What Child Is This?
IN FOCUS, 17 Dec 2012
Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service
What child is this? Whose child is this? Is this child an Iraqi . . . an Israeli . . . a Chechnyan . . . an Afghani . . . a Kurd? Is she or he English, Indonesian, Spanish, Lebanese, Turkish, Congolese, Bosnian, Iranian, Brazilian? Does it matter? Is this child not a daughter or son to each of us? Is this child not a human being born of a union of a man and woman whose intimacy, whose passion, whose very breathe yielded a life that sought only to live . . . to enjoy some moments of laughter and delight, some moments of comfort and calm . . . to make yet another life?
Now this child rests amidst the dust and debris of war . . . lifeless . . . torn and shattered… killed by someone whom she or he never knew and would probably never meet. Death from a distance. . . a bomb from a drone or plane, a shell from a mortar, a strap of explosives . . . intentional and willing, calculated and planned, a measured effort to destroy. The source: an agent of death and destruction, a pilot or soldier, an insurgent or terrorist . . . does it matter? They have killed their own child . . . they have killed our child. And in doing so, they have diminished each of us as human beings, each of us as creatures of consciousness and conscience, each of us as reflections and carriers of life. Words cannot console her or his parents — if they, indeed, survived this horror. They are left with only endless pain . . . memories of a child eating, sleeping, playing . . . a reminder of a tragic moment inscribed in mortar and blood.
Enough! Enough! Stand, speak, write, act against those who advocate violence and hate no matter the source — be they presidents, kings, prime ministers, generals, terrorists, mullahs, rabbis, dictators, ministers, true believers . . . tell them that we do not share their quest for power and greed. Tell them we do not share their hate, nor their blindness and indifference to suffering. Tell them we do not share their empty post-tragedy rhetoric designed to keep us mired in the fulfillment of their selfish needs, pacified and contented by their explanations and assurances.
THIS IS OUR CHILD! Today, we claim this child as our own, too late to keep her or him alive, too late to know her or his hopes and dreams, too late to know the promise and possibilities of their life had it been given the chance to be lived free of oppression, abuse, and indignity. But, we are not too late to affirm to all living children that we will try to protect you, to guard you, and to shelter you from the terror of war and violence, and from an untimely, painful, and meaningless death, by choosing peace over war, voice over silence, and conscience over comfort.
December is often called a “Holy Month” because of the many special holidays celebrated by different religions and cultural groups, including December 5 – Ashura (Islamic), 8 Bodhi (Buddhism), 8-16: Hannukah (Jewish), 25 – Christmas (Christian), and 26 Kwanzaa (African American). Yet, amidst the professed commitment to peace by these groups, the world is filled with violence, destruction, and war. This is unacceptable. It is intolerable. Let every religion and cultural group choose peace over war — without hesitancy, doubt, or excuse, and let them announce their choice on their special December day.
Anthony Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Dec 2012.
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6 Responses to “What Child Is This?”
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Last week, I commented on Prof. Dr. Shiva’s article, “One of the most beautiful articles with full of wisdom, on the TMS website I have ever read.”
This week, I comment on the above article with the photograph, prepared by Prof. Dr. Marsella, “One of the most tragic articles with the heart-broken photograph, on the TMS website I have ever read.”
The photograph of the child indicates some critical facts: She was killed instantly. (I am not sure whether the child is she or he. Judging from the child’s clothes and hairstyle, let me assume that the child is “she”.) Therefore, she resisted none at the time of being killed. She is dead now; therefore, she is unable to revenge on the killer(s). Probably her parents were also killed. Now look at the way she died (or the way she was killed). “No violence”. “No resistance”. “No revenge”. Is she an “ultimate model of peace” or an “ultimate model of the weak and powerless”? You can interpret the way of her death according to your own value system.
Regardless of your interpretation, however, her death has conveyed an extremely strong message on peace and love. People removing rubble from her body must have sensed it and understood it. We, readers of the TMS, can also sense and understand her message clearly through her photograph. This is one of the ultimate forms of the message on peace and love I have ever received. Osho says, “Each person comes into this world with a specific destiny—he has something to fulfill, some message has to be delivered, some work has to be completed. You are not here accidentally—you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you.” The child in the photograph must have come to this world to deliver her message on peace and love. By sacrificing her life, this little child conveyed an extra huge message to the world! Some people may consider her as an angel – a divine messenger – of peace and love, sent to one of the cruelest war zones on earth. “And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah. 11:6) “[H]e was a messenger (of Allah), a prophet.” (Surah 19: Mary 54)
While I was seeing the photograph of the child, the following words came up inside of me: “LIFE IS HOLY. LIFE IS DIVINE. SO, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS. LOVE EACH OTHER, NOT HATE, SO THAT ALL OF YOU CAN LIVE IN PEACE.” These words are, I believe, the message from the child in the above photograph, which she wanted to convey to people in the world. Perhaps Edgar Cayce’s following words may become a complement to the child’s assumed message above: “It is impossible to love God and hate neighbors, whose souls are made in the image and likeness of God. Love and hate cannot live in the same heart.”
It is now the season of the Holy Night. Human lives are also holy, including that of the child in the above photograph although she lost her life already. If life is not respected and/or if life is not considered holy, what kind of “holiness” we, humans in this world, could consider and celebrate? It seems to me that the “Holy Night” provides us with a good opportunity to think about the deep meaning of “holiness of life”. Celebrate not only “Holiness of Divinity” but also “Holiness of Life”. Someone said, “Life is Divine. Divine is Life.” We have Life. But are we Divine? “The dare to be divine is the final challenge of the great dare to be yourself. Our quest for identity ultimately ends with the realization of divinity. … The remembrance of our divinity is the only knowledge that brings us true peace.” (Alan Cohen)
The above article and the child in the photograph teach us the deadly importance of “peace” — and the deadly importance of “love for life” as well. The article and the child also teach the readers that there are “essential (moral) tasks for humanity”, in addition to “jobs for livelihood”. Those tasks include those for “peace” and those for “love for life”. Those tasks must be done for the whole humanity. And, vice versa, the whole humanity is responsible for those tasks. The implication in the above article with the child’s photograph is too significant to be overlooked.
Deep grief remains. But this grief should pave the way for a permanent peace and love of the whole humanity. May peace be with the child in the photograph. May peace be with everyone, the whole humanity.
By using this opportunity, let me express my gratitude to Prof. Dr. Marsella, the author of the above article, (who also attached the extraordinarily important and heart-rending photograph to the article) and to Antonio, editor of the TMS, for selecting that article with the photograph for the TMS this week.
Satoshi, You say ” By sacrificing her life,…” as if the tragic little girl had made the decision to die for the sake of humanity. You, as well as Professor Marsella, for whom I also have great respect, seem to think that we need to see a dead little girl to understand how war is wrong. This is not necessary at all. All those people in the photograph, like every one of us knows that war is wrong. Even our politicians, Armed Forces bosses, bomb and mortar manufacturers, air-fighter and warship makers, they ALL know war is wrong, but WHAT ELSE CAN THEY DO????
100% of employees in factories manufacturing guns, bullets, bombs, mortars, tanks, air-fighters, torture instruments, etc. etc., are also against wars, but thanks to wars they have work and and earn more than other workers. No soldier, marine or fighter-pilot wants to die, but again they like to, understandably, be in secure and well-paid employment.
You mention Religions which are in fact the Agencies used by politicians and businessmen in the Death Industry to promote the War Business. Same as politicians claim to be working for Peace whilst promoting war, Religions say life is sacred then organize their own armies and send them to kill.
To ask for Peace whilst not campaigning for a complete abolition of weapons and Armies (at the moment supported by the No.1 producers of wars, the United Nations) is a complete waste of time and energy.
Whilst weapon research, manufacturing and trade goes on, we’ll many more deal little girls.
correction. The third word from the end, should be dead
It is my pleasure to know that Alberto was reading my previous comment some two weeks ago. It is also my pleasure to respond to his comment as follows:
The nature of my comment on the photograph of the child in the above website of the TMS: The nature of my comment on the above article and the photograph is “my interpretation” about the child’s death in the photograph. The photograph shows a certain fact – in the above case, a dead body of a child and people around her are removing rubble from her body. Nothing else. The fact is the fact. The interpretation of that photograph is based on the subjectivity of the interpreter (me in this case). The very nature of the interpretation is the subjectivity. That is what the interpretation is. There is a photograph that shows a certain fact. You interpret it. Your interpretation is the reflection of your opinion, personal background, experience and other relevant elements and factors. That is to say, the interpretation is an expression of the interpreter’s value system. One’s value system is different from other people’s values. If there are one hundred people here, everyone of them has his or her own value system according of their own personal backgrounds. Some of them might have similar value systems but eventually their value systems are never identical. Strictly speaking, none of them have the same value system. Therefore, one hundred people have different interpretations if they see a photograph like that in the webpage. To discuss differences between one’s interpretation and someone’s interpretation leads to a value debate. The value debate is endless because one’s value is the reflection of his or her personal background, while the other’s value is the reflection of his or her own personal background. Values are relative in the human world. One’s value clashes against some other’s value. This clash itself is relative. There is no absolute value in the human world. (Interestingly, however, each religious organization claims its own absoluteness. The fact that each religious organization claims its absolute value shows that their values are relative.) If Alberto argues that his interpretation on the photograph is different from my interpretation, it means that Alberto claims that his value system is different from my value system. Nothing else. Alberto has the right to express his own views (including his interpretation). Needless to say, his right as such should be respected, especially in the democratic society. Know that Alberto’s measurement is his own view, nothing more than that, nothing less than that. There are many other people’s measurement as well. Alberto’s measurement, therefore, is relative in relation to others. If Alberto would claim that his own view is the only “correct” viewpoint, other people would also claim that their own view points are the only “correct” viewpoints. This is how an endless value debate begins. Is that productive? Is that constructive?
Nobody has the obligation to agree with Alberto’s view. This is the other aspect of that Alberto has the right and freedom to express his own view. As mentioned above, regarding the subjective view such as the interpretation, Alberto’s view is the reflection of his personal background and other relevant elements and factors. As also mentioned above, and also regarding the subjective view such as the interpretation, everyone else has his or her own personal background and other relevant elements and factors. As nobody can deny Alberto’s personal background and other relevant elements and factors, vice versa, Alberto cannot deny other people’s personal background and other relevant elements and factors. This can be especially true when you discuss the subjective discussion – expressions of one’s value system. Therefore, even if my interpretation about the photograph is different from Alberto’s interpretation, all I can say is “Thank you very much for expressing your own view. I respect your view. And vice versa, please respect my view as well.” As mentioned above, everyone has his or her view points. Differences of opinions should be respected. If there is only one view/opinion, and/or if only one view/opinion is allowed to expressed, that is the most dangerous situation for democracy. What if the opinions of all people in the world would be identical to Alberto’s opinion? Would Alberto be happy, then? Let me repeat: If such case happens, it is the most dangerous situation for democracy! I wonder if Kim-Jong Un is happy to know that there is only his opinion (or there is only his opinion is allowed to expressed) in his “Democratic” People’s Republic of Korea. Remember that democracy is based on relativity in which various opinions are freely expressed and discussed. (And when it is necessary to make a decision, people make a consensus and/or make a vote which is based on the decision by the “relative” majority. The relative majority means that there are always the opposing opinions against the majority’s view. The opposing opinions – the minority’s views – must be respected in one way or another even though the decision is made according to the majority’s view.)
There are two points here as follows:
– Point One: In his comment above, Alberto argues the importance of the abolition of weapon industry. He has repeated that view many times as far as occasions permit. I agree with him. And I respect his attitude as such. Probably, most people in the world would agree with him. However, that does not necessarily mean that I must express his view point every time I express my own view. In my comment above, I expressed my own interpretation about the photograph. Even though I agree with Alberto’s opinion that the weapons industry must be abolished, must I express that view every time I express my view? That I agree with him does not mean that I must express his view when I express my view. Think the other way around: If Alberto would agree with my opinion, does that mean that he must express my opinion when he expresses his own view?
– Point Two: In the above comment, I have never said that I disagree with the abolition. This time, he shows that his view is different from my view. It is quite all right. But Alberto’s argument above provides an impression as if I disagree with his claim – abolition of the weapons industry. Is that why he is arguing as shown in his comment? Mind you. Never have I said that I disagree with the abolition of weapons industry nor have I said the abolition of such industry is unimportant. If in doubt, please reread my comment above. If he knows that I do not disagree with him (rather I agree with him), his comment this time is unnecessary, because he is arguing as if I disagree with him. If that is the case, he should have proved whether I disagree with him. Where is his proof as such? Now let me dare to ask: To whom is Alberto addressing his argument? To the person who agrees with him? Or to the person who disagrees with him?
Alberto says, “You mention Religions which are in fact the Agencies used by politicians and businessmen in the Death Industry to promote the War Business.” His claim as such reveals his understanding about “religion”. Which religion or religions is Alberto referring to?
What Alberto is referring to is the so-called “organized” religion which I call, “religious organizations”. Then, which religious organizations is he referring to? (Does he understand that there are various forms of “non-organized” religions, including personal/private religion and more? The word “religion” can be used far beyond the conventional sense of “(organized) religion.” In that sense, there is no obstacle – such as religious organizations/authorities — between the divinity/spiritual being and the individuals. If that is the case, it is out of Alberto’s categorization/labeling as such.) That a person believes in divinity or any spiritual being does not necessarily mean that he or she belongs to a religious organization. That a person reads the Bible, the Koran, Vedas, or Buddhism sutras does not necessarily mean that he or she is a member of any of a religious organization. A person who is meditating alone in a quiet neighborhood does not necessarily mean that he or she is “religious”. Furthermore, for instance, there are people who follow Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels, but they never believe that Jesus was born from Virgin Mary. They know that Jesus’s bio-father was Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera, Roman soldier working in Palestine. Besides, they never go to Church. They are never baptized. They are quite against any religious authorities. Then, are they Christians by definition, for instance? But they are following Jesus’ teaching anyway, as mentioned. There are people who deny Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment even though they follow Gautama’s teaching. They have no connection with any Buddhist organizations. Are they Buddhists by definition, for instance? There are people who simply follow their inner voice whatever they do. They have no connection with any religious organizations. Ramakrishna, considered as a Hindu, denied the substantial part of the basics of Hinduism’s teaching. Was he a Hindu by definition, for instance? Lorna Byrne says that she is a Catholic but her teaching on angels are drastically different from Catholic’s dogmas. In fact, Catholic people are criticizing her of her non-Catholic teaching. Is she a Catholic by definition, for instance? Sonia Choquette also claims that she is a Catholic. But her teaching on spirit guides is completely different from that of Catholic. Is she still a Catholic by definition, then? Where is the connection in her teaching between religious authorities and political power? Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido which is a martial art based on jujutsu, believed in “The Great God of Aiki”. But is there such God? “The Great God of Aiki” was Ueshiba’s imaginary creation, nothing to do with any religious organization or politics. Jane Roberts, author of Seth book series, conveyed Spirit Seth’s message. What kind of “religion” was that? No religious organization. No political power.
There are many such people. Does Alberto say that such people are members of religious organizations which are agents of politicians of death? If he claims as such, it means that he is labeling people who are sincerely pursuing their own spirituality. And if so, his argument is based on the wrong assumption because these people are neither members of the so-called religious organization nor agents of any politicians. The argument based on the wrong assumption leads to the wrong conclusion. Besides, that was how many of those who pursued their own spirituality were persecuted in the past. Is Alberto doing the same or similar thing? Does Alberto know what he is doing? Alberto’s formula on labeling: “Those who mention religious or spiritual elements are all members of religious organizations which are agents of politicians of death.” Remember G.W.Bush’s labeling on Muslims: “All Muslims are either terrorists or potential terrorists.” “Those countries that do not agree with the US policy are the enemies of the USA. They are friends of terrorists.” Alberto’s formula and Bush’s labeling are different in directions but the essence of both Alberto and Bush is the same: “ABC are all XYZ” = Labeling and/or categorizing people or individuals without careful and thorough examinations even though Alberto’s intention is “peace”. What does Alberto think of his formula, categorization and/or labeling people? Is he aware that his formula, categorization and/or labeling people might produce negative consequences against his intention – peace? Is he aware that his formula, categorization and/or labeling will work against him? What he applies to other people might also be applied to himself. His formula might also be applied to himself by others. His categorization and labeling can also be applied to himself. It is a boomerang effect. It will return to him. Will he be happy if what he does to others be applied to him? Jesus taught, “Do to others what you would like them to do to you.” Confucius taught, “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” The ways of their expressions are opposite but the meaning is essentially the same. Is Alberto doing what he would like them to do to him? Or is he doing what he would not like them to do to him? If he knows what he is doing, he knows the answer(s). If the war monger’s industry – the weapons industry — should be abolished, the logic, rhetoric and/or formula that the war monger uses should also be abolished.
It seems that Alberto spends (relatively) lots of time and energy to argue with other people who do not disagree with him. It seems that Alberto argue with them if he does not find his claim (= the abolishment of weapons industry) in other people’s discussions. This time, he shows that his view is different from my view. It is quite all right. And it is easy for Alberto to do so because there was only one person (me) who expressed his view/interpretation on the photograph. If there were three people who expressed their own view in their comments which are different from Alberto’s view, would Alberto argue against them? How about ten people? How about twenty people? How about fifty people? How about one hundred? Would he spend his time and energy to argue with each of them if his time and energy would be available?
As mentioned above, even though these people agree with Alberto, nobody has the obligation to express Alberto’s claim every time they express their opinions. Besides, there are more important thing: Alberto should discuss or propose how to transform the economic structure of weapons industry in the world into the economic structure of peace industry. This is a huge task. Alberto should never excuse that he has no time for that. It is his own claim – and very important claim – to abolish weapons industry. To that end, he should make a proposal to transform the economic structure as such. The abolition of weapons industry inevitably leads to the drastic transformation of the contemporary economic structure itself. How to do it actually? Alberto should show the map for it. He also needs to make a proposal plan for it. Yes, it is a huge and huge task. Comparing with that, it is less important for him to argue whether someone’s opinion (or interpretation or whatever it is) does not refer to Alberto’s claim. Let me repeat: If my interpretation does not refer to Alberto’s claim, it does not necessarily mean that I disagree with his claim. Why does Alberto argue when other people’s opinion does not include his claim? Remember that although how much Alberto’s claim is vital, other people are expressing their own views. They are not expressing Alberto’s view — they are expressing their own views — even though they agree with his claim. It is time for him to make a concrete proposal/plan to transform the economic structure in order to abolish the weapons industry in the world, as mentioned. It is a matter of priority: Which is more important? To argue with other people because Alberto’s view cannot be found in their view point (even though none of them disagree with him)? Or to start making a proposal or plan to transform the current economic structure? Let Alberto prove what “his real priority” is. Let him prove what “his real intention” is.
Thank you for reading my response to Alberto’s comment.
I have the impression you have misunderstood my letter. To begin with, I don’t expect other people to mention “Abolition of the Death Industry” when they write, let alone with the frequency that I mention it.
It is only that, in my long life, I’ve seen MANY photographs of dead children, all killed in similar circumstances. Decades after decades of dead children, I really was shocked to read your comment that the girl died with “No violence” and “No resistance”. A wall or ceiling falling on her or a shrapnel from s bomb entering her fragile body, is for you a “non-violent” death? And what “resistance” could she have put into practice? even adults die in the same circumstances.
Your “No revenge” also left me puzzled. Of course a dead person, be it a little girl or a veteran soldier, can never take revenge if they’re dead. However, revenge is – more often than non – in the hearts of the survivors.
“Is she an “ultimate model of peace”? you wrote of the tragic, unfortunate little girl who didn’t stand a chance of living her own life.
I don’t question of own value system. I only suffer for the little girl who had no chance to develop her own value system.
I understand what you say about Religions and I precicely referred to “organized” religion. And even if a Catholic believes in the virginity of Jesus’ mother, he/she would be the the object of my writing. When I say Catholic I refer to the Vatican.
As for producing a new economic system to replace the current one based on the militarization of the world, I’m a musician and not an economist. I’ve spoken to economists and there are several working on my proposal.
Perhaps you can help me, if you happen to know Peace-seeking ecoomists.
Regards and best wishes,
Alberto, if your interpretation of the photograph is different from my interpretation, what is the problem? As I said in my second comment (i.e. my last comment), everyone has his or her own value system. The interpretation is a subjective matter so that his or her personal values are expressed rather clearly. And therefore, it is no wonder, therefore, that everyone shows his or her own interpretations.
Even if you do not understand or disagree with some phrases in my comment, I have no obligation to explain to you every time you do not understand or disagree with my comment or some phrases. If I do it, I should also explain it to all other people (if any) who might disagree with my comment or some phrases. It is too time consuming and actually impossible for me to do so. As mentioned above, if you disagree with my interpretation, so what? What is the problem for you?
My response to your argument this time to your latest comment is already in my second comment. I do not see any necessity to argue again this time. I already said enough in my second comment. I do not think that the continuation of the argument on my interpretation about the photograph like this is constructive. You have your own interpretation about that photograph. I have my own. It is a subjective matter. You express your value system through your own comment, while I express mine through my comment. It is not a matter of which one is correct. Let me repeat: If you disagree with my interpretation about the photograph, so what? No problem. I have no obligation to agree with you; vice versa, you have no obligation to agree with my interpretation.
Quotation from my last comment as follows:
If Alberto argues that his interpretation on the photograph is different from my interpretation, it means that Alberto claims that his value system is different from my value system. Nothing else. Alberto has the right to express his own views (including his interpretation). Needless to say, his right as such should be respected, especially in the democratic society. Know that Alberto’s measurement is his own view, nothing more than that, nothing less than that. There are many other people’s measurement as well. Alberto’s measurement, therefore, is relative in relation to others. If Alberto would claim that his own view is the only “correct” viewpoint, other people would also claim that their own view points are the only “correct” viewpoints. This is how an endless value debate begins. Is that productive? Is that constructive?
Therefore, I stop discussing with you. Thank you for your argument, Alberto.