Majid Ali, M.D.
What might be the primal malignancy of the human mind? This question first took form when I first saw images in my mind of 132 school boys collapsing in blood in a Peshawar school, their bodies pierced with Taliban bullets. Then the mind drifted to about 500,000 Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs killed in the retributive genocide of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. That triggered more questions.
What occupied the minds of “drone-democratizing” sages of Washington when they began to carve up Iraq? Or the mind of Boka Haram when it abducted, raped, and murdered hundreds of teenagers in Nigeria? Or of ISIS when it decapitates men in the desert and burns some in metallic cages? Or the framers of the U.S. constitution when they legalized unspeakable horrors of slavery? Such questions, of course, are endless. But each brings me to the question in the beginning of this article: What might be the primal malignancy of the human mind?
What history informs me about the question is the same as my reflections on current world affairs. The answer to the questions is always the same. The righteous are always are always right because of their “me-ness,” the others are always wrong because of their “not-me-ness.” It is simple. It is ennobling. It is empowering. It provides full justification for molesting, maiming, and murdering those in the not-me-ness domains.
My mind drifts some more. It wanders into earlier time in the history before the birth of healers, the predecessors of doctors today. I see a hunter falling off a cliff and tearing up his thigh. Then I see some other hunter climbing down the cliff, looking seeing the blood spilling out, looking around, in despair picking up some tree bark, and slamming it on the gaping wound. The wounded hunter lives and looks at the tree bark as the miracle. Seeing this, the hunter who picked up the bark begins to engage in a different ideation. I chose the right bark and so it must be within me to pick up the right bark. This or something akin to it must have been the beginning of me-ness.
Or, there was a drought in African savanna. The land was parched and so were its people. Children without water were wilting. Their mothers were listless. Everyone sought help from the chief of the tribe. The chief looks up to the sky, then stared at distant hills, then at the sun squinting to escape its scalding light. He looked down at the dirt, then back to the comforting distant of hills. He was a chief and must have known well the dependence of his tribe on him. How can I help these creatures? He must have murmured to himself. He must have known that he had no answer and that he couldn’t admit it. He must have had become good at pretense (how else could anyone have become a chief then? How else can anyone become a leader now?).
Later, perhaps that night, it must have happened. The sky poured and poured and poured. There must have been water everywhere. The whole tribe must have meshed around the chief for a and celebratory rain dance begins. The chief must have had the same ideation as the hunter: His me-ness and others’ not-me-ness.
This or something like this must have been the beginning of the men of spirits, then connivers and schemers, then men of power.
The Greeks were ingenious god-makers. They created gods for everything—every desire, every rage, every pursuit, every war, and every conquest—under the umbrella of their super-god, Zeus. But the god-making Greeks were not the first god-inventors. There were Indians before them. And the people of Rift Valley long before them. God-making craft was the legacy of the seers among the hunters-gatherers, the discoverers of me-ness and not-me-ness.
Then must have come those willing and able to seek greener pastures. They became preachers, pundits, and prophecy-makers.
Colonists, their paths paved by their kept missionaries, had to have followed. How could they have not seen the great virtues of me-ness and the absolute need of total subjugation of lesser beings of not-me-ness?
Should anyone be surprised that some sired by Herculese went on to clone Hannibals, Hilaku Khans, Hitlers, and Hitlerettas?
Now to our times. Europeans are not Asians. Asians are not Africans. Africans are not, well … Hindu mundars are not Jewish synagogues, which are Buddhist monasteries, which are not Christian churches, which are Muslim mosques, which are not Sikh gurdawaras.
And, above all, is there any doubt that we Americans are not exceptional? A spade must be called a spade, right?
We now celebrate not-me-ness as diversity. Why shouldn’t we? Doesn’t that entitle us to be the staunchest supporters of not-me-ness? I mean, don’t we now have the United Nations, that ultimate arbiter of not-me-ness??