Portrait of a temple beggar ~ Renee Hubbard Fine Art Photography
I remember once, while living and working in Malaysia, I had a discussion with an Indian colleague on the rise of terrorist activities and what would make people volunteer to become martyrs. At that time I was of the opinion, like so many of my contemporaries, that the simple answer was belief, indoctrination and hate. "You are so wrong," he said to me, "it is despair - becoming a terrorist and then perhaps a martyr is sometimes the only way for them to transcend their lives of utter hopelessness, a way to triumph over the despair, bitterness and passivity."
It is difficult for us as citizens of the free West to imagine what that level of despair means, to go through your whole life struggling to survive, without hope. Travelling through some of the third world countries gives us a glimpse but we cannot fathom the depths of despair without living our entire life in a refugee camp in India or Africa where there is no comfort, no fresh water, no jobs, no food, only the weight of those killed in your heart and the constant knowledge that your life and the lives of those around you count for nothing.
We live in a world filled with contradiction and inequality, and despair is rampant. Today, more than ever, we need to teach our children to be thankful that they are free, to appreciate who they are and what they have, to be tolerant and empathetic, to listen to and stand up for those for whom this world is intolerable and to always treat people, whoever they may be, with respect and understanding.
Arundhati Roy, Indian author of The God of small things, puts what we need to do as responsible citizens of our confused world into perspective:
"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget."