Monday, May 18, 2009

Why do we care?

I am mostly concerned with things that immediately affect me, but...

Suppose you look at the headlines in world news today, an article would be on the Sri Lankan army defeating the LTTE rebels and another would be Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu meeting up to talk about Israel and Palestine. The issues being a separate state for the Tamils in Sri Lanka and a separate state for the Palestinians in Israel. More examples off the top of my head - in India, an independent state of Kashmir, in the UK, an independent state of Northern Ireland.

What do all these conflicts have in common? A group of people who want a place for themselves, want their voice heard, don't think they belong. In Sri Lanka, its for the Tamil minorities who don't have enough representation and are marginalised. In Israel/Palestine, its a fight for the state of Palestine, a state for the Muslims separate from that for the Jews. In India/Pakistan, its now a group of people who want to be separate from both India and Pakistan. In the UK, its a group of people who want an independent state of Northern Ireland.

Why the separatism? Ethnicity (Tamil vs Sinhalese), religion (Jew vs Muslim, Hindu vs Muslim), sect (Catholics vs Protestants), politics. Why do people care? Why do they care so much that they are willing to die and kill for it? We kill for money, for power, for political reasons - there is no solution to conflicts resulting from those interests. But we also kill for the belief that our way of life is different and needs protection/representation, and in revolt against oppression/bullying by other people/countries. You can only push your views on a person/set of people/nation so much before they revolt/rebel. There will always be majorities and minorities, people who identify themselves as one or the other, people with blind faith that their way of life is the only one.

Too much faith, too much belief or too much of a sense of belonging is bad. It takes away level headedness and blinds you to other perspectives. In each group of people in each nation in each religion, there will be people who are nice and good natured and people who are arrogant, insensitive and rotten. In EACH of them. But there is something in most of us that makes us judge all others except ourselves when they are even minutely different from us. We somehow lose the ability to see that we are the same you and I. Well, basically.

But then on the other hand conflict is inevitable and even necessary. Its the people with intense faith/belief who lead others. They have definite views, definite visions on how they should be, how to make things better and they work for it and fight for it. In many ways, they lead to a better group of people, a better community, a better nation. And it would be great if all the views and beliefs matched and we could all just get along (quoting Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks!) and build a great nation/world. But there will always be people with different views, and mostly they will be a minority and they will have to fight for having their say. If we all just are a little bit more accomodating, and open our minds a bit more, we could maybe all get along after all. There is a need for balance between having faith, believing in something, standing for something and bettering things and making sure that the 'bettering' is not at the cost of someone else's way of life, however minor that might be.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rebellion

If you were at the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and Agronomy at about 10:45AM about a week ago, you would have seen a man striding down the snow covered sidewalk on the North West corner, apparently making a random detour into foot-thick snow off the sidewalk, walking behind a few trees and coming out with a snowboard.

8:20AM:

I wake up and I decide I will catch the 10:15AM bus to Seattle. I pack a change of clothes, a pair of snow gloves, and my camera and phone chargers. I check the bus schedule, reminding myself I have to get a drivers license (I have been driving for 10 years, 2 of that in Canada, but I still need a driver's license), but not really minding taking the bus. Translink's 41 at 9:49AM to 41st and Granville and the QuickCoach from there at 10:15AM.

9:35AM

On Agronomy Road - A snowboard gets heavier quicker with time than other baggage. I didn't have much other baggage except for a small backpack but yes the board started off light and increasingly became unwieldy and shoulder slippery. And the pavement snow was glistening icy in some spots. I was especially wary about slipping because I had had quite a nasty fall just a few days back. For those of you who have read the Tintin comic book series, you might remember Herge drawing characters (Captain Haddock for instance) horizontal in the air after slipping off something on the floor and if you were a purist with a weak imagination, you might even have been slightly turned off. Well it is entirely possible.

I think sneakers are better on ice than clunky boots - maybe because they are more pliable. I also think doing something of a quick duck waddle greatly improves your chances of staying upright. Walking is heel down first. The heel isn't an easy thing to distribute force with - with the waddle, you place the whole foot down and you do this quicker than when you walk and hence you can compensate for unwanted slippages better. The technique is inspired from the movie Remo Williams Unarmed and Dangerous. Remo Williams is a cop given a new identity after he is presumed drowned and becomes an agent.

Remembering it from around 10 years back:
Scene - Hospital room - presumed drowned cop recovering in bed, agent man beside him.
Agent Man: Everybody thinks you are dead. We will give you a new identity and you will work for us.
Presumed Drowned Cop: Sure. Whats my name?
Agent Man (looking around, picking up a bed pan, reading off it): Remo. Remo Williams.

My father found that very funny. Well so this cop then gets trained by a martial arts master and one thing he learns is how to run on water. And the technique he uses is.....the duck waddle. You should see the movie to know what I am talking about. Its all about moving forward and not exerting much pressure downwards :-D Works great on ice. I am starting 'The Duck Waddle - Keeping Thing Perpendicular™' training session soon.

Disclaimer: The technique isn't effective with high heels. Almost nothing is quite effective with high heels. I personally love it when girls on high heels are made to run on ice behind a bus and slip. It always brings a smile to my face. The price of vanity.

9:40AM

At the North-West corner of Agronomy Road and Wesbrook Mall. Whats that thing you need to cross nations? Ah a passport. Damn. Don't have that. Again. Last time I had a friend who I could call and who biked down to get me my passport before the bus got there. But he was in Seattle. I stop and weigh my options. I have 9 minutes to run back with snowboard and all to my apartment, get my passport and get back before the bus leaves. I look around. The place is pristine with yesternight snow and there aren't any people around either. So I make the decision. I look around and I see a well dressed Chinese lady about 10 feet away and I judge she wouldn't steal a snowboard. So to her possible suprise I jump into the knee deep snow and start walking to the trees. As ladies go, she ignores me and I look around once more before I drop the snowboard in a clearing. Then I clomp my way back onto the sidewalk and start back. 9 minutes just isn't enough. I find that out soon and I give up before I get to the apartment and decide on the next bus to Seattle. At home I search for my passport and I can't find it. I had used it to renew my SIN (which involves pillaging, burning, rape and murder) and I try to remember what I did with it. Lastly I check the backpack on me and there it is. I feel wonderful. I have 3 hours to kill till the next bus and I don't have it in me to go and get the snowboard from behind the trees.

Scenario 1:
The Chinese lady calls the cops. "Hello, 911, I just saw a guy drop off a long oblong thing into some trees. I think its a bomb."
I get back to the trees and I see a cordon and 2 cop cars and a van with spinning lights ablaze and then the lady goes: "Thats him!" I freeze and then I think I have to get to Seattle (this need is undeniable snowboard or not because my winter break plans had been thwarted by Air Canada and then by my indecisive friends and I just had to get out of Vancouver). So I decide to ditch my snowboard and start running. The Chinese lady rips the board out of its bag, raises it over her head and throws it at my legs. I fall.

Scenario 2:
Its time to get to the bus stop again to get to 41st and Granville. I was lazy enough to leave the snowboard in the trees and I am going to get it on my way to the bus stop. Outside my apartment I see a homeless guy with a shopping cart picking through a garbage dump. He hears me coming and smiles at me with recognition and says, "Not too cold yesterday night, eh?" And I affirm. He says, "Come with me." And I start saying, "I am late for a bus." But he is persistent. He has something to share. He says its awesome. And he says that its on my way to the bus stop. So I say, "Sure". And we walk together. He slips a bit and I teach him the duck waddle. We near the trees where I had stashed my snowboard and he says that we are almost there. I tell him I have to go into the trees to get something and he looks surprised. He says, "So you knew?" Then I see smoke and I quickly go into the trees. There I find a ring of homeless people sitting around a bonfire. A bonfire fueled by my snowboard. They hadn't even taken off the bindings - I see them melt.

10:45AM

Well given all that, I overcome my laziness and eventually trudge with the board the length of Agronomy twice, and eventually get on the next bus to Seattle.