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self-immolation

Around a month ago, my sister said to me, “This world is disgusting.” She knew that I would understand her and, so, she didn’t need to say more. In other words, she had no imperative to explain her meanings, nor an inclination to back them up with facts to prove her viewpoint.

She comprehends me well enough in my own separate thinking so that there was no need to qualify or quantify her position to provide justification and proof to me for her statement. (Over sixty years of closeness brings that degree of similitude, indeed something that approaches oneness in some instances when you see almost eye-to-eye. Differentiations just melt away in the fusion, which is what happens in love as opposed to infatuation.)

What does she mean that we both deeply and simultaneously understand when she uses the word, “disgusting” to describe our planet. Eyes open fully, let’s look at the crux. …

Go ahead, Drive visually to the center of the matters: Let’s envision and look at the wars that turn both people and lands into rubble.

A dead Iraqi child, victim of the "Shock and Awe" attacks in Iraq
A dead Iraqi child, victim of the “Shock and Awe” attacks in Iraq

Go further. Picture the greed that creates billionaires while others, many millions, literally starve to death.

africa-starvation

I cannot imagine being this mother in the above image. I have one child and she, in turn, has one.

Look at any children that you may have. Then imagine the suffering and loss that meets the edge of one’s endurance through their early needless deaths for which no sufficient level of help came. Yes, too few people raise a hand to help against such a horrific loss for others outside of their own indigenous, social, cultural, ethnic, religious or other sort of self-identified groups.

Now let’s imagine the ever increasing human population that won’t stop increasing until resource walls are totally hit and even a higher number of people starve to death while without both sufficient water and food. How about the ever enlarging population causing climate change, the coming further resource shortages, decimation of land, ruin of air quality, destruction of water quality and the sixth great extinction? And how about all of the ever ongoing murders by gangs of criminals across many land, the coo-coo people with no respect for life?

beef-lynching

So my sister knew that she needn’t explain herself to me. It’s because she knew that I have my own extensive and strong vision of “disgusting.” My own view is on an absolute intemperate level. I’ve reached a high level regarding the sense of “disgusting.” My sense is, indeed, ultimate.

Why, I don’t even think that there is something past my extreme understanding of the word’s meaning. I’m at the edge in a perfect definition of “disgusting” since I know so many versions of it that have impacted me throughout my life. The fullness that I own of the word cannot be extended one bit further, therefore.

How different our visions were of the world when my sister, such a good human, and I were little girls playing with dolls or running across a grassy field for the sheer fun of it. How exciting it was to note “Jack Frost” on window panes and run excitedly for our sketch books and pencils to capture our own renditions of the sight.

Look, I’ll be the first to state that our species is amazing: The recordings of us in the NYC Museum of Natural History, the history of dance and art, dramas on stage, skyscrapers reaching into the clouds, poetry and ever so much more define us.

Yet some people just can’t stand the wrongs that we also make. I know of three Catholic Workers, who had mental breakdowns. Catholic Workers are members of a lay group, who took voluntary vows of poverty to serve the world. I know several more, who were jailed for acts of civil disobedience and one who laid his life on the line to protect Bosnians from Serbian machine gun fire.

He bravely stood before the Bosnians. He physically positioned in front of them and spread his body widely as far as he could stretch his form to cover as many people behind him as he could. Defiant, he spread outwardly as much as he could open in vulnerability to cover space behind him while knowing that the gunning Serbian men facing him would likely not kill a citizen of the USA due to potential US government repercussions. Yet, it was a gamble on his part since they may have well shot through him to reach their Bosnian targets.

I know of several further people. Like the Catholic Workers who suffered mental breakdowns, these others fell apart. They are the ones setting themselves fire in protest of the Viet Nam War: …

Thích Quảng Đức (Vietnamese: [tʰǐc kʷâːŋ ɗɨ̌k]; 1897—11 June 1963, born Lâm Văn Túc), was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Quang Duc was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Đình Diệm. – From Thích Quảng Đức – Wikipedia

Though many Americans eulogized the Vietnamese monk for his righteous sacrifice, most did not award the same compassion to anti-war martyrs closer to home. For instance, when Norman Morrison, a Maryland Quaker, lit himself on fire outside the office of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, his act was perceived not as a venerable protest, but as the work of a “demented” man.75 While that may have been possible, Morrison’s friends and family described him as a very sane man, committed to his religious beliefs, particularly pacifism. The 31-year-old father was a leader in the Stony Run Friends Meeting, a Quaker organization based in Baltimore that vigorously opposed war. The group revered human life but did not specifically condemn suicide. According to his wife, Morrison was deeply disturbed by “great loss of life and human suffering caused by the war in Viet Nam. He was protesting our Government’s deep military involvement in this war.”76

Exactly one week later, Roger LaPorte, a 22-year-old student at Manhattan’s Hunter College, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire outside the United Nations headquarters. LaPorte, a Roman Catholic dedicated to the doctrine of pacifism, chose suicide by way of self-immolation to protest American involvement in Vietnam. He was a student of a seminary in Vermont who volunteered with the radical pacifist Catholic Worker Movement. Friends and family members regarded him as a devout, normal young man who smoked and dated now and again. The Catholic Church, the American press, and the public denounced LaPorte’s violent demonstration as shameful.

While the Vietnamese eulogized Morrison and LaPorte, Americans withheld sympathy. … – From Religion in The Vietnam War, http://www.shmoop.com/vietnam-war/religion.html

Yes, my sister, in my view, is right. This world is disgusting and she states this opinion as a warrior, a strong advocate, for rightness – someone absolutely willing to put her own life on the line to help others as is exposed here: The Good Sister, A Model For US All! | Countercurrents. She has no hesitation even though such acts are hard to undertake since one knows very well that some event could end in one’s own take-down and a painful death. Yet one does it anyway when propelled by a sense of moral duty.

It’s because certain events are totally not endurable, nor acceptable. They reach beyond our capacity to assimilate. Especially as exposed like:

vietnam-death

DEATH BY GOVERNMENT: GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER

Thank you, but no, my sister and I have had enough of this sort of scenario. Enough and more than enough. “Disgusting” seems the right perspective when the victims and sensitive others like my sister and me, are subjected to utter horrors done in our names and with our tax dollars, such as occurred in the Viet Nam War. What hell hath we indirectly wrought? … and how can we atone for the sins that have been brought upon us to subsume by “disgusting” others, especially when we do not condone their ways, but we’re used via money to support their various creations of hell? How dare they! Such blatant disregard for life – all life, including yours if you get in the way of their destruction!

vietnam-napalm-girl

Yet, what good are these acts of self-loss whether by mental breakdown or deliberate self-molestation by fire? The fact is I would have liked these people, who fell apart mentally or who cut their lives short by burning themselves into charred flesh, to be more like my sister. I would like to see more people across the world willing to push life forward by doing acts that they know must be done even if inconvenient, difficult or dangerous.

How else can we bring betterment? How else can we go forward other than to ensure that our surrounding environments can optimally support us and other life around us to which we’re connected? So we HAVE TO improve the circumstances and encircling enclave – like it or not. The surroundings on which we depend do depend upon our actions to address them to become improved and this course of deliberate action is way better than apathy, indifference or another form of dysfunctional, self-absorbed behavior, which only leads to further denigration and eventual collapse.

So it is always time to foster furtherance in the way that my sister did when she stopped two teens from possibly murdering a third one. You think that she liked being put in that position of feeling forced to intervene with these hotheaded teenaged strangers?

Fun? Ha-ha, guess again since such actions can be terrifying and one fights the terror to let the sense of doing the action that needs to be done win or supersede against the heavy fear that unwanted intervention can bring – the desire to flee or ignore the wrong for which one is a witness.

It doesn’t entail some sense of terror as you fight the urge to avoid intervention? Well, then how about this event: Fatally wounded man in Taunton stabbing called hero | WJAR

May 11, 2016 – Fifty-six-year-old George Heath tried to stop a man on a rampage in Taunton, but was killed as he protected a pregnant waitress at a restaurant.

No, my sister never finds it fun at all to step into action. Besides it’s just so very scary and dangerous in every minute of interaction. Yet even more scary and dangerous is to do nothing and she knows it!

She knows that a world disgusting in some aspects requires her to rise up to be her strongest self in abnegating unacceptable unconscionable wrongs! So she’ll always slam forward despite her terror.

Thus she moves with an intense force and power of being that we all must bring to bear! Yes, we all must have this resolution of courage as we confront the ills in the world that enclose us, and that either directly or indirectly impinge on our own well-being! It’s a duty to undertake whether liked or not. As my sister calls it, it is a “joyous burden” despite that I fear for her sometimes.

We can’t keep letting our lives fall apart without a good, strong fight-back – the type that my sister can rise up out of herself when she knows that she has no choice in a matter, but to serve a rightful way, an imperative, forward. No gasoline over heads and a flame struck to the fuel for her, nor me!

Yet, I wish that she and I could go back in time. How much more delightful it was to simply draw Jack Frost on window panes or play with dolls than to fight like hell again and again against wrongs that we simply cannot agree to their taking place. After all, tolerance does have its limits and when reached, then watch some of us drive every aspect of our beings to stymie the ugliness.

My sister’s husband was asked to inspect refugee camps in Thailand by International Red Cross in Geneva. He went and left her at home with two adopted babies and one of their own.

They both knew that he might not come back except in a body bag. He went anyway and faced machine guns casually pointed at him by smirking and sometimes laughing guards as he followed his directives from Red Cross.

Yeah, life can be cheap and worthless sometimes if you are on the wrong side of the current power structure. So you hang onto life by a mere slender thread in some instances.

Yet join us. Join my sister, her husband and me! In this sorry state of the world, we surely could use some new sisters … and brothers!

How disgusting is the world? Is it ultimately disgusting more than benevolent?

Ultimately, it is as disgusting, despite any degree of goodness that it may hold, as we let it become. Let’s together with my sister’s own largesse of effort that is ever ongoing try to prove my sister to be wrong in her assessment. Prove her and me both wrong about “disgusting.”

Why, it doesn’t even have to entail your going all out so as to have machine guns pointed at your chest as happened to my friend in former Yugoslavia or my brother-in-law in Thailand. It doesn’t mean fighting potential murderous teens as my sister has done. Just do something of value to serve our collective total even if more benign and safe.

My sister and I, configured as we are, have no other way than to help the world forward regardless of outcomes for ourselves, which can end in personal travails for us, death for us or no good outcome for the world in general. All the same, we go at efforts wholeheartedly and with full force while never knowing outcomes from our rightful actions.

My relentlessly proactive sister, who I adore, and I define ourselves by such actions as we strike ever forward even when hard to do so. We go forth anyway since we know the worth of ourselves, our identities defined by such means, and the value of our small time on Earth.

It’s because we deliberately chose our pathway forward to be our best selves.  We’ve defined and honed our sense of selves to become as good as we can to be of service to the world. Our eyes are on the here and now, and we act glancing into the future as we undertake the actions that we must do to try to salvage our surrounding world.  Can you?

We can become so insular and isolated as we protect and serve our self-interests. Yet this need not be the orientation to take to make a future worthy of our children and those of other species. So, can you merge with my sister and me?

My sister and I are really into the tragic word, “disgusting” these days. So many of our experiences are defined by it, unfortunately. Can you assist us to replace it with a better, more favorable one? Can you help develop a pathway to a new and more favorable term?

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.

 

2 Comments

  1. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    Thanks, SD, for the nice article, especially for citing the resistance in Vietnam.

  2. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The world is a fine place worth the fighting and I hate leaving it , said earnest Hemingway. … The world is not dangerous because of those who have it but because of those who look at it without doing anything said Albert Einstein.
    Live and let live. …should be the motto.