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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

THE JUDGING GAME: LESSONS FROM #PARIS

In the wake of Friday's terrible #Paris #attacks, perhaps now would be a good time to talk about the judging game we all manage to play. Yesterday I read an angry, but excellent letter on Facebook, ostensibly from an aggrieved #Moslem, addressed to the (now dead) terrorists and expressing his anticipation of the negative social consequences for himself and his family hereafter and damning the terrorists for tarring all Moslems with the brush of terrorist evil.

The thought occurred to me, ironically on the day of the attacks, that there was something to be said about the way in which we tend to brand and judge people by race, religion, nationality and so on and the separation that this approach causes. I was thinking at the time in race terms in South Africa, but as it happened Life delivered a more compelling wake-up that evening, Friday 13th November.

To say that I am dismayed about the Paris attacks doesn't start to express my revulsion and outrage. There is a part of our common humanity which cannot help but tap into the horror and fear experienced by the Parisians and feel immense empathy with what they are going through. And not once: the good people of Paris have been subjected to a number of terror attacks, not least of which was the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year. I can't begin to guess what the wider psyche is in Paris right now, but I imagine it's not the fun, cultured, curious, majestic, jet-setting and sought-after destination and residence of old.

And who is to blame? Well, it's the Moslems of course, or the Syrians, so they must all be inherently bad, if not mad. When we have a burglary, or a murder locally here in South Africa and a black person is involved, all Blacks suddenly become dangerous thieves and murderers to be feared, or at least potentially so. Simply because we have a hopeless President who has surrounded himself with equally hopeless sycophants, many Whites hold the judgment that the  ills of the country are because it was handed over to Blacks who are incapable of holding public office. When a white person still holds a senior position in the police, or business, it becomes all Whites who are responsible for continued oppression, for the economic downturn, possibly for the drought as well and definitely for apartheid, which fostered all of these ills in the first place.

The funny thing, however, is that I have some wonderful friends, acquaintances and colleagues who are Moslems, Buddhists, Arabs, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Indians, Nigerians, Kenyans and the rest. I would trust my life with any of them and am grateful to have them in my Life. 'Ah yes', some will say, 'but they're the exceptions. The rest are no good.'  I don't know any Syrians, but they suffer like the rest of us and share our common humanity. They want the violence as little as you and I. Why else would they be fleeing from their homeland? Judging others against the poor behaviour of a few of their peers cuts us off from our own humanity,

What if we could all look at every human being for the first time, no matter his or her race, colour or creed, and simply see the inherent good? What if we could assume everyone to be equal, to share the same wants, needs, feelings, love and basic integrity and treat them in that manner? What if we could simply allow everyone to be innocent rather than judge them guilty because of who they are. If you must judge, at least give everyone the benefit of any doubt you may have and don't start judging them until they actually show a side which is inherently evil? What if we could be less suspicious and more trusting? 

Call me naive, but I can't help thinking that that approach might just reduce the levels of separateness and antagonism that our judgmental minds foster in the world. It might just reduce  attacks such as Paris, New York, London, Madrid, Beirut, Mumbai and, and.... Just saying.

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