Sunday, July 14, 2024

The poverty of prophecy


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By Babatdor Dkhar

It is with a sense of stoic disturbance that I attempt to make sense of what moral conformity and community agreement in Shillong has turned into. Maybe everything has always been the same and very few things have changed, if at all. Roger Federar and Rafael Nadal were battling it out at Roland Garos for the umpteenth time and for a sports fan like me, the coverage was delightful. But as is the case with most family dynamics the majority does have the final say when it comes to the, oh so ever envied job of being in control of the remote. I was outnumbered and with a few clicks, the idiot box had our attention turned towards the weekly local cable news. It amazes me that for so long now, the style of reporting and analyzing have more or less remained the same. There were a lot more ads though especially those in the Jesus business.

In a certain neighbourhood in Mawlai, a mob had gone into frenzy and systematically went about on a rampage, ransacking a house and beating the occupants over superstitious beliefs that they practise witch craft. And lo and behold the whole community had come together to forgive and forget all that had taken place a few weeks earlier. There was a whole lot of affection on display for the cameras which is all the better if it were a celebration. But a triumph it was not. It would definitely make my top ten Most Embarrassing/ Distasteful Moments. And as per the explanation of the Headman it was all a misunderstanding and since they were Christians and believers of God and Jesus, they couldn’t have been practicing witch craft or devil worship or whatever you want to call it. Which means that the persons were attacked for nothing? Usually when something like that happens in most modern and enlightened societies, legitimate authorities do get involved and the procedure of the law takes over. Am I the only one who feels that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole episode? What happens if individuals who are accused of being devil worshippers are not Christian? I dare not even care to venture a thought. Honestly, a precedent has been established and it would take some doing to ensure fairness and equality.

A woman in the Jaintia Hills calculated the exact time and date that an earthquake was going to come and swallow sinners and non believers.

It does sadden me however, because even in 2011 with our evolved brains; our basic comprehension cannot even begin to grasp the most logical of reasoning. Religion and in our context Christianity through its various mutations and barbed theories has managed to strangle the majority by their necks that to keep it under wraps has become too Herculean a task. Sometime during the latter half of last year, a considerable chunk of Meghalaya’s population were certain that Judgment day was coming and the prophecies of Revelations were all going to come true. The reason for that was so trivial; it embarrasses even the most absurd and paranoid in me. A woman in the Jaintia Hills calculated the exact time and date that an earthquake was going to come and swallow sinners and non believers. This poor lady’s description of her God told me so earthquake was that of an extremely humongous and dangerous animal probably one that spits fire too. To her and most illiterate people an earthquake is a monster shaking a particular place really hard. And yet a lot of people who have been fortunate enough to have an education believed her and they will continue to do so every single time if it has the backing and the translation and the explanation of their prescribed form of organized religion.

Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse. Christopher Hitchens is a personal hero of mine and his critique of organized religion is thought provoking and extremely layered. One of my favourite analogies and subject matter is Bertrand Russell’s celestial tea pot. If it were to be suggested that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove the assertion provided it were added that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. Bertrand Russell adds that if he were to go on to say that, since his assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, he should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

With regards to the events that have been mentioned, silence and neutral observance and nodding like everything is normal simply because words like Christians, fellow believers, Jesus, God have been uttered is what I mean by moral conformity and community agreement. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that to question any of it or to move away or be on the other side of the fence is to commit social suicide. It is deviance of the highest form that is looked down upon and when we cannot filter the right and the correct from the norms that are entrenched in the dogmas that most of us have grown up on, we cease to become relevant. No sooner do we watch in ignorance, than we start moving away from reality. (The writer is a graduate, National University of Juridical Sciences, West Bengal & a practising lawyer)




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