The Fire Rises

As a 19-year-old Indian national living in Dubai and studying in the UK, I have at times, lived in the most multi-cultural environments. From attending an all Indian school, to living with 7 people from the UK, one of them whose family comes from Pakistan, it’s safe to say that I know how rewarding multi-culturalism can be. Very rarely have I experienced being discriminated just because I’m Indian or Hindu. So, it is safe to say I really have no clue what those protestors feel like, but as all humans, as humans are meant to be — I empathise with you. I feel your pain, and I can feel the heat of the fire getting hotter in my homeland. My brief essay isn’t going to analyse the current situation, instead I’m going to focus on this issue through the lens of a worried global citizen. Why? Because at this point, it’s dangerous to be a minority — anywhere.

Before I give you my views, I’d like to talk about a brief exchange between one of my friends who I met while preparing for a Bollywood dance competition. He was a post-graduate student from Pakistan, who worked in retail back home. I remember having a chat with him during one of our breaks and I asked him, ‘hey, how and why Bollywood dance?’ and he said, ‘I can bet you I’m a bigger Shah Rukh fan than half of the Indians here.’ Turns out, he was spot on. Even though Bollywood movies are banned in Pakistan, he made sure he was up to date. He had a season ticket to watch unlimited movies so that he could experience our beloved silver screen anytime. At that point, I thought to myself — surely the ‘dislike’ for our neighbours has to have a different reason. We like the same food, have common interests, yet find ourselves at loggerheads.

On our final days right before the competition, I asked him something different. I asked him whether our friends across the border dislike us, just as some of us do them. He blatantly said some of them do — but they haven’t been able to have this conversation like you and I have. I think, at some point, I realised that there’s more in common between us than we think. Yes, vexing circumstances have occurred, and they will continue to be challenging. But when possible, we must try and connect with the other person. Often in the mix of nasty political agendas, and feeding our hunger to have an enemy, humanity gets lost. The reason this worries me is because it’s becoming so increasingly evident and self-feeding.

Shifting focus onto an ever-worsening situation in the United States. As an individual so far away from the protest and the action, why should I even care? I thought long and deep for this answer. The answer? Because I see this spreading in unimaginable ways to several countries.

If we could go back in time, and change what happened with and to George Floyd, that would be optimal. But what happened, was horribly wrong, but it did. What we can control is our reaction to it. Our reaction matters the most. The reason? It’s what determines our future. The cop who murdered George Floyd was charged with 3rd-degree murder with bail set at $500,000 but not much was done regarding the accomplices. It was a 4–1 situation, and video footage shows Floyd never resisted arrest. The question begs to be answered, why? The answer may have been given by former Minneapolis mayor on his recent Medium article — systemic racism within the police force. He’s openly acknowledged it and that’s what we want our elected officials to be like — across the globe. Jacob Frey too has also taken steps in the right direction.

The pain of the African American community will go on, and the President of the United States has said/done nothing to help. He was adamant on Michigan protestors and the mayor achieving a deal to reopen the economy while death tolls in the US neared 100,000 but called the Minneapolis mayor who was facing not only COVID-19 but a fight against systemic racism a ‘very weak radical left mayor.’ The looting was wrong to the community. Banks, groceries are essentials were wrecked and even the protestors agreed as it was completely against what they stood for. And while the world watched the glorious United States of America fall, the President of arguably the most powerful country in the world was busy praising his secret service and threatening protestors. It’s easy to identify racism in this event. If the roles were reversed you tell me how quick the justice system and Trump’s twitter would react.

The issue is worryingly spreading like wildfire, with the internet giving us unprecedented access to shower hatred on topics we know little to nothing about. Additionally, it allows people who have no significant training in politics to blast comments labelling actions which don’t fall in line with their beliefs such as radical left, commies, rightist, and fascists. Obama’s speech in 2008 was ahead of its time. Back then he stated, ‘there is no liberal America, there is no conservative America — there is one United States of America’. A simple phrase encapsulates how the world feels today. From America to India, discrimination based on religion, country, colour and race has crept back into society. We felt globalisation had put these demons to rest but turns out we were wrong.

During these precarious times, it’s essential to take a step back, to understand what the fight is for and to empathize. For those who confuse empathy with sympathy, when I mean emphasize it means to walk a mile in another person’s shoe. Only then will we truly understand the situation for it is and we’ll understand it like humans. I’ve said it to my folks and friends time and time again, let politicians be politicians and let us be ordinary citizens. Trust me, we have more in common than you think.

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Jatin Punjabi

Jatin Punjabi

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I’m a 3rd year Economics student @ Warwick University. Trying to write more and write better. Follow for pieces on politics, economics and everyday life.