Monday, October 30, 2006


Writers against Terrorism
Protest against the attack on Lebanon
Petition online against X
March against Y

What happened to FOR?

When did we stop fighting FOR what we wanted? When did we become a people against War, not a world FOR Peace? While we were pushing FOR healthy workplaces, working FOR good marriages and sustainable relationships, FOR safety and freedom and independence, FOR respect and civil behaviour, FOR love and tolerance; while we thought standing FOR the good stuff would change the world, there was a growing group already in the driver’s seat swinging the AGAINST demolition ball to strike down the entire edifice.

It’s pretty successful, the demolition squad. The structures are crumbling; however, not always replaced by anything at all. Or perhaps by an ambiguity that allows for every freedom pretending to be encased in an assertive façade which means nothing, because it stands AGAINST much, but it seems to stand FOR nothing – it feels hollow inside. Like one of those movie studio lots. Leaving me to wonder, can we as an ‘instant’ generation raze foundations and immediately build a value-added world that includes our history and culture, the collective learnings of generations, some values forgotten, some strengths ignored?

Suddenly we’re so sure of what we don’t want. What do we want? Our larger society gets reflected in our vocabulary, our little groups, in our media, in our actions and our aspirations. The young ones protest with ‘no way’ and ‘whatever’, words that spell their take on life. But are we not searching for a way and some definitive?

An author wastes my active time telling me why he is against the way I work with authors. I don’t even work with him yet. A group I belong to is vocal about why they are against formats of critical feedback. Women I know are against the reactions they evoke in men. Employees are against employer practices. I could go on – the world is against the world at large. Besides ‘against’, other popular words are can’t, as in ‘they can’t do this to us’, won’t, as in ‘we won’t tolerate this’, (sounds a bit of a Bush-ism, but Bush-isms are only a reflection of a larger malaise); not, as in ‘the government/ school/ my parents/ my children are not doing what they should’. Why aren’t we thinking of what we Can do to make them do what they are not doing; what Will work in place of what is currently intolerable; how should we make them Do and say Yes to what is right and good and honourable and useful and joyous and progressive and free.

Sounds idealistic? It is. Didn’t we stand for ideals? The same ideals we seem to think will be preserved by fighting against something. The rights of any human being to be free and be treated with respect – women, men, children, marginalized members of society, victims of abuse in any form; the responsibility of communities to create opportunities for their members, the right to freedom and accepting the consequences of the way you treat those freedoms. We stand for core values associated with respect and perhaps, with respect, we need to find ways to fight FOR all these wherever they are trampled.

Before you get the wrong idea, yes, I realize that when we stand up against something, we are also standing up for the opposite. But standing against has often proved costly to human life – qualitatively and quantitatively – we have enough historical examples to suggest that. And we aren’t out to bring about the fall of a civilization and wait for the birth of a new one. We aren’t that patient a people. We really have to work with what we already have, don’t we? As we work we need to search for solutions to fill the holes, ways to change thinking, remedies to cure damage, because we have to build and not destroy, we need to cement together and not pull apart, to create change and not pulverize. Isn’t that why when Indians stood For the Right to Information it worked so well as a step towards accountability; whereas all our rants against corruption per se haven’t really gone anywhere?

Before you get the wrong idea, I do not intend to generalize. There are wonderful people everywhere fighting for life, and doing some remarkable work in many areas. But there are so many more ready to criticize any constructive work, that my mind space is filled with the negativity and the fight against life, as it is. And I want to like what fills my mind space.

(This was written in response to many recent protests, helplessness while trying to assist some support groups working in the field, and as an attempt to begin addressing some major issues – an address which will hopefully follow soon. – Anita V.)