Our world is fast shrinking thanks to the Internet, mobile phones, sat dishes and high-speed planes. Now, in this small village, people can simply stick their necks out from their respective windows and shout at each other, hurling curses and complaining at the world’s deplorable situation. Those with shady characters would stand behind their fences or hedges and gossip or even plot on how to overthrow this or that government through violence or terror.
Maybe you have heard about territorial imperative among animals. It means ‘don’t touch my turf or else’. Every animal owns a turf to protect and defend as its own hunting ground for food and sex. Any other animal from the same or even different species can cross the border only at its own risk.
Humankind owns also similar turf. It’s called a country, a nation, a government or a party. You get nearer to one of these with the intention of destroying or disrupting and you know what your end will be. Some turfs are guarded by power hungry and paranoid despots, like our Eritrea.
But with humankind, this territorial imperative doesn’t always denote physical entity. It can also be an imaginary place or spot located in the mind and hidden behind various beliefs, ideas, traditions, dogmas, doctrines, ideologies etc.
In the same way that animals defend their turfs at any cost, man is also always ready to fight for his physical and spiritual territory come what may.
In the past, this territorial imperative found expression in wars of conquest. A country crosses the border with bad intentions. War erupts. You see uniformed people shooting at each other. They had been trained to kill the ones wearing different uniforms.
The war ends with much collateral damage. The winner country dispenses medals to its heroes, asks for war reparations from the defeated country and re-writes its own history.
The vanquished country, on the other hand, licks its wounds, punishes its traitors and bids its time.
If, however, the territorial imperative concerns a religious belief, the winner country praises the God who has led it to victory, and consequently builds temples and shrines by way of saying thank you to the God who was wise enough to listen.
The defeated country feeling betrayed by earth and heaven looks for outlets to vent its anger and shame. If its gods were idols, it would have pulled them down from their pedestals and dragged them along the streets for a final humiliation.
During the Crusades everybody from the Pope downwards was happy to slug it out in the name of a God who said nothing about liberating this country or that. What He might have said was to liberate the soul from its worldly fetters.
Anyway, the same frenzy was to be seen in the other camp where a different God was ready with his armed followers to crush the infidels. However, according to history, the other side was more tolerant and sensible than the one who came to liberate.
At present, crusaders don’t have to hire ships or ask for warlords to let them cross their territories in order to destroy the enemies of God. They have long range missiles and many supper bombs that would destroy the world one hundred times over. Iran is not very far and nukes are very tempting.
Similarly, the modern would-be friends of God (who hardly represent His compassionate Self), do not need to go to the West to terrorize its inhabitants. They can hire jet planes or helicopters and ram against military installations and tall commercial buildings. They have also the internet for scaring purposes.
The shrinking world has enabled the zealous to cover thousands of miles in a few seconds to exact revenge on or saw terror in the other camp. Both physical and spiritual territories have now become closer in time and space.
Do you want to give your far-away enemy a hard time? You have the Internet to do that. Many Internet warriors are nowadays conducting long-distance battles against the whole world. Everything is within reach. In other words, you don’t have to go to the mountain; the mountain will come to you by itself at the click of the mouse or a nudge at the joystick. And it keeps on coming thanks to speedy transportation and high-tech
You want to destroy your enemy’s industrial complexes? Get a contraband portable missile, kiss it goodbye and send it to the country in question with a prayer in your lips that it destroys as much property and kills as many people as possible.
In the past, the defeated licked his wounds and bade his time. Maybe his gods did not do well in war, or his country didn’t produce enough heroes to turn the tide. Now it is a different story. The world is changing into a barroom. And we have many John Waynes and Gary Coopers to start the barroom brawl, with lethal weapons at hand.
Now in this shrinking world everybody has the same front and back yard. This is the place where justice has to be maintained or else. People are hungry and angry. And what’s more, some people feel very uncomfortable in a crowded place especially if across the street are living some very rich people. The rich feel threatened, and the poor feel neglected in an unjust neighborhood.
This situation is sure to invite trouble, and the only means the poor has at his disposal are small arms and much anger. So he will be tempted to recourse to asymmetrical war, like blowing up a 100-storey building with a weapon that he has just designed in his underground lab. It is the democratization of war and violence: Death by the people, from the people, and for the people.
In the past, even injustice was too far in time and space to tackle with. Colonialists tormented their subjects with impunity from their capitals in Europe. The African slaves suffered from injustices originating in America. Everything was far and wide, scattered and complicated.
In a shrinking world, however, the context and the paradigms are changing fast. At first we saw through a glass darkly, but now we know who the culprit is and who is the fanatic or the confused.
It’s time we had established a police force to guard our global village against fanatics of all shapes and stamps. Scratch any pious-looking person, and you will find a fanatic smoldering with hate.
The establishment of world legislature to dispense with justice and a court room to punish the recalcitrant is more urgent than ever. Offending nations should be dragged by their ears and made to stand before the law. Starting from Eritrea!
Short of this, our small village will one fine morning simply burn up in a flash and its smoke will swirl up to the stars testifying before more intelligent aliens in other planets of humankind’s astounding ignorance, blind fanaticism, unbound greed, and indescribable folly.
And now since it is Christmas season I would like to make a short statement about silence. It may look like a homily, but let it be.
Is the universe silent? Stellar explosions, billion or trillions times more powerful than the mightiest nuclear device of our time, take place without the least noise in outer space, because the latter is devoid of air, a medium through which sound waves can travel. But, this doesn’t mean that the universe is quiet and calm. Far from it. Just use a radio telescope and you can have an electronic and cosmic version of the Tower of Babel.
However, according to Hindus and Buddhists, if there is any sound in the whole universe, it is the sound which goes Aummmm or Ommmmm. A primal sound. A holy sound. Probably a cosmic equivalent of Allah’u’Akbar!
By silence is however meant an inner peace which comes out of self-satisfaction, self-composure and self-assurance. Silence is peace, submission to transcendental laws and commandments. Silence is allegiance to higher personal aspirations and goals.
The world Islam means peace (salaam). Surely, the name itself could be applied to any religion, because religion by its very nature is the harbinger of peace, which is realized through the total submission of man to the will of the Great Being which is what is meant by the words ‘Be quiet and know that I am God’.
People talk about how to spend Christmas abroad and flaunt their newly bought gadgets by way of inflating their egos. Sometimes things get too much out of control and the ego gets the better of the senses and you have precious lives lost in vain, and hopes and dreams broken to pieces. They sing Silent Night, Holy Night in a way that is neither silent nor holy. They forget that God’s holy messengers come to this world to bring inner and outer silence, peace and quietude.
Noise is the product of fear. Atomic bomb is used in war, but in peace the quieter version which is nuclear powered electricity is used instead.
When the real peace which is born from within is manifested externally, every part of our being becomes silent; our desire, our aspirations, hopes, wishes and dreams. Otherwise we are not silent. We are like the dormant volcano which bids its time. And where there is no silence you have the noisy ego roaming in total liberty.
The best music in the universe is the music of silence, and this is heard from none else except from your inner self. Keep quiet and try to listen. What you will eventually hear is an ancient music from deep inside yourself: the music of your existence, the sound of your being. And where does this music come from? From nowhere. It has always been there inside you. If you have not heard it before, it was because your ego tried to stand as an obstacle between yourself and the music.
With a clear conscience, you can hear forever.
What is ego? It is the part of us that clamors for recognition, for self-assertion, and it is at the same time very uncertain of itself. That’s why it wants to make noise and when not heard wants to destroy.
The real self, or as some call it the higher or universal ego, on the other hand, is sure of itself and therefore prefers to keep silent and knows full well that it lacks nothing. It asks for nothing and believes in sharing and giving rather than in acquisition and appropriation.
Nowadays, Christmas is celebrated in a manner that would put the early Christians to shame and perplex the meek and the lowly. Western style Christmas celebrations look more like the unbounded orgy conducted in Herod’s palace during the time of Christ than the simple joy the Holy Family experienced in the manager where the divine child laid his head to rest.
Too much noise, both from within and from without. Too much of everything on the outside and too little in the inside. The Ego which remained outside during that cold night when Jesus was born, is now not only inside the manger but has even taken the place of the Child.