As I browsed my phone for latest news Monday morning, all of a sudden I felt like my heart was sinking. My throat tightened as I saw the image of someone I cared for by association.
I remember getting an introduction (in absence) by getting told about him some 28 years ago. With deep fondness and affection, my friend mentioned to me how he left his little brother, who was only three or four at the time back home, to join the best professional colleges in Karachi.
Over the span of next five years, I heard many adorable little stories of the little one. He had a catchy nick name, *B. My friend just doted on his little sibling and would tell me how they would sometimes talk on the phone. There were no cell phones back then, and how little B* would miss his older sibling asking him when he will come home or other silly incidents or stories related to him. I remember last seeing him at our graduation, an energetic 8 or 9 years old, clinging to his brothers side among the crowd filling the tent where refreshments were being served.
Now I see his image, a handsome face. A deep sadness is making a knot in my throat and a pull is felt in the pit on my stomach wanting these images to go away. It can’t be him, I tell myself. But as I scroll and read what’s written next to those images, a sickening feeling overtakes me and my hands start to tingle. He was being accused of horrendous sexual harassment. That cute, adorable, bright younger brother of my friend is being accused of something horrible. It broke my heart.
I write this article as I am a mother now, of two boys, one a rising Sophomore in college. I think every single day since I have given birth to them about what kind of men I am raising and what my responsibilities are.
This article is for all the mothers, all the fathers and all the siblings out there to little B* in your own household or your loved ones’. In a nutshell, please do not be arrogant and do not be an enabler. Just stop being an enabler. Shed those fake beliefs that you have trying to prove to your own self more than anyone else that you are a progressive. They erode you on the inside. They are regressive and self indulgent at least and self destructive at best. Educate yourself please, gain awareness of what a true liberal or progressive is.
Awareness of your actions and their consequences. What I have seen, learned, and observed as a mother, as a doctor, as a social participant in our so called educated, ‘cultured’ circles, I want to share what I think plays a role in someone becoming a misogynist or a bully.
At an individual level, how much can we blame a child (who later becomes an adult), when one grows up in an atmosphere where his growth is deficient in more than one way?
1- If the child grows up in a household where relationships involving loved ones/role models are not nurturing, compassionate or reliable, then that is what you learn and sadly accept as the ‘normal’ relationship. Unless one is mindful of what they have seen or learnt in their households at a younger age, people tend to emulate their primary caretakers. In fact not just to emulate but defend those self destructive dynamics.
2- If you see your loved ones using and manipulating each other, for money, for sex, for influence or other gains to ego, or sometimes manipulate in order to survive abuse, then that is what you learn as the way of life in a relationship. And if a relationship does not give you either of these then you drop them or check out without remorse. You learn to value an opportunity and not a person. You learn to see people as means to an end. To be used and then in some cases discarded and forgotten, sometimes even if they continue to live in the same house. That is when people live separate lives while residing in the same household. How do you blame a child for becoming a messed up adult when that is all he has seen and learned?
3- When intellect is valued more than wisdom.
Emphasis is placed on being street smart, to be a good speaker, to be able to influence people with your wits, your speech and worldly success rather than how evolved your inner self is. Your ‘khudi’, as Iqbal calls it or ‘Nafs” as Quran calls it. Then you learn to elevate yourself only in superficial worldly manners without appreciating those qualities in life that give you wisdom, integrity and strength of character. Pleasures be it temporary and physical or monetary and material are valued more than long lasting gratification of an enriched content soul.
4- When you are not held accountable for your choices or for the pain you cause others then what is being taught? When your loved ones are your enablers. When you are not taught values but are taught tricks. Then if you are smart of course you will learn those and with good skills get away with an inflated ego despite the pain and damage you have incurred on yourself and others. The damage to your own self is in the form of disintegration of your inner personality I call Nafs-. Real success is to elevate that Nafs, and not our selfish wants. And you can do it. I know you can be successful.
5- When you are taught religion as a ritual and not as a code of conduct. Then there is no light guiding you or showing you direction. If it is not taught that we all are actually very factually subjected to a higher authority for each and every action and each and every conscious choice then we take people, money and influence for granted.
Our arrogance makes us feel entitled without realization that we are nothing. We did not control where we were born! We could have been born in a household with money and influence or a family that struggles to pay its basic bills. If our parents and our primary care givers have not ingrained in us that all our fortunes – social class or financial status, being born without a disability or with a brain that works/ intelligence, etc were given to us without our asking and for a purpose, then we do not appreciate the responsibility that comes with it. In that case, we fail to realize that our lives are all a test, a test to see who we become as we go through various tribulation and trials in our journey through life.
What choices we make and how we face the consequences of those choices.There is a Higher authority keeping tabs.
If a child was never taught these values, these points of view, in his primary household by his caretakers and role models, then can we really blame him for becoming a poor choice-making adult?
These are very hard questions.
I hope readers have the courage and strength to be honest with themselves and do try to answer these.
I do not know the answer, because we are all messed up to a degree.
But I also know that in life most of us do have some make or break moments which set us on the path which will decide where and in what condition we will end up in life. Decisions need to be taken and directions need to be set. I do not know the answer, as to who is to blame or responsible for that poor decision making adult. But I strongly believe that with the right guidance, a lot of love and a lot more compassion, that person can set his life in the right direction but ONLY if he is willing to put in the effort and the work.
Not to preach anyone as introspection is what is intended here. For all of us.
I hope and pray Allah accepts if he does Tauba. Life events, good or bad are opportunities to learn and grow. Allah is giving this young man with unresolved conflicts, who is now an adult and his parents and siblings a very big opportunity to introspect, learn and grow from it.
I hope B* avails it.