Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Eternal Optimist

Switched on the telly this afternoon - and saw different headlines for a change. It was a relief to see news other than that of dismal bombings, dreaded terrorists, bigoted religious leaders from the dark ages, and more often than not, a bigoted American president.

Turns out the IRA has decided to "disarm, though not disband" to borrow from CNN. This is the follow up to an official cease-fire adopted since the late 90s ('97 i think). More importantly - it brings the end to a 36 year old campaign - often violent at times. Cynical newscasters and politicians alike think not too much will come of it. But i am more inclined to go with Tony Blair's "step of unparalleled magnitude".

In a disenchanted, mistrustful new world, news of an alternative way of life for a 36 year old crusade feels like the antidote to cynicism is finally here. It also brings to mind an incident that recently occurred.

B & I were in London for a few days the week after the 7/7 attacks. London and its mosaic of cultures seemed to have bounced back from the week that had gone by. All seemed kosher. We were in the St. John's Wood tube station one night, returning from dinner with friends. It must have been about half past 12, the platform was virtually deserted save for a couple of people at the other end. At this point, a well dressed, good looking young gentleman, staggered onto the platform, and made his way towards us. By the look of him - he had clearly had one too many to drink, as he insisted on shaking hands with us repeatedly! He then started a conversation with " I am Irish, I know how it feels to be stared at!" and carried on at some length about the 80s, the IRA bombings, and persecution. He then proceeded to tell us that he understood how we felt and that it was not a great feeling! B & I were somewhat puzzled - should we be feeling something? He spoke of how the muslims are the new Irish of London etc. We smiled at him, and were not unhappy when the train arrived, and hastily made our way to another compartment.

It would have been too complicated to explain - that we were not muslim, but hindus. that we were merely brown, as were some of the bombers. that classifying everyone as "pakis" doesn't work, given that we belong to a civilisation that predates most others. And confusing Indians with Pakis is a bit like mixing your vowels.

But then again - how was he to know any better? His fume filled head only recognised the most basic of human traits - that of colour. He was doing what Malcolm Gladwell describes in Blink - yet another example of bad rapid cognition!

Bad or good rapid cognition - the only things can that can change these stereotypes is a call for peace, alternatives to violence. Preachy, simplistic, but earnest. I don't like being pigeon holed.

Tonight, I for one will go to bed happier, knowing some people will sleep without a gun under their pillow, for the first time in several years.

Sweet dreams!

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