Who knows fruits of extremism better than Pakistanis? Helps us in not contemplating any ideas other than previously known, reinforces our jealously guarded opinions at cost of rationality and lavishly waters our preconceived plants into prejudices. Only foolish do not change, if Confucius pardons me doctoring his words, and this perhaps is only what extremism helps at – locking our mental faculties.
Black and White respond extremely to visible spectrum, and thus are sculpting colours of extremist mindset. Setting aside sheer weight that they assign to ‘chronology of acquired information’ conscientiously sticking to any formerly subscribed school of thought; point left to address here concerns those adamant habits proving that all they do not know as acceptable (non-white) must be unacceptable (black). As nation, somewhat similar philosophy is noticeable in our everyday attitude, particularly in religious dogma; as it thoroughly demarcates everything in black and white. Why religion warrants a mention exactly here, is due to its power to incite any sort of extreme motivation which associates us to any biggest ‘We’ available under the sun. Our loyalty, as a result, sides with that ‘We’ and not with rationality or good social or civic sense. When this happens repeatedly over a period of long time, it only gets translated into our inadvertent actions forming our habits and behavior.
If we are to find permanent solution to violence and extremism, we need to make small change in core thinking that should transmute our intellectual fibre at the base. It would later compound with every step to be able to yield mammoth results. This tiny transformation of thinking must begin by razing off that involuntary presupposition we usually possess; there lies only one ‘white’ and one path to that – Mine/Ours. Do we have a right to think the existence of only one ‘right’. Is it logical?
A correct destination may have multiple paths that may differently suit variety of people all over the world. It may be coherent result of their thought process based on social dynamics, ethnicity, economic provisions, age or gender or to our horror or surprise; whatever. The insistence may, if it must, lie on one core ‘black’ for uniformity of a system of punishments under a common legal umbrella, but certainly not on one ‘white’.
Look around. We choose different schools for our children, work under different systems, mange ourselves in different banks, dress differently, use different medicines for same ailment, decide and vote differently, behave differently over the same issue; but we all are simultaneously right. A disagreement between two individuals does not necessarily mean that anyone out of them must be wrong. In fact a uniform way of thinking, one ‘white’ and one ‘right’, single path, unique dress, solo mindset, insistence on one particular thought process; all are landmarks of death of a dynamic culture and social order. And if we ask someone good at arithmetic we will only know of zillions of countless possible outcomes reaching same ‘white’ point. Why we should not think of all possibilities with their respective probabilities, however tiny they might be, before committing ourselves to a side as ultimate right or wrong. Why to haste to label someone with extreme colour and spread volatility all over the weather. What would we learn if there is no conflict of opinion? Who knows what I see as white, you see as black; still we both call it red, as we both know and define it as red since our childhood. Is there a manner that this apparently ridiculous submission can be disproved?
Let me clarify before being misunderstood. The idea doesn’t imply that white demarcated by faith is to be changed, or the black. Nor does it entail anyone following particular white course of action, to review his. It only propagates an understanding of plenty of grey in our everyday lives and thorough, bold and active assertion of its acceptance. The practical and open-hearted recognition of this grey is primary step which is going to render us breathing space in our lives. The belief that life is all grey, with exception of two very minute pieces of black and white is highly wanting in our individual and collective lives.
It is this desired shift in the alchemy of our thought process that is going to be forerunner of genuine tolerance, bred and conceived intrinsically. It would seed habit of entertaining others’ ideas with mutual respect and educate us to listen with an intent to understand and not with an intent to reply. It would change the makeup of our thoughts by making us boldly accept unknowns. Not only that, it would integrate unknown unknowns in the texture of our souls and later extend it to incorporate existence of even the non-contemplated unknowns.
It is the Alchemy of Grey.