Warriors who lack vision
The Star, November 20, 2014
IMAGINE if you will, a band of warriors making their way through some tall grass. They are armed to the teeth because they are convinced that within the dense foliage, there are untold numbers of hostile parties ready to attack them at any time.
As they make their way, not the least bit quietly, their nerves tensed, they are on the constant lookout for enemies.
At the slightest sound or the faintest whiff of a possible attack, they pounce, with clubs and spears, and do their best to beat their presumed enemy to death.
It’s a take-no-prisoners approach, judge first before asking questions.
Except that there is nobody to question once the warriors are done with them.
In this way, the warriors believe they are guarding the tall grass territory that they live in.
The “enemy” is always unseen, they believe, so anything that seems different must be treated with suspicion at best, immediately “dealt with” at worst.
To do nothing is to allow these opponents to breed and their ideas to spread “like a cancer”.
But the tall grass hides the true picture of what is happening because it hides the warriors’ vision.
They can only see what is at the sparse top of the grass and not what is underneath, where discontent is seething.
The warriors cannot see that they are standing on the shoulders of those underneath and the glimpses and sounds of the “enemies” they see and hear, and whom they attack immediately, are simply the attempts by those underneath to find air to breathe in the upper reaches of the grass.
In the undergrowth of the grass lie many humans hiding in the shadows fearful of the warriors.
They work hard to keep the habitat growing, and for so long they have been quietly contributing to it as much as they can. But the warriors won’t have it.
The grass, they say, is only for the cleanest, purest warriors, of which there are only a few.
Those who do not fit into their definitions of “clean” and “pure” besmirch their habitat and therefore must either be gotten rid of or be rehabilitated to cleanse them of their “impurities”.
The warrior class is a special one. To qualify, they have to be of a certain community and be male.
The few females allowed to join can only do so if they agree with everything their male leaders say and do.
All must agree never to use their brains, only their voices, and it helps that they have many outlets at which their voices can be heard and listened to.
Brawn is everything, might is always right, loud is proud.
The problem with being a warrior, however, is that one is required to have one’s nerves perpetually on edge, beneath a paper-thin skin.
One must be ready to see ghosts behind every door, crucifixes on every cookie, proselytisers under every carpet and porcine DNA in high-calorie junk food.
Conviction of one’s own rightness is a must, even when it is scientifically proven that one is wrong.
Science is simply not the warrior’s forte; therefore science is an unnecessary inconvenience.
Meanwhile, outside the land of the tall grass, where the grass is cut to a level where everyone can breathe the same air and be all seen and heard, people are progressing.
Every day, someone gets a chance in the sunlight to show an invention that makes life better for everyone, regardless of who they are.
Innovators are rewarded and nobody pays attention to those who want to go back to the days of the tall grass.
But the warriors who live in the tall grass, because they cannot see beyond the grass they live in, do not fathom how far behind they are being left.
Innovators who need air to breathe in order to be creative are trampled on, so eventually they escape the grass to live in lands with shorter ones.
Anyone who complains of the unjust access to air is shot down immediately, and told that only those defending the right to keep the grass tall and dense are allowed to breathe.
Zoom out and looking at the globe from afar, we see that there are fewer and fewer patches of tall grass.
Everywhere people are cutting the grass short to give everyone a chance in the sunshine, recognising that it is in everyone’s nature to yearn for fresh air to breathe.
With sunlight, everyone is happy and friendly with one another. The land of the short grass is calm and peaceful.
In the land of the tall grass, the warriors thrash wildly and fiercely at everything that moves, not realising that underneath there is in fact nothing.
Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good.” Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.