I wake up most mornings with one thought dinning in my head.
The thought tumbles over itself exuberantly in the sleep dimmed spaces of my mind. I can almost hear the screech of the thought ricocheting with supersonic speed in my skull. It is an irritating sound; it sets my nerves on edge. Over the years, this sound has become my wake-up call. It reminds me that I am facing the first day of the rest of my life.
Today’s thought was: Right is might. It is as simple as that.
I was unequivocally dismayed. Such a fathead of a thought..! Specially the It is as simple as that. It sounded horribly pompous to me, reminding me of many a stuffed shirt I’ve met over the years. Can you imagine my pain at discovering that I was indistinguishable from a stuffed shirt myself? I can’t imagine a ruder awakening than that. Not a happy way to wake up, surely?
I shook my head violently, trying to dislodge the thought. I tilted my head on one side and hit vigorously on the other hoping to make the thought come out of my ear. No dice.
When it refused to go away, I sighed and tried to break it down into manageable pieces. I got my arsenal readied for battle and tightened the cinch on my sure-footed steed. Oh alright, so I am romanticizing…! Shoot me..!!
The verbal (and… um… virtual) battle went thus:
(This ought to have gone in the footnote, but I wasn’t sure you’re not too lazy to scroll down and then back up, so I’ve bunged it in here. Deal with it.)
To make sense of this conversation, you’ll need to have a bit of background. When we do this soliloquy thing, we do it together- all three of us. Let me introduce you around.
There is the upbeat, positive one, a bit of a Pollyanna it is true, but well meaning. I call her MYSELF. There is the contrary one- disrespectful and aggressively rebellious. I call her ME (for she can be MEan sometimes). Then there is true one who sees the truth of it all; the truth of life and of me living that life. I call her EYE (I). All clear, the roles and stuff..?
ME: This is as bad as saying Honesty is the best policy. What absolute nonsense..!
MYSELF: But Honesty IS the best policy..!
ME: Where..? On the moon..? Stop being stupider than you have to be..!
MYSELF: No, not on the moon. Here, on earth.
ME: Are you doing drugs…!
MYSELF (nettled): No I am not, you silly nitwit..!
ME: So in addition to being a Pollyanna, you are also blind?
MYSELF: No I am not blind. YOU are..! Cant you see the truth of the thought acted out right in front of your eyes day after day? What’s wrong with you?
ME: Nothing’s wrong with me! You’re the one who has her head buried in sand! Wake up and look around you baby. Right is a word that has lost its flavor. It is like a piece of chewing gum that has been chewed in many successive mouths until it has lost all its color and sweetness. It has become pliable and elastic with incessant chewing. It can be twisted into any convenient shape. A thing that can’t even bear the responsibility of its own shape, can wield any might..? The idea is ridiculous..!
MYSELF: That’s the problem with the rebel- for- the- sake- of- being- a- rebel kinds. You want to oppose everything before you even know what was intended to be said. Can you tell me then, since you are so clever, what the statement means?
ME (nettled in turn): Of course I can O conformist..! It means that when you are right, you have the power to change things. You have the clout, the influence. You COUNT.
MYSELF: What if it didn’t? What if you had another way of understanding it, a new definition?
ME (appeals to EYE): Why don’t you tell this silly Pollyanna to stop talking through the back of her vacuumed head? She gets away with it each time because you are such a wimp! And silent to boot!!
MYSELF: It is no use blustering! Logic can only be defeated with logic, not with hot air.
ME (outraged): Are you saying I am full of nothing but hot air?!!
MYSELF: I didn’t need to say it, did I? You did the honors all by yourself.
MYSELF: Instead of thinking of might as a club one wields to influence/ subdue others, what if you thought of might as your own inner power? Do you think the certainty that you were right could lend steel to your determination and an undefeatable edge to your passion? What if this might were a fuel to your own steps? Would being right affect the outcome of your efforts? Do you remember, speaking of India’s struggle for freedom from the British, Gandhi said he wanted the world’s sympathy in the battle of right against might? He led the whole country armed with nothing but the certainty that his cause was RIGHT. The right lent strength to the cause and made it mighty. The world has never seen a freedom struggle which was fought with nothing but the truth of being right. Tell me, was right not the might?
ME: Are you being an out-dated sanctimonious prig again? We don’t live in Gandhi’s world anymore. Right and wrong are not simple now as they were then. There is no right or wrong in today’s world. Everything is situational and subjective. The whole world- barring vacuum-headed Pollyannas- knows it.
MYSELF: That’s such a heady drug, this sense of absolute irresponsibility, isn’t it? Nothing matters and nothing NEEDS to matter. Beautiful. You must be so pleased at being able to tell the world that you are yourself and proud of it by Gawd..! The best part must be the flat rock called there’s no right or wrong that you crawl under at the first hint of conflicting ethics. That rock must be a comforting refuge for you, is it not? What happened, cat got your tongue?
ME: No, the cat didn’t get my tongue. I was just letting a moral soldier rant on.
MYSELF: Yeah, like you are the kind who would let me rant on without any barbed rejoinders..! You are letting me ‘rant on’ because you have nothing to say. And you have nothing to say, you log of sodden wood, because you know bloody well I am right..!
ME (belligerently): Right my dainty foot..! The whole world agrees that there is no absolute right or wrong. That right and wrong are entirely situational and subjective. What may seem wrong from one angle, will seem right from another angle. Perhaps jumping the traffic lights is wrong, but not when you are rushing somewhere to save a life. It is all subjective. It is also called looking at the bigger picture. But of course, Pollyannas know nothing about bigger pictures. Their canvas is narrow and strait-laced. Talk of being judgmental..!
MYSELF: Narrow… strait-laced… JUDGMENTAL..!? If you weren’t such a block-headed ass, you’d have realized that Pollyannas are the people who see the biggest picture. They know that in the long run, only goodness wins. Their vision is not limited to the current split second where definitions of right and wrong morph into each other at a moment’s notice. The demands of the moment are not able to lure them into throwing away their inner compass. I am not sorry to rub this in but the truth is, if it weren’t for Pollyannas, there would be no way for you ethics- of- the- moment pragmatists to survive in OUR world.
ME: Oh, YOUR world, is it..? Fine then milady, explain this to your poor subject. What is right and what is not?
MYSELF: You gave the example of jumping the traffic lights. I’ll use that example.
You know that violating traffic rules is dangerous for everyone- you as well as other people using the roads. You always obey traffic laws but one day you are rushing to save someone’s life and you are forced to disregard all traffic signals. You leave the traffic in a snarl and get many an angry fist shaken in your wake. Given the situation and the priority, what you are doing is justified and right. Anyone who knows the bigger picture will agree.
ME: That’s exactly what I was saying too..!
MYSELF: Wait, let me finish. In your example, the other drivers/ pedestrians on the road will certainly evaluate your actions as wrong. You will have put their life at risk by your rampaging.
Right and wrong are subjective only when an action/ choice is evaluated from the opposite ends of the issue. You (the violator) say you are right; the traffic cop says you are not. Agreed… accepted.
But there are other ways of looking at this:
1. If the traffic cop knew you are violating a traffic law to save a life, would they call you wrong?
2. In a situation of life and death, would it not be wrong to obey traffic rules when violating them could save a life?
3. Will one part of you say you were right and the other say you were wrong?
The question is: what is your context? Within a context and with the same perspective, right and wrong ARE absolute. Since you can have only one perspective in a situation, you know yourself to be either right or wrong. You may have the maturity to understand- even appreciate- the other person’s point of view and agree that to them you might seem wrong, but to yourself you cannot be right and wrong both together.
If you know yourself to be right, you must proceed with that certainty. How your actions/ choices are perceived by others shouldn’t change your own evaluation. By saying there is no right and wrong you are trying to split yourself in two- becoming the violator and traffic cop simultaneously. How anyone can function in such a state of inner bedlam is more than I can’t imagine!
ME: You don’t let people get a word in edgeways once you start off, do you? What you say is all very well but I am sure I could shoot a thousand holes in all your arguments. I shall save this for another day. Today I will let you think that you’ve got the upper hand on me. I’ll permit you to gloat.
EYE: You are a pig-headed, pompous little blister ME..! Your magnanimous ‘permissions’ are nothing but a confession that MYSELF is right.
ME (wincing): Oh God…! That word again..!
EYE (grinning): What word, RIGHT…?
[ME exits in a huff, ending the battle.]
Right is might. It is as simple as that.
Pic: From the Internet