Subtle Violence

I wasn’t there the day after; San Francisco’s great earthquake, or devastation of Chongqing, or disaster of Bhopal, or ruining of Stalingrad, or bombing of Hiroshima, or the several horrific genocides and ethnic cleansings. These are some of the most violent acts in history, natural or man-made. 

Walking the streets of modern day San Francisco, the few days after Christmas, is making me feel asphyxiated. At almost every street corner, I saw a discarded Fir tree used for decoration during Christmas. Ganesha and Navratri festivals in India, its the same case. Idols of gods and goddesses are made with clay or plaster of paris or other material and celebrated for days and then finally submerged in waters. All this is done happily and joyfully. Respected, decorated and revered for a day and then discarded the next. We simply say these are our traditions and cultures, our people have been doing it for centuries so that’s it. Or might say, I only do this once a year. Sure, but we need to think of it collectively. When a few hundred thousand people do it, its too big to fathom.

Lying on the pavements, the chopped trees reminded me of road kills and street murders. Neatly severed branches are now waiting to be taken and dumped.

But the sheet act of using something, even appreciating it with family and friends, decorating it with a lot of love, taking selfies and photos in front of it then show it off to everyone and then the next day discard it like it means nothing. I wonder how easily we do this and where this capability comes from. Sure, we can have a proper disposal system in place where one can return the used Fir trees and dispose carefully and respectfully. Or educate people to go the Eco friendly way and reduce wastage.

But the core act remains.

Not all acts of violence end with blood shed and grief. But there are a lot that go unnoticed, because they happen silently and in public, especially when done to inanimate things. May be these are truly subaltern. What’s more troubling is, without thinking twice, we repeat these every single year; all in the name of celebrating life. 

Hope the new year brings more thought and introspection into our lives.