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Someone on flickr uploaded this picture:

It’s a mosaic image of all the soldiers that have died in Iraq (some faces are repeated since the mosaic dimensions are larger than the number of those killed.)

I followed the link through to the original blog post it came from.

Reading the comments on that post made me wonder about the extremes, right and left. Some of the points the right made seemed to make sense. But there were also a generous helping of the maddening kind that refused to listen to your point or that just plain annoyed you with their stubborn rhetoric and bluster.

It saddens me to see otherwise intelligent people being so polarised over such issues. America is not alone, over the last few years, intolerance and the conservative right have grown in India. For all you know, this year a fundamentalist Hindu party will win a majority in the Indian Parliament (Yes it’s election year in India too). This party, the BJP, has ruled India for the last 5 years or thereabouts but have been kept moderate in their actions by the fact that they did not have a clear majority and so had to appease minor and more liberal parties (who could help the opposition party vote them out with a no confidence motion.)

I may be paranoid, but I fear the day that the BJP is allowed to implement it’s religious right policies as governance in India. I have seen it first hand in the state of Gujarat (which is ruled by the BJP) when I lived there for two years. For months, communal riots were the norm. I have seen cars being torched, property destroyed, and yes, people killed. The horror stories that I encountered in the media from those months still make me shake with fear and anger.

One single mad act by a group of Muslims led to months of carnage by Hindus egged on indirectly by the inaction of the Govt. or in some cases by more direct ‘help.’ Even today, a complete investigation into the actual event that sparked things off and the subsequent rioting, looting and killing has not produced anything of consequence.

But I digress from the point I wanted to make with this post. Why do people follow ideaologies blindly? Many of those killing today, whether they’re Al Qaeda, VHP, Hamas, or any of a number of groups do so in the name of religion. And yet, every one of those religions usually has a respect for human life as one of its tenets. (Of course, fundamentalist Hindu websites and rightwing Christian websites will point out verses from the Q’uran that encourage/condone violence or repressive behaviour, but I could pull out equivalent verses from the Bible and any of a number of Hindu religious texts.) So what makes (or made) the IRA go out and bomb Protestants? What makes the various Imams and Maulanas in mosques in Iran, Iraq and in India spew venom against any non-Muslim? Why do the various spokespeople for the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal thunder about the glory of a purely Hindu India? Why do Americans rally against the removal of “under God” from their Pledge of Allegiance or against evolution being taught in a science class?

Are we all so insecure? Do we have to retreat insularily into our own ‘safe’ cultures when the least threat raises its head? Why is xenophobia or a fear of that which is different so common in the world today?

I don’t have any of those answers. They are difficult questions. But maybe we need to think about the answers?

I’ve rambled again, I tend to write as I think and I guess it might be hard for people to follow this train of thought, but I assume some have, so I’d appreciate comments on this post please!