Scared but Free
January 21, 2007

What is it that causes us to close our minds? To see only in black and white, right and wrong? What is it in us which seems to scream, "It's my way or the highway - if you don't like it leave"?

I read excerpts from Hrant Dink's final article today ... and intend to see if I can track down the full text later. But at the very least, this edit was not just poignant, but leads me to questions that I have asked for most of my life.

As a selective follower of the news, I offer this brief bit of context about Hrant Dink: he was a journalist living in Turkey, working for the Agos newspaper, his newspaper. He had written about how in the last days of the Ottoman Empire ... in 1915 ... the Turks slaughtered Armenians in what he claimed amounted to a genocide. (Please, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with him! I've not done the research and I'm just giving a brief synopsis.) A lawsuit was brought against him for defaming Turkey in his writing. Despite losing the initial lawsuit, Mr. Dink stood his ground ... tried to convince people he was not anti-Turkey at all. He was shot and killed by a 16 or 17 year old Turkish boy, Friday, 19 January 2007.

This is a series of excerpts from his final article ... longer excerpts can be found on the BBC: Hrant Dink's final article (Original text from Agos is here ... but I don't know how long this link will remain directed to this article.)

What is truly threatening and unbearable for me is the psychological torture I place myself in. The question that really gets to me, is: 'What are these people thinking about me?'
Unfortunately I am now better-known than before and I feel people looking at me, thinking: 'Oh, look, isn't he that Armenian guy?'
I am just like a pigeon, equally obsessed by what goes-on on my left and right, front and back. My head is just as mobile and fast. ...
Do you ... know the price of making someone as scared as a pigeon?
What my family and I have been through has not been easy. I have considered leaving this country at times ...
But leaving a 'boiling hell' to run to a 'heaven' is not for me. I wanted to turn this hell into heaven.
We stayed in Turkey because that was what we wanted - and out of respect for the thousands of people here who supported me in my fight for democracy ...
2007 will probably be an even harder year for me. The court cases will continue, new ones will be initiated and God knows what kind of additional injustices I will have to face.
I may see myself as frightened as a pigeon, but I know that in this country people do not touch pigeons.
Pigeons can live in cities, even in crowds. A little scared perhaps, but free.

What is it in us which makes us so sure that we are right that we feel the need to utterly crush those who disagree with us? Why is it so hard for us to live side by side with those with whom we disagree?

What is it which causes us to sneak into the night, erect a cross in a yard and light it afire? What is it which causes us to so hate what we think another culture represents that we feel secure in an attempt to annihilate them?

I think, in most situations, it is that which we try to spread ... what we use to attempt to intimidate: fear.

We fear that which is different from us.

What I don't think I will ever understand is why? Why are we so damn scared of something different? of different ideas and concepts and ways of living?

I'm not talking about those in power who do encourage and insist upon genocide. We can search out the reasons for individuals like Hitler and those of his ilk.

I'm talking about both the smaller and larger scales here. I define smaller as those pockets of violence (physical or threats/words) which are isolated from other such pockets. And I define larger as: as a species, why do we seem so prone to this?

When I taught first-year writing, I would see this over and over and over again. Any idea or concept that was outside most of my students' personal experience was stupid and to be ridiculed. Anyone adhering to those suspect ideas was usually told "well, this is the way things are here ... if you don't like it, leave." We did have good debates ... if I intervened and opened this up for discussion. If I did not (for example, if I simply overheard students discussing an issue in the school newspaper before class), then generally speaking "my way or the highway" seemed to rule the day.

Not all of my students were like this ... and I don't think all people are either. But it does seem to be a terribly pervasive response in humans, regardless of culture.

I can understand suspicion of that which is different. But why the violence? And why does it seem to be hard-wired into the biology of so many people?

As a child I did not understand the saying "Violence never solved anything." Of course it did. If you killed or obliterated the person responsible for whatever, the problem was over, right?

Today, I see that the saying, while not really literally true, is far more complex than I thought as a child. Violence is a short term solution. It doesn't solve the problem, and it quite often makes the whole, larger issue much worse.

If you execute Hitler, but do nothing to address the ideas which he espoused, you have not solved the problem. You have made a martyr. You have ensured that his ideas will spread and grow.

If you assassinate Martin Luther King you do not solve the "problem" of racial separation.

(Thank goodness Germany did attempt to address the ideas and have worked with varying degrees of success to deal with those issues. ... And I do think that racial separation is a terrible problem - the inequitable treatment of people for race or sex or nationality or gender or sexuality ... or 9 million other fabricated reasons - is always abhorrent to me.)

Are we so afraid of discussion? of having our ideas changed and challenged that we can't see that we are all far more similar than different? Isn't the person who bombs an abortion clinic the same as the suicide bomber who thinks capitalism is evil? They're both striking out with violence at an idea which is abhorrent to them. They're attempting to create terror around those who ascribe to those ideas.

I may see myself as frightened as a pigeon, but I know that in this country people do not touch pigeons. Pigeons can live in cities, even in crowds. A little scared perhaps, but free.

We are all scared pigeons for some reason or another. Some of us are honest about it ... admit that we fear. Others of us have convinced ourselves that we are fearless. And with that conviction inevitably comes righteousness in our decisions ... that we are correct and that we own the one true path that everyone else should follow. Further down that road it becomes not the joking "Oh, if I ran the world, it would be so much better!" ... but a serious thought: "If people would just do things my way." And then: "People should do things my way."

And that conviction leads to scaring others ... and if we continue down that road ... it leads to "final solutions" which are no solutions at all, but simply methods of propagating both the ideas we claim to find so wrong ... and more people who are so very scared that they react with a desperate and wounded soul, attempting to defend themselves from violence with violence.

Abandon the path to Koyaanisqatsi.
Find Hozho.

(Yes, I purposely mixed two cultural concepts.)

Posted by Red Monkey at January 21, 2007 9:34 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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