Fear is perhaps the universal emotion that sabotages our dreams, stops us from doing the right things, and prevents us from taking responsibility of our actions.
Our fears come from the views we hold of the world.
Our views of the world may inform our ideas about what is right and what is wrong. Anything wrong, then, would be fearful. Or our view of the world may be informing us about the usefulness of power and powerlessness. Powerlessness would then be fearful. Or our view of the world may have given us a belief in class, status, security, or wealth. Anything that threatens to alter the class, status, security, or wealth would then be fearful. Or our view of time may have amplified the impermanence of things. We, then, become fearful that what we like may disappear as have other things in the past.
It is not easy to be brave when one is scared.
When we are fearful, we encourage a status quo in our relationships. Even though we know that they are or have become coercive, exploitative, encroaching, and polluting.
These could be the different kinds of relationships between individuals that we call as friendship. Or those between partners and their children that we call as family. Or as between students and teachers that result in a class system. Or a relationship between individuals that results in a system we call companionship. Or the relationship of between employers and employees that results in the system of employment. Or the relationship between entertainers and the entertained that we call as a club. Or between buyers and sellers in what we call a market. Or the relationship between borrowers and lenders that creates a banking system. Or the relationship between the representative and the represented that we describe as a democratic system.
Those who cannot recognize the systems they participate in, are trapped with the information, roles, purposes, and participants of these systems. They are stuck with the coercion or exploitation that they experience in their systems. They can rarely find the courage to find respect, care, grace, fulfilment, love, joy, or peace in the systems they are a part of.
How often have you observed someone’s shoulders sagged forward as if they were carrying a cross? Or with eyes that were swollen as if they were holding back a flood? Or heard someone say “I need to rest and also need some silence.”? Or “It’s all good. I’m OK and fine. Nothing to worry”.
For many, bearing the cross has become an addiction that they seek out the cross. They believe it is a virtue to bear the cross and wrong to be without one. They think that offering themselves to more abuse is an act of humility, even respect of their abusers. They often argue that “The only way is to listen and introspect. The alternative is unimaginable.”
They lose their understanding of dignity.
They have had their dignity so routinely injured that for them relationships had to be experienced as a source of pain and suffering. A pain and suffering that they think they must bear to show character.
They do not have the courage to accept what their relationships really are – coercive and exploitative. They have lost perspective that their cross is the consequence of the exploitative, encroaching, polluting, and coercive relationships that they had got addicted to.
They are frightened to change the system that they are a part of. They are fearful to do anything that would end the coercion, exploitation, encroachment, or pollution of the system that they are a part of.
They even come to fear relationships that are not coercive or exploitative. They come to fear relationships where its participants share common purposes. They come to fear relationships that seek to protect dignity and provide joy. Like all addicts they remain in denial. Their cross becomes their drug.
The act of being brave, despite being frightened, is an act of courage.
How can you find courage?
Courage is a spiritual act.
Courage comes from an acceptance of the true character of the systems you participate in. From accepting that they are, or they have, become coercive, exploitative, encroaching, or polluting.
Courage comes from recognizing that informing yourself about your experiences in your systems is an act of your will. It comes from discovering the liberty that you have to define your role in each system. It comes from your understanding that defining the purpose of your systems is an exercise of your will. It grows from your awareness that your participation in each system is also an act of your will.
You can find courage through the small steps you can take to change how you inform yourself about your experiences of the system. With honesty and without hiding the real experiences. You can find courage when, like Greta Thunberg, you inform yourself about the planet becoming warmer and not covering up the information because you can choose to ignore it in air-conditioned enclosures.
You can find courage, when again like Greta, you decide to respond to your information by rejecting the responses of the exploitative and coercive system through annual conference of parties to negotiate business as usual and finding alternate responses like committing Fridays to future to amplify the information.
You can find courage when, like Nelson Mandela, you question the purpose of distinguishing the rights of persons by colour in any system. By focusing on the common purposes for which people come together rather than focusing on colour or something else and making it your purpose.
You can find courage when, like Mahatma Gandhi, you choose to participate or decide to suspend your participation in systems that are coercive or exploitative. Or when you choose to participate in systems with other actors where the system is driven by common purposes.
These are small but focused acts of courage. They are the only things that will change your world.
May you find the courage to release your cross. May you find the courage to engage with those who share common purposes. May you find the courage to restore your dignity.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals and institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph