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. 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.

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.

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:

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 unvalidated or irresponsible news without understanding the impact speaks about our character, more about our tribal instincts and drowns all the civilized efforts and education we so much fashion ourselves.

Today is what matters most

Memory is deceiving, though meant for providing wisdom, it makes us remember yesterday. Let us put that past behind and take the nectar of wisdom with us in the future. Let us live today.

Good morning

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning out here, spring is on its way. Temperatures are just rising and plants are emerging from dormancy, birds are humming and flowers are blooming – making it an exact milieu for outdoor.

Today is what matters most

Today is a reflection of yesterday

Today is a future we build today

Today belongs to you, do that today

 

Live and enjoy today and leave the past behind, past is an existence of reality that paves way for today and that provides a vision and mission for tomorrow. Past is valuable, it’s our treasure trove, our source of wisdom, only if we know how to carve out our future optimistically and confidently.

Enjoy your day and…

Have a wonderful day!

Waiting For My Pontiff

At the morning mass on February 23, 2017, at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said, ‘If you are a Christian who exploits people, lead a double life or manages ‘dirty’ business, it is better not to call yourself a believer. But to be Catholic like that, it is better to be an atheist. He further added, it is that, Scandal’.

Though he said this as a sermon to Catholic Christians, we can safely extend this to all religions. Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message for the believers. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’. Pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ if not astounding, is truly impressive.

Amidst the deafening hustle and bustle of daily living, the deafening noise from politics, blind insensitivity from crass materialism,  spiritual priorities take significantly lesser precedence and almost completely get lost with the pace of life and competing priorities. Worst, when religious tools fall in the hands of petulant politicians or power brokers, or business, by subterfuge it takes a completely malignant form and reduces religion to disdain.

Amongst those practicing with some semblance of regularity, it gets reduced to artifacts like offering prayer, lighting candles, and reciting sermons/verses from revered texts or groping for identity, insisting on how our religious practices are superior to others. We hardly realize how deeply we are immersed with ourselves. An important aspect of religion is finally rising beyond us, as individuals or community and looking beyond and acting, with a humane perspective.

Embedded Values Inbuilt in our Moral Fabric

While most believe, moral fabric is evolutionary, I feel it is embedded within our survival and existing and defines our resilience. Those values are so deeply embedded within our moral fabric, that we yearn and ultimately derive the true meaning with solitude and reconciliation. In this crowded world with fast pace of life, we hardly get space to reconcile with our inner self with those deeply embedded  values  and religious tenets espoused by our religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. All religions, irrespective of the practices, offer a foundation and guiding principle for mankind to deal with the complexities of our evolution vis a vis our struggle to comprehend the existing of our living.

No Need for Proselytization or Tribal Conversion

While working as a fellow in Molecular Oncology at UT Southwestern, as a family, developed a deep bond with one of the senior colleague. Our bond was enduring and the retired professor often insisted, we should convert to her religion. My answer was simple – ‘even if I adopt your parents, my parents won’t cease to be my parents’. Proselytization is common to almost all faith. Some under the guise of emancipation, others are help and the worst, forceful conversion under threat, fear or losing modesty/esteem or social position. It is an ultimate reflection of lacking faith and trust the strength of religion. To the bigots, it is an offering to their Almighty. Will that truly help?

The struggle is searching for the real value within us and practicing those in our day to day life, changing garments won’t help, and definitely not the artifacts of practice. Especially, in today’s world, it has become immensely relevant to find the true meaning of religion within our own practice. And when we evolve as true believer, that glow will shine through our virtues and day to day practice. Possibly, those trying to impose the existing of their own religion may find this as a better practice.

A significant departure from the past

Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message from a revered leadership. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions! I doubt any spiritual leaders from my religion or others from Muslims, Jains, Buddhist, Jews or Sikhs would dare to say that. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’*. The pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ is astounding and impressive. This is a very rare, and an important message for all believers, irrespective of the religion we follow. I have a lot to learn from Pope Francis, while I am awaiting my own Pontiff! May be that awakening will happen within.

(*Dharma, here refers to the ethos of religion and not to Hinduism).

Cited:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/02/pope-francis-better-atheist-hypocritical-catholic/pope-francis

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/pope-atheists-again/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/02/23/pope-francis-praises-the-torah-and-suggests-its-better-to-be-an-atheist-than-a-bad-catholic/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130328-pope-francis-vatican-casa-santa-marta-apartment-rome-catholic/