Subcontinental Divide - 2019


The Psychology of our Hysteria

By Ahsen Jillani

For the past three months, the family and I have been avoiding the front yard. It seems some wasps decided to dig a hole in the grass and start an underground subdivision. Lazy as I am, I found pausing 20 feet from the nest to gauge the wasps' state of mind a lot easier than catching angry copperhead snakes, putting them in a bucket and driving them down the road to the stream. That was a routine last year.

I have noticed that pacifism destroys your relationships faster than leprosy. Seems people will forgive much about you but not idiotic wimpiness. The neighbors now smile and wave at me with a pitiful limp hand; they know that emotional runts are not long for this world, where real men slice and dice everything around them like pot-bellied Rambos.

“I saw a copperhead in my backyard. Cut its head off with a shovel and buried the head under 18 feet of dirt," one neighbor told me. “I poured 300 gallons of diesel fuel into the wasp nest in my yard and lit it using military grade dynamite. It was like 4th of July, man," a friend said sipping on a beer. I am getting to that last stage of human detachment now that I care little about the strange violence that seems to be the fuel for our daily existence.

Leading up to the 10th day of Muharrum (Ashora), which commemorates the battle of Karbala for the Shia Muslims, I got many videos of people beating their chests on the streets around Asia and the Middle East. Some were using chains with sharp blades on them. Growing up, I had witnessed the zanjeer (chain) processions moving up the streets. Many of my uncles had scars on their backs from previous years of being part of the processions. But technology and times change. This year, I got a video of a guy who had a religious leader shoot him in the stomach with a pistol to experience the pain of the martyred Hussain and his entourage.

I didn't sleep that night. I paced around in the blackness thinking that every religion and the very act of being in a state of faithfulness entails violence, from primitive human sacrifices to real Easter day crucifixions, to drawing blood with the most unique and up to date methods known to this ocean of confusion we call humanity.

I am no psychologist. I'm just a person looking around and scratching his head about our constant need to shed blood and destroy. If you had asked me 40 years ago, I would have said that humanity would be greatly advanced in the 21st Century. We will all be gentle people. There would be no need for violence or oppression, and consequently, no cause to shed blood—either yours or someone else's.

But we are just a few thousand short years from the extreme violence that was oxygen to our ancestors. The hysteria that is buried deep within us demands blood: Blood makes you a leader; blood makes you powerful; blood makes you sexy. Yeah, you can be the proverbial gentile little Yoda, but you need the skills to draw blood, because your classmates, your co-workers, your family, they want you to be able to draw blood.

We of course are ill-equipped to launch a tribal war in the middle of middle class at midday. That's lunchtime. It is obvious that we are satisfying our hunger for blood with base and baseless cruelty that extends from anything from a parking dispute at the grocery store to refusing to give an employee a sick day.

We notice it every day from our homes to the highest levels of government, and the dominoes of that hysteria usually run into us somewhere in our daily routine, and we are confused about how to handle what we know is violence under another mask of gentility.

We now have complimentary terms for violent behavior

Being modern and sophisticated, we now have complimentary terms for violent behavior: Hard-Headed, Tough Manager, Hot-Tempered, Hyper-Emotional, Slave-Driver, Brutally-Honest, Stubborn, etc. etc., you know many. Over the years, my cousins and I have discussed the personalities of many in the past generation with shock and glee, but the fact remains that the person you want next to you in the ancient or modern battlefield is not always the person you want to take home to mother, wake up with, or go to work for every morning.

Yes, we fight the hysteria. We want it all. We want inner peace to come to us to stay forever; but we want the bloodthirsty protector with ancient fire around us as well—a muscular, smiling, romantic, murderous but gentle person who is all things all the time. We can't decide, can we? I have known people who looked inward long enough and left for hippie communes, nudist camps, Greek caves, academia, and many other destinations where they thought the politics of violence was now in deep sleep.

Most didn't survive being human. It never ends, because blood talks to us.

Excuse me, I now must go to the front yard and pour an entire bottle of Dawn dishwashing soap into the wasp nest, cover it with a brick—and run. I just must draw first blood. I am human.

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Ahsen Jillani a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR company focusing on both political and corporate clients.