a proper way. Yet, I now feel that it's important at least to express my gratitude to all those who made living possible and who continue to make living possible.

This is, I think, what being human is all about! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where were you on September 11?

Today, the world remembers the terrible events that took place in New York. More exactly, we are invited to spare a minute for the many innocent lives lost to the terrorist acts of a terrorist organisation we now know is called Al Qaeda. I have shared my thoughts and reflections on this tragic event every year on this blog since I launched it. Undoubtedly, the events which took place on September 11 changed the course of our futures for ever. Yet, now I am a bit reluctant to write because enough has been said and written that any word I add appears superfluous and, indeed, a way to draw praise.

On the other hand, in spite of risking to go with the flow, I feel that I can’t just let the day pass by without reflecting on the implications September 11 had on the world and how we relate to each other. In addition, I was lucky enough to have gone on top of the World Trade Centre (WTC) when I was visiting my relatives who live in the US. In fact, when I heard the news, my thoughts turned to my relatives abroad and, for a minute, it seemed I relived the times I had been one day there as a tourist.

Moreover, since the WTC, one of the buildings hit by the planes hijacked by the suicide bombers was also place where people from around the world could work together, it can be argued that the attacks against that particular building was an attack on the whole world. Obviously, it’s natural that after people learned of the people behind the attack, many hearts were hardened and the minds were poisoned by hate and resentment of the other, the “enemy”.

The fact that we would learn that Islamic extremists were behind all this would also fuel the growth of anti-Islamic sentiments still evident across the world. What should be a religion of peace which shared with its monotheist sisters - Judaism and Christianity - continued to transform itself, in people’s minds - to a religion of hate and violence. Thus, enforcing the divisions that already existed between peoples. A division that would erode any hope of peaceful dialogue and peaceful communication as the majority of the West chose to employ the very means of war and violence it had so heavily deplored.

Yet, the truth is that those who were and who are responsible for acts of violence and atrocities aren’t Muslims but, rather, using Islam to achieve their political ambitions and to eradicate all those they perceive to b a threat to their position and power. Yet, military action, as we have seen in the past, rarely achieves its aims. The more our response is that of violence and the more we cling to our feelings of hatred and resentment, the more we fortify the image of the “other” as the “enemy”. Thus, we may fail to understand that, even behind the most atrocious human acts, there’s a reason. Irrational, yes, but it is there.

For everyone justly spoke up against the attacks of September 11 but, I suspect, only a few of us really tried to understand why all this happened. While those leading the immoral cause of Islamism or to force the whole world to convert to Islam according to Al Qaeda, may be motivated by power and control, the people supporting and helping them may really believe that they have suffered too much misery when under Western rule that the only solution is to bear arms and fight.


We can’t forget our responsibility as our Western powers can’t be said to have been totally innocent and didn’t or aren’t still exploiting the natural resources of nations of the majority world* to build their own technology and infrastructure. Have we forgotten the many innocent casualties of random attacks/? In no way, does this justify violent and terrorist acts. However, we must be aware that we are also responsible for certain realities present in other nations simply because we value the land instead of the people who inhabit it. We’re ready to poison water supplies, cut down trees and keeping in power those we think we can trust not to oppose our authority.

Of course, there is also a lot of good we do, as Western nations, in the world to alleviate suffering. And wile it’s debatable whether September 11 could have been prevented, it’s true that it was a result, in part, of a collective arrogance and indifference in the ways we often act in countries where we think of people living there as somewhat beneath us.


What the world has gone through on September 11 should be a reminder of the urgent importance of keeping our channels of communication open. To listen and engage in peaceful dialogue and negotiations when we can’t agree. To open our heart and mind and truly listen to what the “other” is saying. To remember the victims on September 11 burt to be prepared to let go of all our feelings of enmity and distrust. To be prepared to work together as we remain human beings who share a lot in common. Humans who share in our hopes and dreams, who have our fears and nightmares, and who want, ultimately to live a happy life.

Yes, I remember September 11. Yet, my thoughts also go out to Syria and to others who are dying right now because of famine and conflict. t. Thankfully, it was decided that, at present, no military intervention will be carried out against Syria but the path of dialogue and negotiation will be now pursued. Have prayers been answered? Or, more likely, the voices of peace have been heard and taken note of. Favouring one side over the other - who both claim they’re protecting the people - would have meant certain disaster and more bloodshed and acts of violence from both sides.


I conclude by asking the question which is also the title of this entry:

“Where were you before September 11?”

This isn’t a question to know where you were then. It’s rather a question that is intended to provoke you to think about how you viewed the world before September 11.

Have you thought about such a horrible thing happening?

Did you support peace and justice or did you go on life without caring?

Did you choose not to care about people who you thought were far away and, thus, insignificant?

Don’t worry if you answered yes to all these questions.

The truth is that, if anything, September 11 made us aware of the fact that we are connected with each other more than we thought. Even if it did harden some hearts, it should have awakened us to the fact that we depend on each other. We can’t afford to be indifferent to the injustices against others. We can’t ignore the environmental impact we’re having on our planet as all of us depend on it.


To truly honour those who died or would die as a consequence of the attacks on September 11, we must do our part in ensuring that our world remains a peaceful place that fosters an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.

One good place to start is within our own social circle and community.

But first we must cultivate the seeds of peace and compassion in our own hearts and minds!

I prefer to use the term "majority world" as opposed to "developing world" or "less developed" countries as the latter terms are making a value judgement about other nations and people assuming they are somewhat inferior. "Majority world" also reflects that the majority of the human population lives there. The opposite is true if I use the term "minority world".

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Day of Victory: Whose Victory Is It Anyway?

I've pondered on war and the consequences of violent conflict since we started hearing of the escalating violence in Syria. Yet, I considered writing about war and violence in earnest since in Malta, we celebrate Victory Day today, the 8th September.

Of course, September 8 also marks an important feast on the Catholic calendar as it's the commemoration of the birth of the Virgin Mary which is still a significant figure for a large number of Maltese citizens who tend to identify themselves as Catholic - even if they may not practice the faith. However, it's also a national holiday since two important events crucial to the history of Malta happened on that fateful 8th September.

The first event occurred in 1565 when Malta, then under the rule of the Holy Order of the Knights of Saint John, who with the help of the inhabitants managed to force a retreat of the forces coming from what was then an expanding Ottoman Empire. Apart from preserving the Christian religious identity many Maltese had adopted back then, historians have argued that if the Ottoman Empire had captured Malta as it had Rhodes, the whole of Christian Europe of the time would have been under threat.

The second victory happened in 1943 when Malta was saved from sure famine as convoys with essential food and supplies got to Malta thanks to the surrender of Italy. At the time, Malta was, once again, under foreign rule. This time, our country was a British colony.

If one thinks about it, none of these conflicts were initiated by the Maltese inhabitants themselves. One was taken up by the Knights of Saint John and, the other, by the British Empire. Granted, our descendants had it in their interest to protect their land and the limited resources they had from imposing powers and the intervention of our colonisers has, undoubtedly, saved us from certain invasion.

It’s also worth noting that our former “enemies" don’t exist as such any more. Italy is no longer fascist. The Ottoman Empire has disappeared. The same can be said about our past colonisers. Britain is no longer a great empire, even if it preserves some of its former aspirations, in a way, through the Commonwealth. As for the Knights of Saint John, it has no land of its own and only functions today more like a philanthropic organisation.

It can be argued that these victories ensured that Malta became the country it is today. Yet, these victories may be said to be victories for Malta but not necessarily belonging to the “Maltese” inhabitants. At the same time, those we had so vilified in the past are no longer our “enemies”. In fact, descendants of the old colonisers now join us in Europe and are our partners as well.

Unfortunately, some may celebrate Victory Day for the wrong reasons. Indeed, some appear to rejoice in Malta having slaughtered the invading soldiers of the Ottoman Empire or, else, celebrate the many deaths sustained by the fascist Italian forces and their humiliating defeat..

True, we may find the values that our “enemies” held , inconsistent to our own principles and ideals or even find them morally deplorable. However, we must not lose sight that beyond the "monstrosities" we project upon our "enemy", there are still human beings just like us. Besides, each side in the conflictt lost lives.

And many times, it is the younger generations who suffer the most in bloody conflicts since they are the strongest and usually the healthier people of a population and end up fighting the battles of others. Here, it's important to ask ourselves why? Why all this loss of life? One sure thing is that all this happens again and again. It is happening again right now in Syria and wherever there is violent conflicts taking place.

Granted, there may be various reasons for war. However, all may be rooted in a failure of communication. A failure to see other human beings as being our brothers and sisters. Clinging to power and control because we desire more. We become unresponsive to the pain of other humans because, in our mind, they cease to be human but become symbols of beliefs we despise. Violence and war becomes our only response to people we feel we lost control over.

In this sense, I find it a bit confusing to speak of victory on “Victory Day”. Yes, it’s a day when we remember all those who have died and whom made it possible for Malta and the Maltese to be what they are today. Yet, it shouldn’t be a manifestation in which we express our pride for having killed off invaders. Rather, it should be an occasion to remember all those who perished because they believed that they were fighting for a good cause - even if they might have been blindly following their leaders and superiors. Even if they might have been unaware of the ulterior or perverse motives of those who should be leading them.

On both occasions, Malta’s inhabitants where only trying to defend their land. Indeed, being an island, it was the only piece of rock they had. On the other hand, it must be said that both the Knights of Saint John during the Great Siege and the British during the war, protected Malta mainly due its location in the Mediterranean between Southern Europe and North Africa since it offers both powers with an ideal strategic position to conduct military operations against their enemies at that time. Strictly speaking, their effort to protect Malta wasn't an act performed out of any altruism or motivated by a genuine concern for the inhabitants. In fact, to the British of the time, Maltese people remained natives and naturally inferior to the English.

In truth, the divisions both us and the colonisers might have set remain creations of our minds and of the societies of our time. In fact,as history changed, we realise how meaningless many of the national values we believed in back then. And, except for a number of extremist and xenophobes, we don't don't explicitly believe that there are inferior and superior peoples.

But what does all this have to do with Syria?

We have a civil war escalating in Syria. Again, we witness a struggle of powers whom have defined one another in one of two main camps. Those who support the regime and those who want it destroyed. Some minorities find themselves excluded from both and threatened by an uncertain future. Battling parties are all competing for power and control. Some because they are being unjustly persecuted, others because they want to cling to power. Others even support one side over the other simply because they are seeking their own interests or justly fear that change might destroy them and deprive them of their freedom.

This is human nature. Everyone seeks to survive or gain advantage because they fail to acknowledge a common humanity. Even if war and violent action may be justified when parties persist in destroying the innocent and put lives at risk, it should be only the last resort and it should be moderate. I suspect that the path of war and violence appears to be favoured by Western powers depending on their affiliations with Syria in this case. So, it’s disheartening to hear that the US is close to undertake military action against the Syrian regime. However, I fear that this might cause greater waste of life and enforce divisions between the Syrian people - who will be the ones losing out in each case. Yet non-action would be equally devastating and unacceptable. That’s clear.

Yet, has the world took time to explore whether there are possibilities of peace and dialogue. Have we thought of ways of bringing justice to Syria by holding the perpetrators of violence accountable to their actions and intervening with a motivation to foster peace and not violence.

In this I join in the appeals of both HH Pope Francis and of his HH the 14th Dalai Lama in their call for the world to seek peace rather than war.

In war, there are no victors but what remains are broken families who lost loved ones. What remains is a taste of resentment that outlives any war.

What remains is suffering. Suffering that we create ourselves.

Violent action rarely achieves its objectives. It might bring about more immediate results, but it doesn't address the real root of the problem but only treats its symptoms.

I recall the saying that history is written by the victors as I conclude reflecting on victory day and on the events taking place in Syria. We may rejoice at the fact that Malta hasn't fallen to our past "enemies". Indeed, some attribute our survival during the Great Siege and World War II to the direct intervention of the Virgin Mary since, as I explained earlier, the 8th September is the feast of her nativity. However, while it may be pointless to speculate whether Malta would have been worse off if we had fallen to our past "enemies". But, I am sure that if history had turned out differently and Malta became Malta Arabia or Malta Fascista, I'm sure that there would be celebrations going on of a different kind. And I wouldn't be who I am today if I would have been ever been born in such a parallel Earth. Yet, I am here today and, thus, I have to carry my own responsibilities and do the little I can to make the world a better one than when I found it.

Granted, we have little or no power to change the world on our own.

Yet, we cannot afford not to care while thousands of people around the world, human beings like us, are suffering unnecessary suffering because they fail to appreciate the fact that they depend on one another and no one can claim to be better than the other.

I hope in peace - even if I know war is looming.

I still believe there’s a place for dialogue - even if the world seems to have drawn its own conclusions.

I believe that the only victory is a victory over the enemy within that seeks to fill us with vain pride that forces us to crush our fellow brothers and sisters.

Remembering the fallen is good, yes, but clinging to what we think we are is but a harmful attachment.

May there be peace in Syria and around the world.

May no more people die in vain.

May today be a better day. For our tomorrow depends on it!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Opening to The Intimacy of the Soul*

I come to write again after taking time to consider where my life is leading to. I admit, I am still confused about the direction I want to follow in life. I regret that the things that appeared to be of absolute importance to my happiness have become perhaps less important to me at this point in my life. This doesn’t mean that my disability activism, for example, is no longer important to me or that I don’t value the principles of inclusion I believed in before. Principles I dedicated lots of time and energy to promote. Rather, I feel that my calling is elsewhere.

I can understand if only a few readers might relate to my situation. It’s as if, more than ever, I feel a sense of emptiness. Of insignificance. It’s not because there’s emptiness within me. It’s because I realise that, as a human being, I am insignificant when compared to the extend of the cosmos. A cosmos that we can only barely understand with our scientific advances. A cosmos, that we may never be able to really understand.

In this state of silent contemplation, I only find myself confused and lost in an ocean that engulfs my whole being. An ocean which I want to escape from and be rescued from.

Yet, an ocean which I must cross to discover the place I need to be if I want to find more lasting peace and happiness. The refuge of the soul*. The cosmos that appears to mock my pretentious humanity is really drawing me to an authentic understanding of my real nothingness. Like the ocean, I am faced by my sense of nakedness and shame of having to declare my vulnerability and essential nothingness.

I was a child who wanted to know more. Indeed, I was thirsty for answers of why I was here. I admit that the death of my brother David a few months after my birth appears to have profoundly affected me. I realise this fact the more I develop my practice of meditation. It’s as if my need to make sense of my life - or why I am here - has become more important to me. More than anything else, I feel that I must face the challenge posed by an infinite ocean and the nakedness that the eternal cosmos reveals. For, in contrast to all this immensity, I am an impermanent nothing.


I once aspired to become a famous writer in my life. Indeed, this, I admit, was one of the motivations I had to write as a child. To perhaps join in the ranks of those many authors I found on the library shelves (I could reach). Yet, I wrote not just out of vanity but because, the more I wrote, the greater I felt free. There were moments when I wrote continuously, others when I stopped writing for days on end. It was both painful and cathartic to write. It was hard to have to put into words what I felt inside as what I wrote may have sounded brilliant but it never captured the complexity of my thoughts. And, even as I write

today, I am sure that what I finish will always be incomplete and dissatisfying. Hopefully, it is closer to the truth of my being but words and language are only mirrors of a far richer reality we may call the “soul”*. I am aware that while we may place a lot of weight on the words we use or the symbols we communicate, these don’t exist in their own right. A sentence, a book, or any form of expression, will mean another thing in another time or socio-cultural context. Yet, even if we may chose silence, it has also its meaning. However, at least, silence provides us with an opportunity to listen and contemplate on the significance of our human existence.

It may help us to free ourselves from the shackles of ignorance and open that little the intimacy within. 



I know that my life may be misinterpreted as a tragedy. Yes, it appears I lost a lot in the course of these 31 years I’ve been here on the planet. I lost my brother, David, before I could know him. I gradually lost my ability to walk independently, I lost a significant amount of vision and I am just slowly regaining my health and strength. Yet, my life isn’t exceptionally tragic to any degree. Defining me in those terms failsto acknowledge my humanity. I have only experienced more in life than usual, yes, but this doesn’t guarantee that my experience automatically brought with it any wisdom or exceptional insight.

 

A belief that is often implied whenever I talk to a few “religious” strangers. Indeed, I, myself, may have ben deluded by that demon of pride. A pride that seeks out to make one feel that one has the understanding and has the right outlook on life. A pride that refuses to listen and thus be unresponsive or hostile to other views. Views, which may be indeed wrong, but which must be taken notice of for hearts and minds to perhaps change and be more open.

These words would have been outrightly dismissed by my past self. But, these words are the ones I needed to hear.



I am a human being. I am disabled by a society that still considers people, like me, who have impairments, lives apart. We are not heroes, saints, villains, pitiful beings, abnormal, differently-abled or even “special”. Yet, I realise that while I recall all I believe in, I know there’s a deeper longing within that compels me to go beyond my work as a disability activist. For, while this cause is worthwhile and to be commended, I feel a strong need to go beyond impairment and focus more on the wider context of being human.

The fact is that since I grew in my understanding of Buddhism, thanks to the works of HH Dalai Lama and other scholars, I realise how important it is, for me, to reach beyond my self to others. Not because the experiences I have gone through life have made me any wiser. Not that I am special in any way. But because I feel that I must seek the source of my emptiness. To find refuge in knowing that all I have is impermanent and all will end, including my being. To approach this realisation, not with despair or despondency, but with mindful compassion and appreciation of every breath we take.

In doing so, we can wake up and release ourselves from the spell of pride.A point of awareness where we can see the afflictions borne out of hate, greed and desire melt into nothingness. A point where, even if we’re not totally free from our delusions, we are ready to open our heart to others and to all that is around us.
>


I feel that unless I fully open my mind and heart to this greater need and purpose, there will always be that sadness in my heart. A dissatisfaction that, whatever I did in my future, all will be overshadowed by the knowing that I didn’t pursue my deepest yearning. That I put aside my call to compassion and to contemplate the purpose of my existence because I wanted to live a relatively comfortable life.



In doing that, I would have violated the intimacy of my soul*! 





* In the context of this article, the meaning of the word “soul” is not to be understood in terms of any religious interpretation. In this sense, the soul may be taken to simply mean conscious awareness in the present - in light of the fact that the “soul” or “self” is, in itself, not a static property of the mind and may indeed cannot be said to have a distinct location in the body but rather arises out of the interplay of the brain and the nervous system.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Can We Do? A Meditation on Action

Life changes. That's a fact we all know but people seldom think about. Every day is unique but in our fast moving world, we have created the illusion that there's such a thing as a "normal" week that includes a period of rest we call the "weekend".

 

The more I grow in my practice of various forms of meditation, the more I realise how easy it is to go through life following habit and routine without stopping and reflect on the point of it all. For, while life may seem to be going great, we night fail to appreciate the moments in which we find our peace and comfort. It's only when we realise we lost something that we start to appreciate its value.

 

We also risk believing that we have more control over our world than we really do. As life goes through its natural cycle of birth, death  and renewal, we change as well. I have gone through particularly hard times in my life recently and I can't say that I found my peace.

 

Indeed, while we may have an idea that mindfulness and meditation provides us with peaceful bliss, its proper practice also exposes us to the scars which were deeply hidden in our mind. Yet, unpleasant as they are, acknowledging their presence can help us to slowly detach ourselves from them.

 

Even if I am trying to give up my attachment to the world, I confess it's harder than I thought. I still remain attached to my pride and sometimes still crave to acquire a particular thing or position. But then again, I know how . foolish my thinking is. Yet, I can still be a fool. Acknowledging that is the first step - even if my pride gets angry.

 

The fact is that there's very little we can change in the world. There are so many factors that are permitting that we have the right conditions to keep alive that it would be impossible to list them and some I don't even know about. We also depend on the living world, including the people we live with on this rotating piece of rock. 

 

So what can we do? While we may not be able to change the world or even "save" it, there's only one thing I learned that you may find of value. You can only change yourself. Yet, until you take the time to get to know who you are, each day will remain as insignificant as the one before. 

 

Don't expect to change overnight and don't even expect it to be painless. You may even find you're failing, like I feel lately, but you should keep in mind that the real peace, freedomm and happiness we all seek is not to be found in the world but in you and in how far you're ready to recognise your littleness in the  context of the whole.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Meditation on Forgetting

 

HH Dalai Lama celebrated his 78th birthday  last Saturday, 6th July… and I forgot!

 

 

 

A Confession

I must confess that I have forgotten  to write an entry on the occasion of HH Dalai Lama which I started doing when I started this site. I have already written extensively about how indebted I am to HH 14th Dalai Lama for opening my mind to a fresh understanding of life and reality. I find that I feel a bit angry and rather ashamed of having forgotten the man who helped e to embark on the journey where I can better understand who I am and my place in this world.

 

In a way, this journey of self-discovery which I have been writing about since 2011 began as a child. But then, my curiosity to know about HH Dalai Lama and to understand Buddhism didn’t take me far. Even my brief exploration of world religions that I carried out as I was writing my book Cosmos also didn’t help me that much as I only read sources which tended to hold that Buddhism was a nihilistic tradition.
I find that the past remains an important part of who we are. It’s true that it’s not good to dwell on the past but it would be wrong that we completely forget it. For the past, whether we like it or not, has affected and affects who we are today.

 

Yes, I forgot that on the 6th JUly of 1935, a young boy called Tenzin Gyatso would be declared to be the re-incarnation of his predecessor Thubten Gyatso. Much has been written, of course, on the Dalai Lama’s early days but I feel That I have been affected but the way he speaks and expresses his thoughts with a rare sincerity and with a genuine interest in the welfare of all humankind and all sentient beings. Yet, as he admits himself, he is just a man like any other and he doesn’t want people to regard him as a god-figure. In particular, there are three things that have struck me as he talks about Buddhism. Precepts that, you might have noticed, I constantly refer to when writing here and which I use as guides in other writing that is not related to Buddhism as such.

 

My Guiding Principles

These principles, simply put are:

Dependent arising. The teaching that who we are is the product of countless causes and conditions that have made our life possible.

 

co-dependence e. The reality that who we are and what we have depends on other factors that are beyond our control. These range from the physical world - material objects, nature, living things and weather conditions; to the relations we have with other people.

 

Impermanence. The fact that nothing lasts forever. Everything in the universe is changing, including the universe itself. And, all all of this will one time end.

The Impermanence of Forgetting

 

In this sense, we can see forgetting as the manifestation of the impermanence of memory. Yet, we may forget other things in life that are as important as memory is to remember who we are. I feel that, due to strong emotions, that arose from a dark place within. As a result, I started forgetting what was important in my life. I was forgetting the values I believed in. Perhaps I was under the illusion that I was better than others or that I had a rightful claim to be arrogant because I felt that I was in the right and that all I said can't and shouldn't be contradicted because it was absolute - when, in fact, right as it may have been, it was relative. Yes, I may have been in the right at times but my approach was also wrong.

It is often the case that because we feel we have found our truth, we forget that we remain always subjective in our judgments and fail to consider how our words and actions might affect other people.

I am not saying that we do wrong if we make our point or feel that we must take action. Yet, even if we are right and correct, the way we assert our convictions can easily undermine their importance. It’s a choice whether to pursue the path of violence or the path of non-violence. The former may appear to be stronger and the more effective. Yet, while the path of violence may get more immediate results, it only reacts to the effect of the real cause of our affliction and may also obscure the real causes of the affliction.

 

Healing the Past: To Forgive, Not Forget…

I am sorry that I forgot to remember that on July 6, 1935, Tenzin Gyatso was born. But, I feel greater sorrow that while my writing has been largely unaffected by past afflictions, I cano’t say the same about some words and actions that I have carried out in an attempt to reclaim what I felt was unfairly taken away from me.

 

But, in doing so, I became a slave to this past and never really freed myself.

The only way we have to heal the past is to forgive all the injustice perpetrated against us as we can’t change the past. Yet, while we should not forget our past as it has shaped who we are, we should strive to forgiveness ensures that we don’t remain slaves to our past and be willing to be more open to trusting others guided by the wisdom of our past injustices.

 

We should strive to cultivate our compassion as it is the only guarantee of our own happiness and that of others.
In HH the 14th Dalai Lama’s own words:

 

“If you want to be happy… practice compassion…

 

If you want others to be happy… practice compassion…”

 

I wish belated wishes to HH Dalai Lama.

 

Thank you very very much!

 

Older Entries

2011: Celebrating HH the 14th Dalai Lama's 76th Birthday
2012: Tomorrow ... It's the 6th July? So, It's HH 14th Dalai Lama's 77th birthday!!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ZoneMind: A Day of Shame - Identity, Indifference & Humanity (Full Series)

Part 1: Hollow Identities?

ORIGINAL SOURCE


This July was a time I felt that I had to re-evaluate who I was and to reflect on my position on this Earth and wonder once again on where I belonged. I decided to leave FaceBookas I was growing concerned that, in spite of all the good things it offered me, I found myself too dependent on it and sometimes felt I had to project an identity that pleased the public which I felt more and more to be somewhat oppressive, encouraging a culture of impulsive reactions which didn’t promote finding time for reflection or cultivate personal growth. I felt that sometimes I had to hold back too much parts of who I was and perhaps the reason I finally left was to be found in my past.


Yes, there was another reason I decided to leave. Perhaps I realised that being on FaceBook was my way of validating who I was because I still felt like an outsider. I still felt without acknowledging it, that I wanted to be accepted and taken for who I was or what I believed in. But, then, I always ran the risk of posting something for the sake of it. I might have felt that the media had once robbed me of my right to claim an identity as an individual when I was still a child. And, yes, while I thought I got over it, the scars in my mind were still there and still bleeding.

Indeed, I found that the painful memories I had when I was still a disabled boy were still there hidden in my mind. I realised that these ‘demons’ of the past which I thought I conquered were still acting in the background. I cannot say that this was a positive experience. It was not. I made that clear in my entry and recording found on a recent post entitled “Is Virtue Its Own Reward”. For, even if it was a difficult time in my childhood, I admit that it also taught me about myself and about how society viewed me.

Many times, we often judge things in terms of good or bad.

However, life is more of an experience that is in-between.

And there are many experiences in my life which may be judged as bad or terrible. The fact is that while our experiences may be a source of pain and anger, sometimes they are inevitable and necessary to learn and grow up. When I could still walk, I remember that there were many times I fell from my bicycle when I was first learning how to ride a bike. But, eventually, I had mastered the skill of riding a bike. Yes, I know that today I won’t be able to write a regular bike at least but I did benefit from learning that skill the time I could do it.

In the same way, the pain I felt as a disabled child when I realised that to the world I was just a one-dimensional boy ‘afflicted’ by impairment and a ‘burden’ and ‘sacrifice’ to society and to my best friend was when I lost my balance on the ‘bicycle’ of life and face the fact that no matter who I was or what I did, I will also risk being judge by my impairments.

From that day on, I felt I could relate to the countless times I found myself ill-at-ease when I listened to so-called grown ups making fun of people who were different than them, whether they were of a different faith, whether they were black, whether they were women or whether they were gay.

Unfortunately, I do confess that at times I did join in to make some witty remark but, I found that I preferred to remain silent when the words I heard felt wrong and unkind. But my silence was not that better. I didn’t know I had a choice. However, the experiences I had when I realised that for society I was to be an outsider with people arrogantly thinking that they can tell my story and distort my life to the extent it sounded more like melodrama.

I just wasn’t that boy they had constructed out of their assumptions and misconceptions.


It was from then on that I must have started realising I was an outsider. Society wasn’t interested in who I really was, it preferred to create n image for the sake of increasing sales and popularity. I was like a Joseph Merrick whose physical differences were the main reason he drew the interest of the people of his time.

 

Part 2: an Indifferent Ignorance

 ORIGINAL SOURCE  

 

I felt that I could relate to my earlier discomfort when I heard people saying things about individuals they never met or didn’t intend to mix with. As I read about the struggle of black Americans in the US for civil rights, I felt that Martin Luther King Junior was also talking about an experience not dissimilar to my own.

As I read about Gandhi’s protests against the British colonisers, I felt that, in some way, I was colonised by a non-disabled ideology that placed people like me who had an impairment amongst the lowest classes of society, sustaining the belief that impairment was an inevitable reality and that I must accept my burden and not expect to be an equal. Of course, it would be much later in my 20s that I would be introduced to the idea of the social model of disability that appeared to given me a voice and the words to articulate my experiences.

For, like racism, sexism, homophobia or any other forms of intolerance that existed about people who may be different than us, The fact I had an impairment wasn’t the problem in itself. 

Indeed, one major problem was the attitude people had about impairment which was often seen to define my whole identity - even erasing any other aspects of my humanity.

However, unlike other forms of discrimination, society has also proved to reject my body whenever I was denied access to places or to resources simply because my body didn’t conform to the imaginary ‘norm’. Despite this fact, attitude played an important role on my feeling of being an outsider.

Like the black men and women in 50s America, I didn’t have equal rights in so many areas. Like the colonised Indian, what I owned and my history was always inferior to that of the unreal norm. Like the

African, to the West, I had no history and my impairment remained a curse or the effect of nature gone wrong.  Thus, my mind

and body appeared to be a defiance to the Graeco-Roman ideals of perfection. The only means that we all have to relate with the world suddenly seemed to have been imbued with features and characteristics that were never there but were only created by our limiting minds. 


This is why I felt I was an outsider as a boy. This is why I feel like an outsider sometimes even  today. 

I felt the need to speak about the injustices that I witnessed this week in an episode entitled Lives Should Never Be Used As Meanswhich I posted on my podcast channel . The inhumanity in the government’s attempt to deport a group of Somali migrants back to Libya. While Malta has limited resources to provide shelter to more migrants, I felt that this attempt at sending a message to the EU that Malta needed more support was morally deplorable on so many levels. For, given that Libya remains unstable and that the detention centres at Libya offer very poor human conditions while guards there don’t seem to have any respect for human rights,, 

if our government hadn’t been stopped, these immigrants would have certainly suffered torture, rape and death. And I don’t like to call them ‘immigrants’ but language is often constraining. They are, first and foremost, people - men, women and children. They are my brothers and sisters. They all have their own identities, likes and dislikes. They feel the same feelings and emotions that I feel. Like them, I can get sick and I will die. We share the world with each other.

Part 3: Humanity Denied!

ORIGINAL  SOURCE


Before starting this last entry, I wish to share a few verses inspired from  the words that are attributed toMartin Niemöller as I can see the danger in arguments and action that seem to imply that our human rights can be negotiated or, worse, put to the majority vote. I am painfully aware that, as a disabled person, many (if not all) of the rights I and other disabled people, would have prevailed and it's only because of some pioneers that made sure our rights should be legally recognised that we can say that we have more opportunities today - even if there's more to be done to gain real equality for disabled people. But I digress, so here are the adapted version of  Martin Niemöller's speech foe our local reality as I am currently perceiving it:: 

Now, they were coming for the migrants,


And we said nothing...


Then they came for those who were Muslims...

And we said nothing.


Then they robbed once who identified themselves as LGBT of their rights...

And we said nothing...


Then they attacked the environmentalists...

And as nature was dying...


Our mouths were still shut...


They would also make ones protecting human rights of minorities and other discriminated social groups appear to be unpatriotic...


And we still said nothing.


Then, when they came after us...


Well, no one was  there to defend us!



I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but unless we don't speak together against injustice perpetrated on others, we have lost our claim to our own rights. Unless we come together and really together on issues concerning human rights, then all expressions of solidarity and talks social inclusion remain simply empty rhetoric. When people in my own country forget their humanity, these people seeking refuge become a group of people robbed of an identity. At the same time, we choose to impose our own prejudice and assumptions on them turning them to monsters and even savages. When we look at them, there is a danger that we project our own fears onto them.Perhaps we fear of losing our own identity. Rejecting them would mean that we cling to the delusion that we’re far better than them or more ‘civilised’ than them. We might have believed that they were poor people suffering from famine and starvation. We might still have an image of those children with swollen stomachs. We might have pitied them. We might have thought of Africans as savages without a history or tradition. Like the Africans of that distorted Africa found in, for example, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.


In many ways, I feel that I must speak up against any attempt to reduce the rights of these people we call immigrants. I feel that I am also an outsider. In spite of any nice things said about disabled people, there are still many who harbour deep inside a certain resentment and fear of becoming like us - which is likely to happen as they age. I am, like the immigrant, an outsider - the other. And being the ‘other’ makes me a threat to the social order. For, in fully accepting me and people who are different, society would have to face the reality that we are more like each other than we are different. And while our differences matter, they are not fundamental to who we are. The day when we even considered sending people back to most certain torture, humiliation and death can’t be ever justified.

It was a day of shame for us and for Malta when we were close to to remain indifferent to our fellow human beings for the sake of making a political point.


While we may come to be forgiven for these actions, I believe we must make sure that we don’t forget. Even if the public has a short memory and the media is always looking for the next controversy, we can’t afford to forget. For forgetting would mean that next time we may actually have blood on our hands.

To end this long entry, I wish to express my last thoughts in the Japanese haiku form:

Yes, we must forgive...


But I refuse to forget...


This moment of shame.

End of series!


ABOUT THIS ENTRY

 This series originally appeared as a three-part series of entries published on my blogZoneMind between July 12 and July 14., 2013. This version has been slightly edited. If you enjoyed this entry, you can follow some of my activity on Twitter@gordonGT

> Feel free to share this post but kindly attribute this source;.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Day of Shame: Identity, Indifference and Humanity - Part 3

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3

 

Part 3: Humanity Denied!



Before starting this last entry, I wish to share a few verses inspired from the words that are attributed to Martin Niemöller as I can see the danger in arguments and action that seem to imply that our human rights can be negotiated or, worse, put to the majority vote. I am painfully aware that, as a disabled person, many (if not all) of the rights I and other disabled people, would have prevailed and it's only because of some pioneers that made sure our rights should be legally recognised that we can say that we have more opportunities today - even if there's more to be done to gain real equality for disabled people. But I digress, so here are the adapted version of Martin Niemöller's speech foe our local reality as I am currently perceiving it::


 

Now, they were coming for the migrants,

And we said nothing...


Then they came for those who were Muslims...
And we said nothing.

Then they robbed once who identified themselves as LGBT of their rights...
And we said nothing...

Then they attacked the environmentalists...
And as nature was dying...
Our mouths were still shut...
They would also make ones protecting human rights of minorities and other discriminated groups appear to be unpatriotic...
And we still said nothing.
Then, when they came after us...
No one was  there to defend us!


I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but unless we don't speak together against injustice perpetrated on others, we have lost our claim to our own rights. Unless we come together and really together on issues concerning human rights, then all expressions of solidarity and talks social inclusion remain simply empty rhetoric.

When people in my own country forget their humanity, these people seeking refuge become a group of people robbed of an identity. At the same time, we choose to impose our own prejudice and assumptions on them turning them to monsters and even savages. When we look at them, there is a danger that we project our own fears onto them.

Perhaps we fear of losing our own identity. Rejecting them would mean that we cling to the delusion that we’re far better than them or more ‘civilised’ than them. We might have believed that they were poor people suffering from famine and starvation. We might still have an image of those children with swollen stomachs. We might have pitied them. We might have thought of Africans as savages without a history or tradition. Like the Africans of that distorted Africa found in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

In many ways, I feel that I must speak up against any attempt to reduce the rights of these people we call immigrants. I feel that I am also an outsider. In spite of any nice things said about disabled people, there are still many who harbour deep inside a certain resentment and fear of becoming like us - which is likely to happen as they age. I am, like the immigrant, an outsider - the other. And being the ‘other’ makes me a threat to the social order. For, in fully accepting me and people who are different, society would have to face the reality that we are more like each other than we are different. And while our differences matter, they are not fundamental to who we are. The day when we even considered sending people back to most certain torture, humiliation and death can’t be ever justified.

It was a day of shame for us and for Malta when we were close to to remain indifferent to our fellow human beings for the sake of making a political point.

While we may come to be forgiven for these actions, I believe we must make sure that we don’t forget. Even if the public has a short memory and the media is always looking for the next controversy, we can’t afford to forget. For forgetting would mean that next time we may actually have blood on our hands.

My last thoughts in haiku:


Yes, we must forgive...
But I refuse to forget...
This moment of shame.


End of series!


READ THE WHOLE SERIES:
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Day of Shame: Identity, Indifference and Humanity - Part 2

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 1 - PART 2 - PART 

Part 2: an Indifferent Ignorance 

I felt that I could relate to my earlier discomfort when I heard people saying things about individuals they never met or didn’t intend to mix with. As I read about the struggle of black Americans in the US for civil rights, I felt that Martin Luther King Junior was also talking about an experience not dissimilar to my own.

 

As I read about Gandhi’s protests against the British colonisers, I felt that, in some way, I was colonised by a non-disabled ideology that placed people like me who had an impairment amongst the lowest classes of society, sustaining the belief that impairment was an inevitable reality and that I must accept my burden and not expect to be an equal. Of course, it would be much later in my 20s that I would be introduced to the idea of the social model of disability that appeared to given me a voice and the words to articulate my experiences.

For, like racism, sexism, homophobia or any other forms of intolerance that existed about people who may be different than us, The fact I had an impairment wasn’t the problem in itself. Indeed, one major problem was the attitude people had about impairment which was often seen to define my whole identity - even erasing any other aspects of my humanity. However, unlike other forms of discrimination, society has also proved to reject my body whenever I was denied access to places or to resources simply because my body didn’t conform to the imaginary ‘norm’. Despite this fact, attitude played an important role on my feeling of being an outsider. Like the black men and women in 50s America, I didn’t have equal rights in so many areas. Like the colonised Indian, what I owned and my history was always inferior to that of the unreal norm. I was and still feel an outsider.

This is why I felt the need to speak about the injustices that I witnessed this week in an episode entitled Lives Should Never Be Used As Means which I posted on my podcast channel . The inhumanity in the government’s attempt to deport a group of Somali migrants back to Libya. While Malta has limited resources to provide shelter to more migrants, I felt that this attempt at sending a message to the EU that Malta needed more support was morally deplorable on so many levels. For, given that Libya remains unstable and that the detention centres at Libya offer very poor human conditions while guards there don’t seem to have any respect for human rights,, if our government hadn’t been stopped, these immigrants would have certainly suffered torture, rape and death. And I don’t like to call them ‘immigrants’ but language is often constraining. They are, first and foremost, people - men, women and children. They are my brothers and sisters. They all have their own identities, likes and dislikes. They feel the same feelings and emotions that I feel. Like them, I can get sick and I will die. We share the world with each other.

CONTINUED…

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Day of Shame: Identity, Indifference and Humanity - Part 1

Part 1: Hollow Identities?

This July was a time I felt that I had to re-evaluate who I was and to reflect on my position on this Earth and wonder once again on where I belonged. I decided to leave FaceBook as I was growing concerned that, in spite of all the good things it offered me, I found myself too dependent on it and sometimes felt I had to project an identity that pleased the public which I felt more and more to be somewhat oppressive, encouraging a culture of impulsive reactions which didn’t promote finding time for reflection or cultivate personal growth. I felt that sometimes I had to hold back too much parts of who I was and perhaps the reason I finally left was to be found in my past.

Yes, there was another reason I decided to leave. Perhaps I realised that being on FaceBook was my way of validating who I was because I still felt like an outsider. I still felt without acknowledging it, that I wanted to be accepted and taken for who I was or what I believed in. But, then, I always ran the risk of posting something for the sake of it. I might have felt that the media had once robbed me of my right to claim an identity as an individual when I was still a child. And, yes, while I thought I got over it, the scars in my mind were still there and still bleeding.


Indeed, I found that the painful memories I had when I was still a disabled boy were still there hidden in my mind. I realised that these ‘demons’ of the past which I thought I conquered were still acting in the background. I cannot say that this was a positive experience. It was not. I made that clear in my entry and recording found on a recent post entitled “Is Virtue Its Own Reward”. For, even if it was a difficult time in my childhood, I admit that it also taught me about myself and about how society viewed me.

Many times, we often judge things in terms of good or bad.

However, life is more of an experience that is in-between. And there are many experiences in my life which may be judged as bad or terrible. The fact is that while our experiences may be a source of pain and anger, sometimes they are inevitable and necessary to learn and grow up. When I could still walk, I remember that there were many times I fell from my bicycle when I was first learning how to ride a bike. But, eventually, I had mastered the skill of riding a bike. Yes, I know that today I won’t be able to write a regular bike at least but I did benefit from learning that skill the time I could do it.

In the same way, the pain I felt as a disabled child when I realised that to the world I was just a one-dimensional boy ‘afflicted’ by impairment and a ‘burden’ and ‘sacrifice’ to society and to my best friend was when I lost my balance on the ‘bicycle’ of life and face the fact that no matter who I was or what I did, I will also risk being judge by my impairments.

From that day on, I felt I could relate to the countless times I found myself ill-at-ease when I listened to so-called grown ups making fun of people who were different than them, whether they were of a different faith, whether they were black, whether they were women or whether they were gay.

Unfortunately, I do confess that at times I did join in to make some witty remark but, at times, I remained silent. But my silence was not that better. I didn’t know I had a choice. However, the experiences I had when I realised that for society I was to be an outsider with people arrogantly thinking that they can tell my story and distort my life to the extent it sounded more like melodrama.

I just wasn’t that boy they had constructed out of their assumptions and misconceptions.

It was from then on that I must have started realising I was an outsider. Society wasn’t interested in who I really was, it preferred to create an image for the sake of increasing sales and popularity. I was like a Joseph Merrick whose physical differences were the only reason he drew the interest of the people of his time.

CONTINUED…

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3