There are few times in life where you feel so absolutely completely helpless that when something external gives a voice to it, you give in, break down, and realize that the world moves in its own ways, beyond the control of mere mortals like us, and all we can do is hope we can make small dents along the way to make things better.
I can remember four such instance in my life, imprinted on the synapses of my brain forever, and where videos, images and music gave it the meaning it deserved:
- The first was post Sep-11, when Mary Chapin Carpenter sang “10,000 Miles” at “Concert for America" about the New Yorkers who died on that day and their families who knew there were never coming back. I was there, I lived in New York then as I do now, and went through the pain all of the city went through. Every time I have heard that song since, I have cried. I wish I could find a recording of that live performance online, but alas…
- The second, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, a song I discovered in 2008 while watching “Love Actually” (yes, really) and the utter helplessness you feel when a relationship is dying. Every time I hear that song, the sheer sadness of it washes over me.
- The third time is a photo that will always haunt me till I die, the image of a Burmese Rohingya man, part of the world’s most persecuted minority, begging for his family to stay in Bangladesh. It is a photo that can change a life, make you drop everything, leave everything behind and go and figure out a way to help these people. (AP pic by Anurup Titu)
- The fourth one, happened three weeks ago right before the current war, and I have been having nightmares since: a great Aljazeera documentary about Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, about his lifelong efforts to exposing the inhumanity of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. In this hour long doc, there is a short 3 minute segment about halfway in, on this young girl severely paralyzed from neck down after an Israeli air strike, a strike in which her mother, brother and grandmother died on the spot. Now her father is taking care of her almost vegetative life. There is a moment when she starts crying, the cry to capture all the frustration of every person who has ever lived, suffered and died in any occupation anywhere in the world, ever. Her dad tries to console her: “What can we do? I know it is difficult but there is nothing we can do. This is our fate, we must accept it.” The injustice of it all makes you seethe, this is the stuff which makes madmen out of mortals, out of sheer rage, and yet her father accepts it as it is, as fate, and the hope that it will get better some day. He recites a verse of Quran, one the most glorious verses of all, “Hasbi Allahu Wa Nimal Wakeel”, which translates into “God (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).” The essence of Belief.
If not now, then when?
The only question we’ll be asked by the future generations: you had the platform, you were influential, you were free & you *chose* to remain silent?
You chose to remain silent.
Not in our name, not with our money, not with our bombs, not with our media. Enough.