That Tribal ‘Forward’ Instinct

Facebook, WhatsApp and other News Media have only consolidated our beleaguered self. We want to spread the news before anyone. Any sensational news, irrespective of its impact on the common man, or the society in general, are circulated without due diligence.

I have two interesting stories to share – first, a hoax that is spreading on cancer and the second one, a notion that our religion or faith is under threat or fire.

For those without any technical understanding on cancer, it is a disease that is a consequence of loss of control by the body mechanism over it’s ability to stop incessant multiplication and subsequent spread beyond the organ of origin. This spread correlates with the stages of cancer, which most of my non medical readers are aware. Transformation of a normal cell to cancer is one of the most complex mechanisms, and every organ has multiple pathways of deregulations and within each organ, subtle differences exists that make certain cancers more dreaded than others. However, suffice it to say that current scientific literature is devoid of any evidence that links Vitamin B17 (Amygdalin or Laetrile). It is DEFINITELY NOT DUE TO DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN B17.

Amygdaline

You may visit one of the latest landmark work in this field by Bode and Dong, ‘Toxic phytochemicals and their potential risks for human cancer’ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289646/).

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Cancer is not a disease but a deficiency and manufactured by the drug industry

The hoax:

Cancer is not a disease but a deficiency of Vitamin B: It was a Sunday morning and as usual, a friend forwarded that. Of course his understanding on cancer is miniscule. However, worst, the same story was received from a retired professor from a medical school.

Sometimes, I fail to understand the logic. Some semi-experts who work on the fringe or periphery of the field, having some semblance of understanding about cancer, put up facts and fiction and circulate these stories. It is mainstream fashion to add little science and mix with much fiction (not tested hypothesis) and make a juicy story that will catch the imagination of the common man. I also fail to understand how these people think that all the researchers, all the medical practitioners and the entire paraprofessionals working in the field lack ethics and values. They ultimately try to prove that are the demystifier of the falsehood and the ultimate revealers of truth. By falsely claiming so, they not only malign and tarnish the ethos, values and hard work of all the people working in the field but end up widening the existing sense of trust deficit within the system.

The truth:

If you carefully see the picture below or review this with a doctor who has had fundamental learning (didactics) in pathology, I bet by consensus, you will find them disagreeing on the picture of cancer below. Anyone having seen cancer cells under a microscope will agree that the picture below has no resemblance to cancer cell. However, it has a closer resemblance, possibly to an imaginary octopus.

The link to that hoax – cancer is not a disease; it is a business. Cancer consists of only a deficiency of vitamin B17.

In our quest for knowledge, we are striving to understand, diagnose and manage the menace of cancer afflicting mankind. Much can be said about the progress that has achieved with cancer. However, we are humans and we are learning, every time we cross a barrier, we dismantle our earlier understanding and expand the horizons of our learning. Consequently, we see changing guidelines, part of the reason why we see differences in the practice from a decade and now.

Several links to the truth are innumerable, an important one here –

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v10/n8/full/nm1087.html

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Our religion is under attack:

Though I cited an example of Muslim faith, Islam is not the only religion in the world that feels so. Recently, Hindus, Christians and other faith leaders are gradually immersing their ideology and believers to this proposition. So, let us understand these as phenomenon rather than a criticism for a particular religion.

It has become an in-thing to believe that one’s religion or ideology is under threat. If you presume, I am talking about Muslims, you need course correction. Believers, irrespective of religions feel their faith and ideology is under threat, or at least their so called guardians or believers want everyone, including those practicing, to believe so. The killing of a young woman in Virginia is a case in point.

Of course, this is another forward from a Muslim friend (but Muslims are not an exception) who shared news on how a Muslim girl, while leaving a Mosque after offering prayers, was killed as a consequence of a hate crime. Obviously, he wanted me to believe this happening. Being outside his religion, I could clearly see the bias and I pointed out that we should wait for the crime detection agencies to validate the cause. It can be any roadside ragamuffin who might have mugged/ attacked and it may not be a premeditated hate crime. The question was simple – a person bent on retribution will do a newsworthy act, not a roadside attack on a single person. To me, that was clearly an act of robbery rather than hate crime.

We have that tribal instinct deeply embedded within us that makes us spread rumors without validating those. It is that rudimentary instinct that does not think about responsible civic behavior. It has that uncanny childish attitude of keeping itself as the center of attraction. All these are at the cost of society, civil norms and years of systematic learning. While doing all these, we tend to forget the toll it takes on the society, the time consumed in discussing unrequired rumors, the trust deficit and the polarization that ensues.

The Hoax – The initial link from a news channel on the isolated hate crime

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fairfax-loudoun-police-searching-for-missing-17-year-old-reported-to-have-been-assaulted/2017/06/18/02e379ac-5466-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html

My obvious argument was to wait for the law agencies complete their investigation and prove the motive, then make an impression. Of course, such logical arguments are not liked or appreciated. As usual, this friend labeled me as ‘non-sympathetic’ towards his religion. In next 18 hours, the same newspaper published another news on the same incidence.

The truth – The story posted by same news channel 18 hours after the incidence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/killing-of-muslim-teenager-not-being-investigated-as-a-hate-crime-police-say/2017/06/19/e7670f0a-54f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?utm_term=.ac8cd960e97a

Let us think or validate before forwarding

We all have a responsibility to filter the information and think through the consequences of forwarding newsworthy items. Spreading sensational, unvalidated news without understanding the impact amounts to irresponsible civic behavior that may cast doubt on our character. It is closer to our tribal instincts and drowns all the civilized efforts and education we so much fashion ourselves with.

The Irresponsible Idiot inside me

For generations now, news has been always sensational, something apart from the normal, something that evokes the irrational, tribal fear within us, something that needs immediate gratification to perplexing perpetual and often festering problems. Almost daily, we all fall prey to such follies, of not validating the truth behind such sensational messages; we get caught in with our own internal bias and become a proponent of that rumor. I too committed a faux pass by forwarding a message. Social Media Technology like WhatsUp may be new but forwarded messages is not a new phenomenon. We all have that instinct of contributing to the rumor mill by adding unvalidated views.

Our times are keenly watching radical Muslim onslaught and the reaction from their moderates. However, Islam is not the only religion displaying radical aggressiveness. We see that radical manifestation spreading gradually amongst other religions too. Views and perspectives are getting percolated and barriers and prejudices are being built. Humanity, and especially our next generation, is getting caught in polarizing views that are diametrically opposite. Biases are subjugated and getting percolated through these media and the real enemy is we, those users who are not validating information and adding forwards to rumor mills.

I have two questions to both the polar sides –

1. Irrespective of the content of either message or the ground realities, does it add to social harmony, stability and peace?

2. We all agree with our believe systems. But have we reached out and made attempts to understand how many agree with our polar views?

Religion is sacrosanct to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhist equally. However, while practicing our faith, we have purposefully chosen to interpret a selected meaning and introduced our own bias. Are these medieval biases helping us? Is there a need to revisit and decipher the message for humanity (and possibly expunge the old messages that tear us apart). We need an ideology to guide us through these trying and tormenting times, to stabilize the new norm of globalization, ideological conflict and technological evolution. However, while we are struggling to achieve that, let us behave responsibly by not forwarding any message that will deprive the community of harmony and peace. Let us not forward any sensational provocative news.

For generations now, news has been always sensational, something apart from the normal, something that evokes the irrational, tribal part within us, something that needs immediate gratification to perplexing perpetual problems. If I say a particular political or religious leader devoured a person say, another businessman or a slender gender, it immediately evokes that sense of interest. However, if I write another article on how the same person completed his job successfully, it is devoid of news.

We all are prone to such scandalous traps. This morning, I saw a WhatsApp message that talked how a Canadian Mayor refused to ban pork from school Canteen.  Since the message aligned with my own ideology, I forwarded that message to a select few, from mostly my own religion and a few Muslim friends whom I consider close and with whom I yearn to have this dialog (not to hurt their sentiments but to bridge the chasm of ideological differences by overtly expressing rather than behind the back passionate discussions.

My two Muslim brothers responded. One, whom I can call neo-liberal Abdul, a doctor by profession, based in UAE, another Aslam, a traditional mainstream based in US (names changed to anonymize identity). I am appending Abdul ‘s comments (the neo-liberal Muslim friend who is practicing as a Surgeon in UAE).

Abdul

Aslam, my friend from our small home town, now settled in US felt the message was a hoax and forwarded another message that supported the ban on pork.

Aslam

The above are two polar extremes, a version between two hardliners…

Almost daily, we all fall prey to such follies, of not validating the truth behind such sensational messages; we get caught in with our own internal bias and become a proponent of that rumor. I, however, have two questions to both the polar sides –

  1. How many believers agree with the other diametrically opposite polar extreme?
  2. Irrespective of the content of either message or ground realities, does it add to social harmony, stability and peace?

That’s the concern with identity – religion is far secondary in the notion of identity and humanity is caught in this unrelenting quagmire, neither polar side attempting to reach out to the other (and understanding what the others feel) and neither intending to move out of status quo… including you and I.

We feel our identity – as a nation, as an ethnic stalk, as a religion and a culture are superior to others.

We are so much wrapped and warped in this notion of self-prophesying truth that we rarely think of stepping out of the cocoon of self-serving identity calamity and ever venture out to seek truth.

Muslim Protest and Rallies

I have never seen a rally a Muslim terrorist bombed when San Bernardino, or Manchester or London Bridge. I have seen Muslims protesting against Trump’s ban on immigrants from six nations (of note, he did not ban Muslims from other 54 Muslim nations). The world is often surprised to see how Muslims flocked to protest Trump’s decision. I have no intent to politicize this issue but Muslims could have seen this issue independent of Trumps background and perspective. They could have asked a simple question –

  1. Has he banned all the immigrants from all the 60 Muslim nations?
  2. What’s wrong in banning immigrants from strive torn nation sending people prone for violence? Are we not screening and doing background check (in a granular way to validate the same intent)?

Agreed Palestine-Israel issue is perpetually hot, agreed India-Pakistan border skirmishes are unrelenting but when will Muslim rise in opposing any incidence of violence, be it San Bernardino, London Bridge or the concert at Manchester?

No one can be spared for violence or perpetuating violence directly or indirectly but those who stand muted to violence, especially to their own brethren’s, commit bigger atrocities by tacitly encouraging such phenomenon.  It is easy to assume Muslims are only responsible for such aggressive behavior. Not true, radicalism is on the rise in India too and India is not an exception. We see pockets of radical outbursts gradually expanding and confluencing.

Mumbai Muslims are iconoclast

If Muslims are responsible, so are others who are following the same path of aggressive assertion. Why can’t we oppose our own son who does a wrong? When we oppose our son doing a wrong, the message is beyond moral, it enshrines our faith in humanity and it emboldens our own values and virtues. I admire Mumbai Muslims, who refused a burial ground to Ajmal Kasab or the mother of the London Bridge bomber, who said, she will devote her life to find how much extremism has infiltrated her society and how best to stop.

Fighting over Cow Slaughter and Pork Ban

In India banning cow slaughter in in vogue right now.  We have forgotten that India belongs to its people, we have also forgotten that it is respecting cow is a vestige of a transition to an agrarian society. Of course, she serves multitudes of reasons, foremost amongst those her status of being at the epicenter of an entire utility world we created cow being at the center of this agrarian ecosystem. Do we really need to ban cow and stop eating beef? Do we truly want to impose our ideology on the minority, who practice different religious belief? A solution for cow proponents – those who vehemently oppose beef ban, can buy all those old cows marked for beef and protect them at quarantine with their money. Protecting them with personal donation will offer two fold advantages – a feeling of piousness and the ultimate service towards cows.

Is it right to ban pork from a multicultural multiethnic school canteen? Are we opposing inclusiveness? Where are we heading? It is a number game. If we are a majority, we want to dominate. We want our will to flourish over others.

Religion for the Global World

Protecting cow or pork ban was perfectly fine in a small compartmentalized old world. With globalization, technological innovation and evolution, we need to evolve with distinctly different ideologies that would support harmony and peace to coexist humanity and assimilate and adopt to the newer challenges of homogenized world.

Do we ban WhatsUp or Twitter or Facebook?

Certainly not! I need a religion that guides humanity to see above ourselves, an ideology that offers a perspective to see a diverse perspective other than ours, an ability to withstand criticism, and an ability to accept that diversity with sagacity. . If we are wrong, we should have the audacity to admit, unwavering support to wrong will never espouse the cause of humanity. We need a religion that will enlighten us from advocating such rumors, an ability to validate the information I receive, and think through (about humanity) before forwarding.