When 26/11 ripped at the fragile seams of Hindu-Muslim harmony, I wrote a piteously naïve plea to “stop fighting and just get along”. Cringing.
Grief has replaced naiveté with despair.
These attacks are projections of our worst anxieties. As a parent you spend every day praying your kids will be ok. Worrying about their every move.
One day your kid is blown to bits. You tell me you wouldn’t feel an all consuming rage, a vengeful call to action.
You tell me how it is any different in Aleppo or Mumbai or Manchester?
Nothing is as universal as grief. You can put most feelings in a cultural context, but grief is transcendent.
Refugees come into new countries having lost so much. They come with a burden of grief inexplicable in the new world. Empathy is easier said than done; what empathy can you feel for voices you don’t hear?
But the guilt sets in anyway. Just a tinge, a peculiar moment of self-questioning that is easier dismissed than fed. We feel it, we let it pass.
There are those of us who feel nothing. Whose instinct for self-preservation is far stronger than empathy, that bludgeons right over guilt. Their barbaric sense of loyalty to their kin, their race, their kind gives them an almost enviable self assuredness when they declare the need to “let refugees die” or to “kill those fucking muslims”.
There are the activists and academics who organize rallies, write passionate rants in the public eye, shout to have their voices heard over the barbarians and the apathy.
Here lie the rest of us, uncomfortably positioned in a limbo we have learnt to make our peace with. Horrified by the atrocities of the barbarians, the white supremacists, the ISISes of the world. Touched by grief, streaming tears over loss of lives, lack of opportunity, over the injustice of a world where we are consciously helpless.
We are middling, campless. We allow ourselves to be shaken, harrowed by the pain of others, yet remain bizarrely motionless when the gong sounds. Comfort and action are antagonistic, so the best we do is make half-assed attempts to put our unease to rest.
Grief is both a catalyst for and an antidote to numbness. The only positive that can come out of the pain of losing a child or starting life over in a new world is empathy. Self-righteously tearing up over struggle is the coward’s cop out. It’s just not good enough.
How do we escape?