On rejection

If you went out to buy a car and a salesman tried to convince you that the car you were buying was a Tesla Model S, when it was in fact a Ford Mondeo, we’d commend your discernment if you rejected his proposition.

To the casual observer, it might look like you’re turning down the Tesla. But in reality you’re merely rejecting a Ford you were told was a Tesla. In fact it’s good that you’re rejecting the Ford, because it is not the car you wanted. Even so, you might earn a reputation as the man who rejected a Tesla Model S when it was offered to you. And you may even convince yourself that you rejected the Tesla as an inferior car, based on your experience of the Ford you thought was a Tesla.

These adventures of faith and the heart are not dissimilar. You might reject ideas, which you have always been taught are fundamental aspects of your beliefs, which lead you towards a truer reality. You might then arrive at a sounder destination than the one who appears to believe in those ideas without question. You might reject an idea which has no basis and find yourself the true believer. Conversely, you might insist on an idea which has no basis and find yourself a disbeliever unbeknownst.

In these times, people are asked to believe in all sorts of things which are not fundamental beliefs, and which may even be contrary to core beliefs. Their rejection of them may be bad news for these wooly concepts of orthodoxy, but might ultimately be good for us in the long run, if they mean a return to a purer, less obscured faith, uncompromised by cultural and political accretions.

Our tribes

For a people that allegedly stands firm against idolatry, the pervasive cult of celebrity witnessed in our communities is certainly perturbing.

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I often think that fame could be the worst thing to happen to a person.

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Tragically, we only seem to be able to view issues through the binary prisms of right or wrong, good or bad, love or hate. We don’t do nuance. You’re either with us or you’re against us. We’ll defend our team, come what may, and vanquish the opposition absolutely.

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Sadly, whenever those who have always hated a person pounce on what was said due to enmity, the real issue is immediately lost and is consequently ignored, by all sides.

It happens so often on all manner of issues, from domestic violence and abuse to racism and corruption. In these games of love and hate, real issues are constantly ignored, to our detriment.

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Outside our own peculiar bubble, these discussions are of no consequence.

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Don’t just be mindful of the feelings of those you adore. Also be mindful of the feelings of those we choose to ignore.

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The poor and dispossessed are frequently trampled upon by those who can only see the greatness of their leaders.

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Whatever happened to “I don’t know”?

To be just

If you’re a humanitarian aid organisations claiming to be unbiased, non-partisan and apolitical, your social media feed really should reflect it. I understand that emotions are running high, as we’re moved by the intense suffering of innocents — but aid organisations claiming to support all humanity irregardless of their beliefs should be scrupulous in maintaining that stance.

In Syria there are thousands of innocent victims across all ethnic and sectarian divides. There are civilians held under siege in both rebel and pro-government towns and villages. Militants on all sides have committed atrocities, holding civilians hostage, forcibly conscripting fighters, killing their opponents and causing a mass exodus of people into neighbouring states.

No doubt someone has to apportion blame and hold aggressors to account. But humanitarian organisations claiming to help all? If they are to discharge their obligations justly, their job is to support the vulnerable and needy, no matter who they are.

Chosen people

Quoting a contemporary of William Wallace and applying it to the present day would normally be considered plain odd. People would say, look, they were different battles in different times with different proponents — and even then his views were considered controversial. But, no, the words of sheikh ul-islam in his battle with Muslims declared apostates in medieval Syria are regurgitated daily and passed on as if a directive from revelation. For in the legends of today, the people of sham are a chosen people — though, of course, not the rulers of sham and their army. But the people, yes, and the foreigners who have flooded in from outside to support them. Though not the foreigners aiding the rulers. No, only the chosen people of the chosen people. And this is the madness that unfolds.

Shock and awe

I don’t know what is happening on the ground. It is impossible for me to verify anything that is reported to me. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. I do not know if the narrative that has reached me is a representation of reality, or mere propaganda.

I have heard claims and counter-claims. I have read differing accounts of the same incidents. I have followed dubious and suspect social media feeds. I have seen footage of war, repurposed from a music video — and aid workers playing the mannequin challenge. And, yet the harrowing accounts of presumed-to-be honest aid workers and relief organisations too.

What is the truth? What is the reality on the ground? Are civilians being targeted by that awful regime, or are they being liberated from four-years held hostage by terrorist groups? Are civilians being targeted by the conquering rebel groups, or are the rebels the saviours of the people, defending them when no one else would?

I honestly have no idea. It is impossible to verify most of what I hear. Yes, the reverse image search is always there, enabling us to separate old news from new. Yes, here and there you can divine the truth. But by and large, there are just great big questions, exaggerated all the more by the media’s sudden concern for people it usually despises.

Truth is the first casualty of shock and awe. Sympathy for the victims, whoever they are, the second. Objectivity the third. Compassion the fourth. Somewhere in this list are lessons for us all.

Presumed knowledge

The trouble about ignorance is that it’s easy to be impressed by presumed knowledge. There are so many times I have been “blown away” by the incredible knowledge of a scholar who sounds so erudite, intellectual and wise – because it is a field alien to me. But when they have opened the mouths on matters I am familiar with, they have come across as shallow, unreliable and confused. The danger of speaking outside you area of expertise, perhaps. Or simply the folly of leading the unlearned.