I read somewhere that every revolution is a result of evolution. Every ‘big’ event is caused by small events that happen regularly. There is definitely a lot of truth in this. We often suppress anger towards someone regularly and one day, when things are out of control, we blurt out the ‘truth.’ We procrastinate everyday and that eventually leads to a situation where you have to panic. Violence is no different. No one decides to kill someone or molest someone all of a sudden. Violence is rooted in all the little things that we do. We can start by doing 5 ‘small’ things:
1. Stop using the words ‘Crazy,’ ‘Dumb,’ ‘Lame,’ ‘Psycho,’ ‘Retarded’ or ‘Mad’ as insults:
I have done this for years without even realizing that I’m contributing to the stigma around mental illness and physical disability. Mental or physical disability is NOT a joke and certainly not something to be ashamed of. When it comes to mental illness, there is an assumption that we can control everything that happens in our mind and that’s just preposterous. If you can control everything in your mind, why can’t you control your urge to ‘insult’ people by using these words? I know that most of us who use these words don’t even think of hurting these people but there is nothing wrong in a little introspection, no?
2. Stop taking misogynistic jokes lightly:
Everyday, my mom gets one of those “Marriage is hell because wives are devils” or “Women can’t drive cars properly’ kind of ‘jokes’ on WhatsApp. I ignored these jokes because it’s such a small thing, right? Wrong! Believe it or not but this is not harmless.It shows how people think about women. And it’s NOT cool. We can talk about feminism at a political level but let’s remember that it’s easy to talk about things that are far off or things that won’t affect you RIGHT NOW. What’s hard is to take a stand against your own family, your own friends. There is no need to shame people, just be assertive and let people know what you think.
3. Stop treating poor people like shit:
There was a lady in my colony who was proud of the fact that she never felt superior to her servants. But one day, she couldn’t dress up properly and someone thought she was a servant. She was so embarrassed. How come she felt that way? Didn’t she say that she didn’t feel superior to her maid? The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthi says that the way we treat our servants is violent. We patronize them. Now, it’s hard to change this mentality. I will be honest. My reaction would be similar to that lady. I cannot lie and wear a mask of a compassionate person. What I can do is, acknowledge that I’m a hypocrite and talk about this honestly. It is tempting to shame someone by calling her a ‘garbage woman’ but remember that it is WE who create the garbage in the first place!
4. Think before you gossip:
Gossip is about people’s imperfections and there is an assumption that the ones who are gossiping don’t have these imperfections. I was stuck between two desires when I got an opportunity to gossip: I felt good when I talked negatively about someone. It was great to be a part of a group. At the same time, I didn’t like the fact that I was talking shit about somebody. Even when I didn’t participate in gossiping, I judged those who gossiped. That means that I was gossiping about those who gossip (in my head). Gossiping about gossip is also gossip, right? I still criticize people and gossip about people who gossip. I have realized that I cannot erase this completely. When my mind starts judging people harshly, I allow it. After sometime, I see if those judgments apply to me as well. I highly recommend THE WORK by Byron Katie.
5. Stop assuming and labeling:
It’s amazing how we go about judging people. If you meet a rich person, what is your first thought? Most people think that rich people are ‘bad’. How do you know what a celebrity’s intentions are? Have you even met that person? What does these assumptions say about you? Assumptions are necessary for a smooth practical life but sometimes, they hurt. When you assume that the person is what he is because he is just not interested in working hard then you are making an assumption. I often think that people don’t give their best but what if they are? How can I know? How do you know that this person is ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid?’ Maybe, she is sincere in some other area of life? No one is ‘selfish’ in all areas of life. If you are less attached to labels, you will see that ‘stupid’ people are capable of doing very intelligent things. Labeling is just lazy after a point. The problem with a negative label is that they construct barriers between people.
We cannot fight like Batman but what we CAN do, is be aware of how we all oppress each other.