I happened to watch a video today, on Youtube. An old video. From 2011. But nevertheless relevant even today. It is called “Kids React to Osama Bin Laden’s Death”. And it is just what the title says it is. A bunch of kids reacting to the news of Bin Laden’s death.
Most commonly, the reaction is that of elation and joy. The kids were happy that evil had been wiped out, that justice had been served. But then they were asked how they felt about the fact that the entire country was out on the streets celebrating his death. That gave the kids something to think about. But still, the most common reaction was elation and joy. Evil, after all, is dead!
But one boy had a different outlook. He said, “I was happy that our nation felt pride. That’s…good, but I’m…um..not cheery because it’s still a man’s life. A bad man’s life, but it’s still life”.
From time immemorial, we are taught about how the world is divided into good and evil. Good always wins. Bad loses. Bad deserves to be killed. And when that happens, we must rejoice. Isn’t that the whole idea behind some of our most important festivals? Holi, for example, rejoices over the death of Hiranyakashipu, never mind that Narasimha killed him in such an inhumane manner. Diwali rejoices over the death of Ravana, never mind that whatever he did, however misguided and unethical it was, he was only driven by his love for his baby sister. Not that it justifies his actions, but it does help us understand him better. And in that light, how was what Rama did any better or worse?
Or lets go further back in time; the Devas and the Asuras. We learn from our mythology that the Devas were the good guys and the Asuras were evil. Thus the Devas won. But do we know that in the older forms of the Avesta, the Asuras were the good guys and the Devas are the bad guys?
Fact is, history is written by the victors. No one else. However unlikely it might seem now, if Al Qaida had won, they would have painted themselves as the good guys. And anyone opposing them would have been evil. And that would have been ‘factual history’. After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
But that doesn’t feel right. It feels almost blasphemous to think that way. To imagine that Hitler would have been ‘The good guy’ if had won the war. No, that just feels wrong.
But what’s wrong is our definition of good and evil. What’s wrong is that we teach our kids about the good guys and the bad guys. There are no good guys. And there are no bad guys! There are only actions! Perhaps we ought to remember that. Actions! Good actions. Bad actions. Grey actions.
And then maybe, just maybe, we will enable our kids to create a better world for themselves than what we have been able to create for ourselves.