Tuesday, December 21, 2004

No to Victimhood

The past few posts began on Lubos' blog, where Lubos and I had a fundamental disagreement about the rightness of interference in Ukraine's elections by the US and the Russians, and spilled over into other areas, such as current affairs in Iraq and colonialism.

The burden of history is not on me. The world owes me nothing. I claim no privileges, no consideration for past injustice done to my ancestors. I do not seek to convert anyone to my religion, my beliefs, my culture, my way of life. To you, your way, to me mine!

The burden really is on those who believe that they somehow represent a civilizing force, something so wonderful and great, that they have the right to shove it down the throats of others, like a doctor giving a recalcitrant patient his medicine, with sanctions and war and aerial bombardment of cities. Examine history, go past the shallow lies, and find out what happened, the whitewashed record.


One more thing. Belief and intention have no moral value. In the ancient "pagan" world, belief may have served as a marker of a boundary or identity. Perhaps with the first Christians, the idea that belief has a moral value began. It was not possible to be saved without a belief in Jesus as the savior. Those who did not believe in Jesus had lesser moral value, and would be barbecued into eternity (borrowing a phrase from Vivekananda). It was not just that the unbelievers were outsiders, not part of the family; they were evil. This has been now secularized, and believing in some ideology or the other makes one either a good person, or the enemy to be feared and dehumanized. The moral stature of a person is determined by conduct, not by belief. Hypocrisy is a major vice of societies of belief, where public statements of the upholding of a belief confer stature to a person, and thus, benefits. Our polity is so corrupted because we focus so much on what the politicians say and not what they do. Just as a scientist or artist is finally known by her works, so is every person.

The war with Iraq is evil. If Iraq indeed posed an imminent threat with weapons of mass destruction, then the war may have been the least of evil choices. Our responsibility is always to choose the good, or under force of circumstances, the least of the evils. We should not delude ourselves that in choosing the least evil choice we are doing good. The burden of having to make a choice is always upon us, we cannot abdicate it. Our beliefs and intentions cannot sanctify an evil choice, even the least evil of choices. If moral order underlies the universe, then consequences are inevitable, and we should be prepared for these, call it blowback or karma. The struggle is to create at least some good out of the consequences of an evil choice.


Anonymous said...

Good post. But considering the level of hypocrisy in India, it is probably unfair to associate hypocrisy only with Christianity. I don't want to guess if belief systems originated in the Judeo-Christian framework, but all of the modern cultures seem to be firmly under the control of belief systems.


Arun said...

In modern India, too, the embrace of one ideology or the other, confers, in the world of the media and the literati, a moral superiority or inferiority.