“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. Its when you know you are licked before you begin anyway & you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
The above is an excerpt from the delightful Book by Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird. It was on Mrs. Dubose’s death Atticus gave Jem this speech on courage. Atticus explains that courage is a mental decision. Without mental & emotional fortitude, it is impossible to demonstrate courage when it is most needed. Atticus wanted Jem to distinguish between true courage & the outward appearance of courage.
It is such a thought invoking & emotional journey through the lives of two young children as their father stands up to defend an African-American man on trial. And the main idea behind beginning today’s narrative with such a segment is because this (“a proverbial man with a double-barrel”) has become something we immediately picture when someone says the word courage.
Yes, courage is indeed portrayed by soldiers, army-men and mercenaries alike, but is that what true courage is all about? No, the act of patriotism, martyrdom and service for one’s country is indeed an element of courage, but the true essence of courage is something that is deep embedded in all of us I feel, but is something we haven’t yet truly excavated.
Acts of Courage
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”
– Aung San Suu Kyi
I can tag plenty of people here, starting from Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring stand against terrorism, Barack Obama’s insightful presidency, Aung San Suu Kyi’s staunch opposition to Burma’s military policy, to Mahatma Gandhi’s dedicated practice of non-violence. And yes, there’s always going to be a political angle when we talk about peace, courage and the other posse of topics that follow suit.
But making a stand for oneself is never easy. When it is you versus the entire class of children, or you versus your entire van of relatives, or you versus the entire board of senior members, you are on your own. Everyone will be against you, everyone will try to undermine you, everyone you thought you knew, would grow stranger. What do you do then?
The Trending Curse of Society & Culture
Paulo Coelho aptly titled a book of his – “The Winner Stands Alone”. Today’s culture has this inane obsession with fame, glamour, and celebrity. And we inherently try to blend in, not because we don’t have a choice, but because we’d rather escape from all the unpleasantries of trying to be a trailblazer.
It is shocking really, when you consider the fact that people have become such pathetic in terms of their behaviour in corporate circles, in public places and at home. Two-faced personality is a thing of the past, people nowadays have adapted a Role-playing Game kind of mentality, where they momentarily & opportunistically change their personality to match the crowd in the room.
While we masquerade on like this, the Creator is surely contemplating his choices of creating us and blessing us with a mind we have yet to explore fully, but are contended to use in half or little capacity as possible to get through our monotonous days, fooling others, fooling ourselves, fooling everyone.
“Popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, gossip is called news, and auto-tune is called singing.”
– Criss Jami
Paulo in his book wants us all to be a “winner”. Not in the sense of someone who finally wins what is important to his/her life. Not in the sense that happiness is the most valuable gift on Earth, and it can be attained here and now, when your work fulfils your heart. We should be a winner in the sense that the system portrays a successful person: celebrity, influencer, photos in glossy magazines, behaving like the masters of the universe.
It has always been about the system. What will the neighbours say, what will society think, what will your peers feel when you do so & so things? Why does it so happen that our singular unique & out of ordinary acts be deemed as mere antics, mere whims?
“Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you. What’s important to me is not others’ opinions of me, but what’s important to me is my opinion of myself.”
– C. JoyBell C.
The society as a whole has become intolerant to change and ambiguity. It has come to a point where it only accepts things that are trending & popular among the masses, and are strictly anti towards all that is even slightly deviating from their apparently gilded library of rules, disciplines, methods and practices.
So from this unending barrage of pressure & intolerance we renounce our dreams & passions. We become mindless bots, following the age old traditions, adapting trending beliefs & behaviours, and shutting permanently the creative side of ourselves.
Yes, you may reach the goal society has fed you, but will you be satisfied? Will you be whole? Will you be in peace? This cycle of possession never ends, because the moment that you think that you have reached your goal another desire creeps in. And how can you find rest when it is the hunt that moves you?
While people are connected more today then yesterday, no thanks to their mobile phones and the fibre net, they all speak the same words, fight for the same goals, and crave the same things. How could it be otherwise?
If fashion exists it is precisely because you can mould the desire of the masses – or how else could a bag or a dress impose itself as necessity? If wish-lists exists, it is entirely because we crave for newer things each passing day. We try to replicate our role-models, or simply try and copy trends sensationalised by the myriad cult of artists, models, stars & superstars.
In a world of invisible yet unsurpassable decrees & rulings, where a few puppeteers pull the strings of the many & instil in other people’s dreams the pursue of superficial things, there seems to be a rising feeling, a silent despair that creeps in. Greed to have, greed to be seen, greed to prevail, even greed to kill, if you think it is for a good cause – like love, for example.
And the truth is these are mere snapshots of the world we call our home. In the picturesque gallery of what we believe to be inspiring, motivating and thought-provoking in this world, these unusual, unthinkable and unethical acts are mere stopgaps. At the end of the day remember not to live someone else’s life, not to dream someone else’s dream, not to follow someone else’s decree, but your own. We should be what we always wanted to be.
“Things not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly loss this can’t be real
Cannot stand this hell I feel
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness taking dawn
I was me but now, he’s gone
No one but me can save myself, but its too late
Now I can’t think, think why I should even try
Yesterday seems as though it never existed
Death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye
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