Am I complicit?

Recently a uniformed US airforce airman immolated himself declaring, “he will no longer be complicit in genocide”. This gets me thinking what am I being complicit in. Palestine, Ukraine, Syria all such humanitarian crisis do bother me, however I convince myself saying am not complicit because I can’t influence any forces that decides the outcome. But what about incidents close home?
Am I not complicit if I remain silent when the people of Manipur are dying? Am I not complicit when I sit comfortably at home while visually challenged aspirants protest on road for equal job opportunities, while they are manhandled and treated inhumanly by police? Am I not complicit if even one child in the vicinity of this university doesn’t get education? Am I not complicit when garbage degrades soil quality and affects wildlife right behind my hostel premises? Am I not complicit just by sitting in this air conditioned class room? Every time I use my bike instead of walking?

Looking back, in my undergraduate years, I participated in a protest against genocide in Sri Lanka but was careful to hide myself with the crowd. Didn’t want to attract attention or court arrest. When students across the state went on fast later for the same issue, for me not getting into trouble with my college was important, I didn’t partake in the protest in any way. When whole state gathered in Marina for Jaklikattu I didn’t want to miss work.

But those are in the past. Right now, I don’t bother about going to jail or losing my life for a cause and there is no scarcity of causes. Then what’s holding me back from action? Am I being complicit just by siting in this course as against being on ground, fighting injustice and issues that bother me?

Well what issues bother me? There are hundreds of industries polluting the environment, there is corruption, there is inequity, there is lack of access to health, sanitation, education. And everything bothers me.

What should I do? How do I justify my inaction to myself?

Two excuses come to mind. One, by continuing to study now, gaining expertise and participating in policy discourse I can have larger impact compared to being on field protesting. Gandhi was advised not to undertake fast undo death because he can do more by being alive. Why not me? ;). Two, I can blame it on the apathy of the authority. Gandhi’s fast or Thích Quảng Đức’s self immolation led to the outcome because it touched the consciousness of the authority. But in recent years, self immolation, hunger strike deaths hardly gets a single column coverage in 4th page (Ignoring rare exceptions like GD Agarwal). So there is a possibility that even the extreme form of activism by me can be lost in the noise.

But aren’t these just excuses covering for my cowardliness? Subconsciously too these events do bother me but I don’t see myself protesting for these. How do I explain this conflict? It was fine as long as I could tell I didn’t care or that I have more important aspects in life. When that’s not the case, how do I justify ignoring an instance of inequity or government apathy and at same time claim to work against it? Are these not severe enough to shake my conscience?

Reframing these thoughts in other words, each of my action or inaction is a message. So, what message am I sending? What’s my message? What’s my strongest means of expressing the same?

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