Hell no, I won’t grow!

The next guy who tells me about how some experience gave him personal growth is getting something sharp in his cranium. Seriously, blood’s going to pour out of his temporal artery. You know I mean it when I get mad anatomical with my death threats.

Why? Because it never ends there. Given male competitiveness, it turns into an arms race where each one feels the need to one-up the story. And it goes on and on until someone fabricates a coming of age tale where a plucky kid from Mumbai overcame his odds to win a million dollars on a game show in a country where we don’t count money in millions. All I want is to hang out with my friends and discuss guy-stuff. Just your average volleys of double-entendres and nothing too sensitive or soft; nerdy topics are welcome. Instead I get assaulted with this affirmation of adulthood, which often hides a plea for approval.

Most guys I know are comfortable with the ball-busting group dynamic where we pick on one guy and magnify his every imperfection. It’s immature. It’s caveman. It’s our way of sifting the herd for the weak link. So, that’s not four guys ganging up on one at McDonalds; it’s a test for vulnerabilities that we are better off catching here than in the wild—you know, the bar. But it’s familiar. It’s safe. We have come to expect it, maybe even enjoy it. But if well-enough was left alone, life would have been different. We wouldn’t have war and nuclear weapons, and Windows XP would still be the best operating system. (Okay, that last part is true. Not that I care.)

Once you go Mac…
(hslnews.files.wordpress.com)

Then someone goes ahead disrupts the equilibrium by showing us what a man he now is. Oddly, it’s often the same guy who used to turn a quiet evening of beer-drinking and cricket-chatter to a tequila-shot-drowned, vodka-infused, Jack Daniels chugging pukefest. You won’t believe it dude, when that kid grabbed my finger, I felt something. Yeah, you felt his fist. And then you returned the infant to his parents who will feed him at 3 am and hold his hand through rehab someday because grabbing that finger scarred him for life. But you will call this a paradigm shift and promote yourself from Jack Daniels to single malt to suit your current state of refinement. And we must follow along or cut you off like the gangrene that you are.

Half the time this whole personal growth or character-building bullshit is a band-aid for the most recent slight life has dished out. If so, that’s fine. It happens to everyone. Just don’t talk about it. It’s called rationalization because you do it to yourself. Selling yourself this crapola is hard enough. If you spread it around, daring others to refute it, you might just find out how many friends you really have.

Listening? Or staying awake by imagining you hanging on a meathook? (www.gogaminggiant.com)

I understand that when you watch Don Draper, who always had a mistress within Metrocard radius, walking around all mature-like, it’s understandable to regret the water-balloon fights and the time we faked a Harvard acceptance letter to mess with a friend’s head (He was so excited that he didn’t notice the w in Harward. Yes, I’m going to hell. More on that some other time.) In the animal world, prolonged eye contact means aggression, but among guys it’s just a staring contest to decide who will do a beer run. No one washes a dish after using it. We each fish ours out of the sink come dinnertime. That way, no one can shirk dishwashing. We order takeout because there’s no dishwashing before or after. But does that mean we are immature? I doubt it. We are just beta-testing adolescence at an age when we can appreciate it more.

If you ask me, it’s the hat. Without it, he’s a dumbass doctor on 30 Rock.
(hatsrcool.com)

The way I look at it, maturity is paying your bills and having more friends than enemies. Done and done. Saying I mustn’t say or do some things because I’m not a teenager doesn’t resonate with me. Who draws these lines? When your grandfather was your age, he had two children. Yes, but that’s because there wasn’t much to do back then. Procreation was recreation. Let’s see him being all nice and fatherly in his twenties with a House marathon on HDTV and an FiOS internet connection. Do you know what a high-speed internet connection does to guys? It’s like giving us our own set of breasts—a productivity killer. Let’s face it. Most of us are going to live longer than our grandparents did. Why can’t we do things a little slower then? There’s no empirical evidence that playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault reduces your ability to be a father. Well it kinda does, if the laptop gets really warm.

Keep killing ’em Nazis—That’s your only effect on the gene pool.
(4.bp.blogspot.com)

So I’ve decided to stay immature, by society’s definitions, that is. Every now and then, I’ll wear whatever I can lay my hands on. I’m religious about showering and deodorants, so don’t call the CDC just yet. But if someone walks into a joke, I’m not gonna be the bigger person and let it go. Your ass is gonna get ridiculed. It will make you a better person. Or not. I don’t know. It will make me a happier person. That’s for sure.

Whoever decided that 26 is too old for that’s-what-she-said jokes did not check with me. In fact, all those who feel that way should just admit it right now. Admit it so I can un-friend you and cut you off. Or deal with it in silence. And that includes dick jokes, funny rape jokes (NOTE—I did not say rape threats, and no, they’re not the same.), and every other joke conceivable.

Except the Aristocrats. That shit is nasty.

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Proportional responses

Whenever I write on a serious issue, I usually start by quoting an article written by a better writer and paraphrasing some of it before segueing into my own thoughts on the subject. What can I say, I’m a slave to routine: Here is the article by Kanchan Gupta on a topic that most people are passionate about, as it involves life and death. Our lives and the deaths of those who will not sit still until they decimate us.

Let me preface by saying that terrorism is never and can never be justifiable. Nothing, no kind of torture or enslavement, or infringement of any right whatever, gives one the right to kill innocent people. We have reached a point in evolution where we must be above killing someone’s loved ones to motivate or deter them. This, seems so obvious right?

What we face today is something no one has imagined before. Sure, the developed and developing world has faced threats to its life from various organizations before. The Nazis, the imperialist British juggernaut, and various separatist revolutions of individual nations come to mind. Many of such threats involved people who believed they were martyring themselves for a cause, for freedom, for independence or a life without persecution.

The extremist Muslim fundamentalist threat we face today is completely new. Before I go further, let me clarify some words and their meanings.

  • Fundamentalism refers to a belief in a strict adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against what are perceived as modern heresies of secularism
  • Extremism is a term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards.

Both definitions are from Wikipedia, so you’re free to criticize their correctness, but I am including them here to indicate what I mean when I use these words.

Kanchan Gupta starts with exploring the meaning of targeted killing, and how legitimate they are. He swats like a fly the argument of apparent immorality of killing a terrorist by saying, “…since terrorism is neither morally right nor a legal expression of dissent…” Very well said. I would like to elaborate on this point more.

We cannot go eye for an eye against Islamic extremists. They believe they are in a cosmic war between good and evil, and their book tells them they’re on the good side. As Reza Aslan says (I don’t agree with him on most points, but I do on this one), “We cannot legitimize this viewpoint. We are not going to out-fanaticize these fanatics.”

That is what I say to all those who tell me that the correct response to Islamic terrorism is to go there and rampantly kill their civilians, show the wrath of the world, show what happens when the civilized world gets uncivilized. It won’t work. It might make us feel good, assuage our outrage when we see television footage of some Arab village getting blown up as our wounds of 9/11, 7/11, 26/11 are still raw. In reality, all it will do is motivate the ones remaining against us even further.

Let’s not forget that this is not a group willing to give its life for the betterment of the remaining members alone: it is a group that believes that they will be honored in the afterlife for every non-believer they kill. So, they aren’t just willing to die for their cause, they’re eager to.

We cannot use fear to motivate them; they have none. They want to die and take with them as many of us as possible. There is only one way to truly control this problem. Treat it as an infestation.

Taking a leaf out of Israel’s book

As and when terrorist groups are formed, we must find ways to kill their leaders. This will prevent them getting organized. Kanchan Gupta cites the example of the assassination of a Hamas leader in the end of his article. It is widely believed to be a Mossad operation (as intelligence agencies go, they are probably the best). The agents entered Dubai 24 hours before the leader reached there to make an arms deal. They checked into the room opposite his, choked him when they got the opportunity, and left the country that very afternoon. Amazing.

Remember Operation Wrath of God? A Palestinian terrorist outfit called Black September had killed 11 Israeli athletes after hijacking their plane. The Israeli Prime Minister had apparently said, “Send forth the boys.” A small group of agents were sent out to kill key leaders of the group. David Kimche, the former deputy head of Mossad said, “The aim was not so much revenge but mainly to make them [the militant Palestinians] frightened. We wanted to make them look over their shoulders and feel that we are upon them. And therefore we tried not to do things by just shooting a guy in the street – that’s easy … fairly.” The idea was to kill them in places where they felt most secure. What makes this approach brilliant is the clinical nature of it. There was a reason for every action. This wasn’t murder motivated by revenge or an animal desire for blood, but a surgical move based on cause and effect. They wanted to kill certain people, important people, the absence of whom would set a terrorist organization back and hence reduce the danger from them.

India Vs. The government of Pakistan

No one really doubts that our northwestern neighbor is sympathetic to the terrorists’ interests. The ISI has been linked to many groups responsible for acts of terrorism in India.

I titled this post based on an episode of The West Wing I had seen a long time ago. The newly elected Democrat president is required to authorize an American response to an act of Syrian terrorism. The president (in the show) is supposed to be a democrat and hence is afraid of being perceived as soft-on-terrorism, which is compounded by the fact that one of the American casualties was his own personal physician (who had a small baby at home). Martin Sheen, who plays the president, says, “Let the word go forth, from this time and place, gentlemen – you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster!” Of course, in the show, he actually cools down and decides to adopt a proportional response, realizing that his earlier outrage was more personal than presidential.

We all go through that cycle. When the 26-11 happened, I wanted the Indian government to bomb Pakistan just like the US started bombing Afghanistan after 9-11. That was my belligerent knee-jerk response. After sobering up a little, and with more clear thinking, I realized that if we don’t maintain a clear distinction between us and those groups based on what we won’t stoop to no matter what, we will soon end up blurring the line between good and evil. Under no circumstances should we formulate a war plan that revolves around killing civilians. It is not worth it. It is a Pyrrhic victory at best and will germinate more terrorism at worst.

The youth

When Ahmadinejad visited Columbia University in 2007, the President of the university, Lee Bollinger, in his introduction, flamed the man so much that pundits predicted that it would end up endearing him to the youth of Iran. The young students and adults of Iran were impressionable, and introducing them to social liberalism would have been a much better idea, as it would have helped them distance themselves from the Islamic rule of the Shah and Ahmadinejad. Instead, the president of Columbia University, as well as a lot of the American people, insulted Ahmadinejad categorically and ended up insulting the pride of every Iranian. That is sooo not the way to approach this.

I bet the youth of these countries are interested in free speech, the right to do what one wants as long as he is not encroaching on others, the rights of women, the right not to be cruelly and unusually punished. We can engage them in friendly dialogue and develop lasting harmonious relationships with them. Of course, this is hard when you’re bombing their families to hell and back.

Conclusion

Islamic terrorism is unlike any enemy encountered before. They cannot be intimidated, or blackmailed. The only way to control them is to keep trimming their groups. The militant groups need to be spied upon more efficiently, and their leaders need to be neutralized as soon as possible. If they elect new leaders, they should be sanctioned promptly. As Dumbledore said to Harry about Voldemort in The Philosopher’s Stone, “[W]hile you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time – and if he is delayed again, and again, why, he may never return to power.”

This only seems like a losing battle. If every member of society put his two cents each time, and keeps doing so, we might be able to get a world as peaceful as possible.

DISCLAIMERS:

  1. While I think this goes without saying, let me make extremely clear the pain I feel for most of the Muslims in this world, who, like the rest of us, want peace more than anything else, and are unnecessary maligned by the few who use this religion to do harm. I apologize to any and all such non-violent Muslims for any affront they might have felt while reading this post.
  2. I must also make it clear that while all the evidence I have seen leads me to believe that the establishment in Pakistan is sympathetic to terrorism, I don’t believe for one moment that the entire population of Pakistan supports it. I am sure most of Pakistan is like most of India: people who want to go to work, make their money, enjoy their life, and mean something to the people who mean something to them.