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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Winding River of Life - the Adventure of Campus Life

It's hard to believe that in just a few short days, we shall be finished first year at university. Only a brief, few weeks ago I found I had launched myself into the middle of a stormy river and found myself sitting on a leaky raft, rushing downstream with no idea how of to control anything. At every turn I expected to hit a hidden boulder and prepared myself for the inevitable destruction of my flimsy craft, and my own eventual drowning. 

But as one week became two and then three, I found that although the river was fast moving, I still had time to look at all the beautiful vistas which greeted me everywhere I looked. Soon I realised that although the sailing itself was tiring, the river did not contain any hidden boulders, my craft did not disintegrate, I did not drown. When the tiredness overtook me, Christmas arrived and I had time to recoup my strength before venturing out again. Sailing my little boat did have a few minor hiccups - others did wobble the raft and extra water did come on board, but like all trusty sailors I had my bailing bucket and me and my raft carried on regardless. At other times, myself and my fellow sailors - some sailing slightly stormier waters - would stop and take time-out in one or other of the universities many delightful coffee shops.

Gallons of tea was drunk, housework was avoided, uncountable hours of sleep were lost, nails were bitten, naps (in lectures or the library) were had, 24 essays, 11 assignments, 4 in-class tests, 2 presentations and 2 MCQ's were procrastinated upon and eventually submitted, faces became people, people became friends, lecturers became colleagues, colleagues became friends, small circles of wanderers became wider circles filled with the smiling, now named faces of friends and while many many friendships were made others were avoided! 

But at the end of day, at the end of the semester and the end of first year, I can honestly say, watch our world, we're coming your way!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

To Judge is to be Judged

To Judge is to be Judged
As far back as my memories go, I have always hated injustice, in all its forms. As a teenager, like most teenagers, I did suffer the angst of rash judgments. My mother's best friend was suffering severe domestic abuse at the hands of her Muslim husband, and the conversations which surrounded all these events generally led to the consensus that all Muslim men were abusers who only married western women in order to acquire passports. 

I held this belief for some years, until I had the great honour of meeting one widower living in the midlands. I was astonished that this extremely handsome, and still quite young (early 40's) Muslim man was not only still single, but also childless. I have lived many years in the company of Muslim's and I'm quite aware that children are regarded as an essential part of life, as I agree they should be. I learnt that this man had fallen deeply and passionately in love with his Irish wife many years before. When his family learned that his wife was unable to bear him sons they told him to get his ass back to Lebanon and marry a young woman they had chosen. They did not require that he divorce his Irish wife, simply that he marry and impregnate his Lebanese one. He refused. He loved his wife and would remain faithful to her forever. This act resulted in his family cutting him off. Some years later his wife contracted and died from cancer. Before she succumbed to the illness she told him to go home and get married and have children, still he refused. His family sent over one of his uncles who told him that all would be forgiven if he returned home and got married, a new wife had been found for him. He refused stating that he had found his soulmate and he would remain true to her and her alone, until death.

As Descartes would say, all it takes is one doubt and your belief is unsound. This man led me to that realisation. If there is even one good Muslim, then this means that my belief has been undermined and therefore must be dismissed as untrustworthy. So I dismissed it and now when people talk of abusive Muslims, I talk of him. I also point out that my ex was abusive, but not Muslim - does this make all men abusive? I think not, for I know that not only are not all Muslim men abusive but also that the majority of all other races of men are not abusive in the least, in fact I know of many who are in fact abused at the hands of women. And with one doubt, our belief would be unsound. If men are abused by women, does this make all women abusive? If a woman is abused by her lesbian partner does this make all lesbians abusive? This sort of nonsense could go on and on eternally. The answer is, of course not. 

Likewise if I were to say that I  would never date a druggie, does this mean I hate men? Or if I said I only fancy tall, dark and handsome men, that I now hate everyone who has fair hair? I might never date a druggie for personal reasons, but this does not mean I could not empathise with one, it also does not mean I could not be friends be one. If I say I only fancy older men, am I now looking for a sugar daddy? Or if I go for younger men, do I become a cradle-snatcher? What if I only like guys my own age? Does this rule out my forming friendships with men in other categories? Or does it mean I have issues

Or might it simply mean that I have a type?

I grew up in an extremely religious and yet generously loving, caring and kind family. I had a deep-set ingrained passion against the act of abortion. To me this was the ultimate crime, worse possibly than murder, for this act took the life of the most innocent, for no good reason. This viewpoint suffered a serious overhaul, when one of my closest friends was faced with one of life's most difficult choices. She suffers from severe post-natal depression, a situation which plummets her to the depths of despair and self-loathing and lasts no less than two solid years. I know this, I have been with her as she fought her way through it time and again. When she faced yet another pregnancy she just could not do it. It was both unfair to her, to her unborn baby - who she would neither love nor bond with until the depression would pass, her other children would suffer, as would her partner and her extended family and friends. I felt for her, this was not an easy decision for her, then or now. But I knew as she told me and I accepted her choice, knowing that in this one case it was right, I knew then that Descartes theory had yet again slipped in. All it takes is one doubt...

Does this mean that I now support abortion? Does it mean I have lost my ethical standpoint? Or does it simply mean that I shifted to a higher level of understanding? I know that I now try not to judge, although I don't always succeed, I will come back and reevaluate the situation and if necessary, apologise.

For a belief to be true it must be indisputable, according to Descartes. If I were to say you were a vegetable hater I must prove that you hated all vegetables and not just seed potatoes and rotten carrots. Likewise if I were to say that all flowers were beautiful I would have to prove that they are, which is not possible considering a lot of plants have flowers which are really only attractive to certain bugs or creatures, flowers such as corpse flowers. Most judgments are usually as solid as water, and based on prejudices. If I have only ever seen pretty flowers then it must follow that all flowers are pretty, mustn't it? If I don't agree with abortion because of my strong gut instinct, then I must right, mustn't I? The answer is again, no.

As I grew up I began to study sociology and psychology and I realised that the worst position any of us can take is an ethnocentric point of view. If we approach any person or situation from a socially subjective or ethically relative point of view, our judgment is screwed.  As they say 'never judge a man until you walk a mile in their shoes', if you can't reason from a rational standpoint then you do not have the authority to judge. As we grow from childhood into adult beings, we should realise this and at least attempt to let go of our prejudices. 

People usually judge out of ignorance or fear or both. I have been judged many times over the years. I have been judged wrongly by complete strangers which does not generally faze me, but what does faze me is when people who think they know you jump to rash and ridiculous conclusions based on some subconscious issue of their own. This I think is the most hurtful kind of judgment. To be wrongly, rashly and unreasonably judged by a person you trust and care about is the worst kind of betrayal. But maybe what is worst than this judgment is the fact that said 'friend' doesn't have the gumption to accept that they were wrong and simply apologise. That is worst betrayal of all, it speaks volumes about the persons character. 

To judge is to be judged.