Ankita Singh is a self-help and motivational writer dedicated to making a difference through the wisdom of her own experiences. She lives her talk and walks her talk, taking pride in defying convention to chase after and materialize all her big and small dreams. Totally dedicated and motivated to live her own life to the fullest, she has broken out of the illusory traps of security to do everything she has ever wanted to do; whether it is traveling to the remote Himalayas and living in a spiritual hermitage for a month or quitting a stable nine-to-five job to follow her calling in life to inspire other people through her own example and learning using the power of words. Along with a natural zeal and enthusiasm for life, she is quick to laughter and has a deep passion for health and fitness. Owing to her keen interest in making life better in every possible way, she also holds certifications in alternative wellness modalities like Yoga, Meditation, EFT, Silva Mind Technique and Reiki.
I think the shootings of South Carolina have brought to the forefront the illusion of separation that has long pervaded ‘modern’ western society. In this specific case, the illusion of separation that is based on the segregation of oneself from the ‘other’ can be analyzed along three distinct parameters. First, is the idea of the ‘other’ that exists in the form of the division between ‘government’ and the ‘general public.’ Second, is the idea of the ‘other’ that stems from one’s notion of a perceived difference in identity based upon physical appearance. Third is the idea of ‘other’ that is deeply conditioned in the minds of people as a natural result of existing within the precincts of a capitalistic society.
So let us start by analyzing the South Carolina shooting along the lines of the divide between the ‘government’ and the ‘general public.’
Humanity has always felt a need for leaders. Even when man was mainly living as a society of hunters and gatherers, there was still a need for group leaders. While initially the dynamics of society was based upon appointing a leader who was willing to place his personal interests behind the collective good of the group, this is far from the truth now. In today’s times, people want to attain a position of power simply to be ‘powerful’ and not out of a noble desire to protect the interest of the masses. [pullquote]Authority, unless justified, is inherently illegitimate and that the burden of proof is on those in authority. If this burden can’t be met, the authority in question should be dismantled.[/pullquote]The divide between ‘government’ and the ‘general public’ has never been left more startlingly agape. We are currently living in a world where the attitude towards being a government employee has shifted from seeing oneself as a public servant to regarding oneself as an indiscriminate power-wielding authority. The weapon that is handed over in trust to these so-called guardians of the masses is no longer being used to protect the masses but to force them into submission and in some cases into practicing a total abuse of human rights. The South Carolina Shooting is the perfect example of this exploitative misuse of authority.
Quoting Noam Chomsky here, “Authority, unless justified, is inherently illegitimate and that the burden of proof is on those in authority. If this burden can’t be met, the authority in question should be dismantled.”
In the context of this particular incident, the question arises that when there wasn’t enough ‘proof’ of why the police officer should have resorted to deadly force, then how can we go to bed at night believing that we are truly ‘safe’ placing our freedom and our safety into the hands of people who would, or at least who appear to abuse our trust when opportunity arises?
However, to further complicate matters…
there exists in contemporary society a fabric of deep social conditioning which compels us to distinguish ourselves from the ‘other’ based on purely physical characteristics, such as skin color, race or religious affiliation. It is a perversity of the social mind that affects all individual minds within its purview. The psychological programming is so dismally cavernous that it implants almost an instinct-like-response in one’s psychological makeup that instigates one to separate oneself from the ‘other.’ In that context, it is worth wondering if Michael Slager would have acted in the same way as he did in case of the South Carolina Shooting if the victim wasn’t a man of color?
According to a CBS News poll, the vast majority of Blacks in the United States feel that the police force is more likely to use lethal force against them than on people from any other race. This fear is not totally unfounded as there are plenty of recorded cases that testify the legitimacy of people’s consternation. However, this is also a very disturbing idea as it makes one question the very notion of ‘civilized society.’
If we are truly ‘civilized’ then why is there an urge to differentiate on the basis of shallow and prejudiced identity profiling of others?
I think the irony is that we believe ourselves to be ‘modern’ and ‘advanced,’ but our actions towards our fellow human beings is reflective of our rapidly diminishing humanity. Perhaps, capitalism is to blame for this up to some extent as it deeply forges in all of us a sense of competition along with a colossal sense of general dissatisfaction. We no longer live in a society where our prime concern is to look after the needs of other fellow human beings while taking care of our own. We live in a world where we are constantly striving to be better than the ‘other.’ We hoard excesses and it pains us to give away the superfluous.
Here, I would like to quote Noam Chomsky once again, but this time on the question of Capitalism: “If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”
A Capitalistic society works on the idea of alienating the masses from one another. This kind of apathy and total disregard for another is so intricately woven in the minds of people that it is hard for them to even recognize it. People become programmed to constantly compete with one another and laws are also made to isolate them further from each another by making it illegal to stretch out an ‘unauthorized’ helping hand under many circumstances. One of the things that has always disturbed me is how it is illegal in the United States to feed homeless people in a group. Why should we be precluded by the state from practicing our humanity?
But being a product of such a society where we are conditioned to be apathetic to others, is it really surprising that the policeman would have no qualms firing his gun on an unarmed man for no good reason but, probably, merely to enforce his misguided notion of power and superiority?
I think what is needed is not something like the enforcement of a law making it mandatory for police officers to wear body cameras. That might instill some inhibitions in ‘law enforcers’ compelling them to think twice before abusing their authority, but it cannot cure the problem from its roots.
The real problem lies in the mental and psychological conditioning of our society. A change in law is not what can get us out of this morass of human apathy, but a shift in attitude is what is needed. We need to learn to care for each other again, to look at each other beyond differences of skin color, race, religion and even gender. It is important to remember that it is the few amongst us ‘commoners’ who take up positions of authority in the government. [pullquote]If we are truly ‘civilized’ then why is there an urge to differentiate on the basis of shallow and prejudiced identity profiling of others?[/pullquote] If we choose to cultivate the right attitude of recognizing and acknowledging the humanity of others beyond shallow identity profiling and pass on the same values to our children, then we can build a better world where instances like the South Carolina shooting won’t happen. Call me an idealist, but I do believe that if a lot of us would adopt a shift in consciousness learning to care for our neighbors just like we care for our own selves, breaking away from the nasty clutches of our deeply conditioned plutocracy reinforcing mindsets, then it is possible for a violence-free benevolent world to exist. In such a world, there would still be a government, but those in ‘power’ would exercise their authority only for the greater good of humanity and not for the mere gratification of individual ego!