I swear the assignments we are given in class are getting exponentially harder. Would you rather die by doing the righteous thing, or would you prefer to survive by committing immorality? What kind of question is that? It is akin to asking your rectum’s opinion if it would be better to withhold your noxious fumes or to release your personal aroma to your unfortunate surroundings for health and comfort’s sake. It just isn’t fair.
Then again, since when has life ever been fair? I have to give a definite answer to this blasted question or else I can kiss au revoir to my two points in writing class.
But I digress.
Backing up, I’d like to clear the air of any highly unlikely suppositions that I might harbor any secret, fervent heroic notions of dying for a righteous cause. I like living very much, thank you. Being alive is a second chance, another shot at getting it right. Death, even for a good reason, seems so…final. There’s no backup plan, no assurance that your selfless act is going to account for anything. You’ll never know if your demise served any true purpose. How many forgotten people fighting for forgotten causes have disappeared from human recollection just like that? A person could fight passionately and die bravely believing that he had done the right thing, and that would have made absolutely no difference. People would still poop and eat, the Sun would still shine (for another five billion years at least), and I would still be working at this infernal piece of writing. The only dent in the fabric of reality that you would have made is the fact that you no longer existed.
At least, that was what I thought.
I went to church today. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not particularly religious. I’m kind of the typical person whose passion for prayer only sparks in a life crisis. But seeing that figure on the cross – something hit me.
Change did not come without considerable sacrifice.
How many African-Americans had to die before everyone could see the ravages of racism? How many young men met an untimely end in the trenches before world leaders concluded that war was bad? How many lives were lost before the French bourgeois won freedom from the aristocrats? There is a pattern here, and it is not a pretty one. It tells us that true change can only come with death, destruction and sacrifice.
However, the problem is not the issue itself. We are the problem. Humans are slow to learn. It takes a huge disaster and millions of lives lost before we realize the error of our ways. Then when we actually openly admit to having a problem, we sit back and wait for the return of the Messiah. We are too afraid to take the first step, too afraid of the sacrifice it might entail. And that is why people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi are hailed as heroes today.
These immortal men and women did something very simple and it resonated through the ages – they dared. They took that precarious first step to work for change and they never looked back. They gave life and limb for the cause they were fighting for. And in the end, they made a difference.
What about the millions that came before them that died unnamed and unknown? Their deaths were meaningless.
They were not meaningless – they never were. Each and every loss teaches us something. The Taoists had it right – there can be no light without dark, no life without death, no change without sacrifice. Someone has to take that first step. Someone has to make that sacrifice.
You see? The trick is not letting may individuals give their lives to make a statement before acting to change. The trick is to see that change is needed and to be that change before any lives have to be lost. We can have ten Bersih rallies here in Malaysia and not see any difference another fifty-eight years down the road except for the fact that the value of our money slipped another twenty points. Change has to come – and it has to come all at once, or not at all.
The true danger lies in gradual change where we allow more and more suffering to occur before we finally open our eyes to the rotten ways of the world. It is the reason lives have to be lost – the reason behind every death and martyr. But it happens because mankind does not like change.
We cannot stagnate. We cannot allow ourselves to be calcified. Change must come and we must be the harbingers. Lives need not be lost if early action is taken. But when things reach their worst – that’s when the situation gets really sticky.
So you ask again; would I give my life for a righteous cause? Well, since Brigitta is winning over Steve in my head right now, I say yes. If it is a cause I truly believe in, then anything is worth it.
After all, death is but the next great adventure – and we’re all suckers for a good saga, no?