Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't wreck it

I’m a sentimental person. I am not embarrassed to admit that I can cry at the sight of a skinny dog sleeping by the road in the cold night. So it was only expected when I get all teary-eyed while watching Wreck-it Ralph this past weekend. This whole idea of an intrinsically bad person—which Ralph was trying to prove he was not—has always been a nuisance not just in the mind where my body isn't,  but it has also haunted much of my adolescent life.

When I was younger, a person in authority (an influential adult in my life), used to say to me, directly to my face, repeatedly, that I will be a naughty child. Is this pronouncement based on some sort of scientifically proven psychological test did on me? Nope. Instead it was based on some old wives’ tale that people with two hair whorls, which apparently include me, have some kind of genetically determined naughty streak. Maybe they are right, maybe they are not, but as a Muslim who believes in the bountiful mercy of God, I find it hard to believe that He purposely creates a batch of evil human beings.

Maybe I like my drink with more than a tad of rationality, but if I did exert some not-so-nice traits whilst growing up, I believe it has to do with the fact that I was told, repeatedly, that I am far from a submissive child. At such a young age, of course I was impressionable—back then I even believed that if I practice hard enough I could do the Kamehameha! When an adult tells you something, you tend to believe them, thus reinforcing an idea that was planted into your subconscious. It then becomes a devilish cycle that was not intended in the first place!

Why am I telling you my life story after all my hard work to focus on social issues on this blog? Because I feel that this is a social issue.

Especially as Muslims, we tend to see things in black and white. Good or bad. Pahala or dosa. We refused to accept the possibility of a grey area that God intended, not because He is imperfect in His creation, but because there is a lesson in us all. I recently read a quote that fits perfectly: “Nothing is evil in and of itself”. I love it. Think about it, most Muslims in Malaysia are so afraid of a few things, namely dogs, pigs, and alcohol. But these things are not bad in and of itself. Dogs are not evil, pigs are not evil, and alcohol is certainly not, especially with all the medical benefits it possesses. For example, I don’t understand the hysteria of finding alcohol in a cosmetic product. It is haram to consume alcohol because it makes you drunk. Touching alcohol? Not so much of a problem.

The same argument goes with any human being, singular or plural, a thief or the Jews. Nobody is bad in and of itself, but their careless actions, a reflection of their bad judgement, is usually the result of experiences that cumulated to a point of no return.

While I was doing research for this post, I was nudged by a friend of mine to a blog that I have been engrossed in for the past weeks. And just like any of God’s wishes, He wishes for me to find and read a khutbah on the blog on the nature of the relationship between Moses and Pharaoh. Not only did the khutbah mirrored my current flow of thoughts, but it also contains some other issues that I could not articulate more eloquently. Nevertheless, the basic argument of that sermon is to avoid thinking of Pharaoh, or any evil person you can think of, as the natural aberrant. More importantly, do not think you could never turn the same way, because even Pharaoh, the worst person who ever walks this earth, was not born evil; he consciously made the choices that he made.

Then the sermon went on to concisely express the problem with Facebook that I have so long had trouble discussing. I have wanted to dedicate an entire blog post on Facebook, but I realize that maybe I can convey my message in less words after all. To me, Facebook is the ordinary people’s reality TV. Say what you may, but do not deny that you are intrigued by at least one reality TV show. Why? Because it is entertaining to judge people living in a fish tank, and I believe on some level, we aspire that life because of the fame and fortune that follows them. But those celebrities who started off as genuinely likeable people with real issues soon discovered that they have to up the ante in order to keep people glued to their television set, thus creating these ridiculously over-the-top persona. We may mock them, but without realizing it, we are doing the same thing on Facebook. Suddenly our dinner becomes a topic of discussion; yet the real person behind the screen, who stalks the pages of their friends in hopes of finding a scandal, is not found online. I can cite countless research on the detriments of Facebook on our self-esteem, but I don’t need to because the numbers are out there if you care enough to look for it.

Back to my earlier discussion, we tend to do things subconsciously, either out of habit or out of reinforcement from an adult we trust. But that does not determine our essence, for beneath all that, there is a grey area within us all that becomes black or white depending on our choices. So stop declaring war and start supporting one another to where God awaits.