I recently got to watch world-renowned talk show host, television producer, actress, and author – Oprah Winfrey’s conversation with the new President-elect: Joe Biden. (It was a conversation a few years back – but felt ever relevant). A lot of things narrated, shared by Biden deeply moved me – but a thing that overrides everything else was his anecdotal description of how his mother during childhood taught him the value of courage. How courage is the greatest virtue in one’s life.
If you think that the rest of the article would be more about Biden – you’ll be disappointed. However, it would sure be inspired by what his mother many years ago thought was the greatest virtue.
Courage is such a heavy word. So heavy that it reminded me of all the senseless competition, insecurities we’re mired in. After all, courage in our part of the world is considered munificence. Why did I say that?
Because for me, courage may be the greatest virtue; however, not without having the ability to be generous, uplifting towards other people. Having the courage to appreciate them, where due. Having the guts to uplift someone, when (we never knew) – they most needed it. After all, being generally kind, human, emotive in a world of Artificial Intelligence and filters is courageous. Breaking the ego string and texting first or just generally sending across a warm message is also being courageous. Randomly checking upon people’s well-being, then only being ‘woke’ on World’s Mental Health Day, once a year, and informing them that we’re a text away – when we shouldn’t be announcing that on social media but practically asking them: is also courage.
Just because we didn’t get the job, post, position others did – doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve it. Or didn’t earn it. Or got it through unfair, unlawful, and easy means only. Just because a celebrity looks more fit or beautiful despite hours of hard work behind it, does not mean we get a license to hide behind a keyboard and say, “You look so ugly!” “You were thinner before!” “Not a pleasant sight despite all that make-up!!” We can instead choose to type something nice there – And if we think that’s not us, fair enough! We can keep silent.
The greatest lie that we’re taught by capitalism is how we cannot prosper, progress without putting others down. Not without invalidating them, condescending them, making fun of them, doubting them – so to only ‘feel secure’ in our ‘product’. If capitalism taught us this, which it did – we never realized how less human we have become as a result of this.
That other person willfully or not seeking our validation – or not even caring enough about who we are, what we wrote – is still a human. Still the same as us. I don’t completely denounce the possibility of drawing comparisons, being insecure, jealous – and what not. Nor am I in anyway undermining what it feels to be “left behind” in a world where competition is over-emphasized – and being a millennial doesn’t mean being a good human – but being a commodity that can constantly sell; constantly compete; constantly stay relevant – even at the expense of our ‘being’.
How about we acknowledge these emotions? How about we embrace we’re all humans – And just like, we can be happy for people in their happiness (which is super-courageous by the way) – we can also be jealous. After all, a gadget helping project a ‘perfect gram life’ is not human – but the person behind and at the front of it is. The gadget does not have logic, but we sure do! How about we gather some courage and start all over again? How about we start to exit our penury once again? We’ve been long taught to muzzle our ideas – would we now muzzle our emotions too? Let’s once try to engage with the structural impediments of our being and this capitalistic, exploitative world. Let’s be humans once – so that we can be humane again.
About the writer: The writer is a political scientist based in Rawalpindi and a multi-level governance enthusiast. Tweets at @NawalAmjad12