Violence does not determine who is right, only who is left

Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 The livelihoods of innocents are being reduced to ash – Pic by Chamila Karunarathne

By The Rant Republik

Just over 35 years ago, Sri Lanka burned. It wasn’t just the houses of the innocent or the lives of their children. It was the very soul of the country that went up in flames. A country that had centuries of kindness, goodwill, and generosity behind it was reduced to one of hatred. We can’t let that happen again. 

As I write this, mobs are sweeping across villages and towns in at least two provinces in the country. Unlike the previous generation, I don’t have to wait until it comes to me, the miracles of technology mean that I can see the horror first-hand. I can see the livelihoods of innocents being reduced to ash. I can see children and the elderly being beaten up in their own streets. I can see futures dashed, hopes broken, and very lives threatened. 

Of course, those who have been reduced to such barbarity give us reasons. They say it’s against terrorism. They say it’s against “Muslims who came to us with swords”. They say it’s to protect their own children. Let’s pretend for a moment that all of this is true and logical. 

It doesn’t matter. If someone raises a hand against you, and you raise a hand against them, you give them the chance to do it again. My own relatives died a few weeks ago, but if I seek revenge for their deaths on someone who did absolutely nothing to cause it, I give their families the same desire for hatred and revenge. When they kill me, what if my brothers kill another of their children in response? What if they seek revenge and kill another? The cycle does not end. It cannot end. 

Each and every one of us is human. Part of being human is how much we care for our own, and the rage and desire for vengeance when our own is threatened. The savage brutal instinct of revenge is a base part of who we once were, and we can’t pretend it isn’t there. But being human is more than that. Being human means that we control our own destinies, our own fates, our own lives. It means that we can stop ourselves from bringing out our worst. It means we can stop mindless instincts and replace them with more humane ones, with decency, with kindness, with love. 

In times of crisis such as these, each and every one of us has a decision to make. 

We could either give in to our baser desires and exact revenge. We could act upon distrust and hatred, and create violence in our names. That way, maybe one day we will be able to exile, kill, and destroy everyone who is different from us. Maybe we’ll want more and kill some more. On one of those days, when we stand on the corpses of our children and the bones of our parents, maybe we’ll look around and finally realise what we should have known all along: that it wasn’t worth it. Not one bit. 

Or we could look hatred in the eye and refuse to participate. We could take steps, however small, to bring out the good in us. We could end the cycle of violence by being the last link in the chain. Over time, maybe we’ll regain the values that we used to hold so dear. Maybe this won’t bring justice to our dead. But it will save the lives of everyone around us from a future of horror. 

The bravest thing that we can do right now, the kindest thing we can do right now, is to save ourselves from ourselves; to sit back and look at ourselves; to re-evaluate ourselves; to find what has crept into us. It will be difficult. It will be unpleasant. It will seem far easier to hate instead. It will be far easier to find excuses to justify the horrors we see in ourselves, but it still must be done. We must weed out those parts that have spread their evil fingers in our hearts. We must replace it with the goodness that is there in our souls. For if we succeed, we stay human. If we don’t, we die forgotten, as mindless savages that the human mind could not control.

Our decisions may be hard – our actions even harder – but if we do not take them today, we lose more than our lives. We lose who we are. We lose the lives of all those around us. We lose the soul of our country. We can’t let any of that happen.

(The Rant Republik is a youth-driven group of thinkers and writers. They speak about issues that pertain to society and aim to provide a foundation for many-sided debate and discourse.)