By Tanaya Dube:
As a child, I never understood war. As most children, I was protected from the occasional news flash of the bombings, murders, shootings and other violent acts of sorts. It was still possible, at that time, to protect young minds from such grave acts that depict the dark side of humanity. These events, for the most part of it, occurred only on television. For me, it was something that happened in distant lands and to other people. It existed but took place away from ‘home’.
This does not hold true for many children today. In recent years, there have been more than 200 mass killings in the United States, a 14-year-old girl has been raped twice by the same man in a village in India, one in every five suicide bombers used by Boko Haram has been a child in the past two years. Childhood is no longer the same. It is marred by fear, anguish and anxiety. Most children might not be able to understand why are we hurting each other, but from a very young age they know that they need to protect themselves at all times, be suspicious of strangers and not trust too easily or be silent bystanders because to an extent, there is no other way of ensuring safety.
I never understood war, but with every passing day, I feel the need to understand how we turned from being human to blood-thirsty radical extremists. Explaining violent acts by teenagers with negative effects of video games and television binging, basing all terrorist acts on religious differences or beliefs – these seem too simplistic for an epidemic that has spread far too deeply into our society to be easily categorised into well-defined brackets.
We live in a world where while stepping out of the house, we are advised to come back before it gets dark outside. With constant attacks, deaths of innocent people, our generation is constantly being suggested to always be ‘on guard’. To protect ourselves, not only from a suicide bomber who has extremist views, but also from someone who thinks of love or perceives gender differently. Nowadays, a frivolous conflict over being served a drink or not at a bar ends up in shots being fired. What does this mean for us?
Being a 20-something-year-old is probably one of the most turbulent phases for our generation. We are dreamers. We are still trying to build a life for ourselves that we always imagined we would live. In the process, we are learning that everything does not always go according to plan and we do not have everything as much under control as we would like to. We are struggling to identify our place in the world. We are struggling to direct ourselves to a point where we find the most amount of peace and satisfaction.
But we are also realists. We no longer chase fairy tales. We know that there are no ‘happily-ever-afters’ and that happiness is a constant pursuit. All this while being bombarded with headlines reading,“50 people killed, many more injured in Orlando club mass shooting.” Fifty young 20-somethings at a nightclub were shot because of their identity. The more we are romanticising over the idea of self-exploration and ‘being who we are’, the more it seems like we are being punished for it. What does this mean for the children who have not even embarked on the journey of putting themselves out in the world? Are we directly or indirectly making these children more and more insecure about who they are or should be? Are we letting them grow up in a world where fear for safety hinders every adventure of life?
It cannot be all that bad. Humanity always has a silver lining. We are the harbingers of a new age. Us – 20 somethings – we should not only be responsible for how we live as individuals but should also set an example of what type of communities we intend on building. We are not Indians or Americans or Chinese. We are global citizens. Our responsibility extends far beyond our homes and our families. We need to find a way to continue being rebels with a cause. This is war. And it is no longer limited to ‘faraway lands’. It has permeated into our homes, schools, parks, it is hurting not just our brave soldiers trained for combat, but our children, mothers, fathers, boys and girls alike. Who we choose to become as individuals will define what world we choose to live in as communities.