The series I started talking about the things I learned from watching the show 13 reasons why would be incomplete if I do not address the proverbial elephant in the room – that which must not be discussed. And that is the concept of suicide. The act of ending one’s own life. A controversial issue that came into light once again after this series. As usual my take on how this has been handled is slightly different but more on that later. First a bit of personal insight.
I have always been interested in matters relating to mental health. Even in high school when I was considering what career to choose whenever the option of medical sciences came into my mind I always thought I would specialize in psychiatry. It was interesting that I had selected my specialty even before pursuing the basic medical sciences. Well fate had something else in mind and I ultimately went with pharmacy but my interest in these areas has never faded. Today I work in various areas related to mental health and definitely see it as a topic that requires much discussion.
The mere thought of suicide has always given me goosebumps. To think that someone would have the will to end their own life to me is very sad. Whenever we think about how our life will end (in whatever way) the first thought that comes to most of our minds is that of our loved ones. Those near and dear to us. How would our absence affect their lives? What would their lives be without us? These feelings become our anchors to this life and give us the push to live another day and to make sure we make the most of the moments with the close ones. The only time I imagine someone would have the will to take their own life is when they believe that no one would be affected when they are gone. No one would feel pain. No one would miss them. And I can only imagine how dark that place must be.
I hope this blog post doesn’t become fodder for more controversial arguments and discussions. I have seen enough of those online. From academics to ordinary individuals like me and you everyone has had a say and why not? We do have freedom of expression after all. But one thing that disturbed me was going through some discussions where the actions of Hannah were judged from a lens of comparison. Various individuals were busy judging that the action wasn’t warranted. That there are people who go through much more and don’t opt for this. That it was a weakness. My only question to those people is who are we to judge? How can we set the benchmark for someone’s perseverance and resilience? Aren’t we all different? Shouldn’t we be considerate of these differences?
The other major discussion I have seen is that of how the series have affected those who watch it. Apparently studies and statistics have shown that the show has increased the interest of individuals towards the act of suicide. My question in relation to this is where do we draw a line between awareness and action? Is awareness and sharing of knowledge wrong? Nuclear physics led to the invention of nuclear bombs but we still teach that? Elements such as pornography are increasing crimes such as rape but I don’t see strong arguments about that?
What matters to me is WHY are people searching more about suicide? Shouldn’t we be more considered about that? What in our society is driving them towards that curiosity? How can we curb that? Does showing someone how it is done really push them to do it? Or is it the various other factors? Are we just shifting blame and responsibility once again? Are we finding someone to pin it on and avoiding introspection to see what role we are playing?
Each and everyone of us deserves a happy and health life. Each and everyone of us deserves a long fulfilling life. Each and everyone of us deserves an environment where we can grow and thrive. No one deserves to leave this world in that way. Let’s focus on that shall we?
‘It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other, it has to get better somehow.’
Currently this is my mantra. Something that constantly plays at the back of mind. From the moment I heard that phrase on show from Clay I have not been able to let go of it. Few words but with a lot of meaning and a silent plea. A request to change how we behave today. How we interact with those around us. And with that we come to the other aspect of the ‘society’ – the rest of us. Simply WE!
Even without having watched the show 13 reasons why I am sure if we look around us in today’s time and age we will see what is wrong with humanity. What is wrong with how we interact with each other. I am not talking Government problems, conspiracy theories, wars or institutional problems. I am talking about the everyday interactions. Those moments when we see someone and not smile or even worse smile back. Those moments when we see someone and feel that something is off but do nothing about it. Those moments when we do not even feel something is off with someone when it is. Those moments where we enjoy the misery others go through – either out of hate, or revenge, or simple play time.
According to some theories and faiths intellect is what makes us ‘better’ compared to other living things. Our ability to comprehend information. Make decisions based on rationality. And whatever other way we can define intelligence. But I feel somewhere along the line we left behind the thing that makes us similar to all other life. The thing that connects us. The thing that brings us together. Empathy. The ability to feel as others are. feeling To share emotions through that connection. Science has proven that plants and animals also respond to emotions making it the one unifying element. Does lack of that make us worse than animals? Does its deficiency show we are lesser than plants?
We live in a fast paced competitive world today. One where we are taught to constantly bring down others to raise ourselves up. One where we claim superiority by making others feel less of themselves. One where we seek attention by belittling others. But is that the kind of world we want to live in? Is that making this world a better place? Is that the kind of world we want to leave behind?
It’s very simple really. Before you act just think about how someone else would feel about it. Most definitely express yourself but in a way that does not harm anyone else. And if at all you make a mistake and fall in that trap then apologize. It won’t kill you. Also, ask how the people around you are doing. Genuinely. Care about the well being of those around you. Smile whenever possible. Share. Now all these may seem like very basic things but believe me in the world of today they are harder to practice than they sound in words and theory.
Let us all realize the mess we have made and clean it up. Together. It’s a work in progress even for myself but we all must try. Try to make it better.
It truly has to get better somehow.
It’s time to talk about the other element of ‘society’. At least in the context of these blog posts. After the parents the other component of society responsible for the well being of the young people are our systems, structures and institutions. Schools, community centers, sports complexes etc. While I feel that this is fairly generic I have grouped them together because I think the underlying principles that I want to talk about would apply to all of them.
For those who may have just joined me and are reading this blog for the first time (and for the few loyal followers) somewhere in this blog there is a post that was specific for schools. I wrote that a long time ago. When I was thinking about the infrastructure, the services and other superficial things that are supposed to be taken care of by the schools. I call them superficial now because since then I have learned a lot. I have learned about physical and mental well being and how those elements are more deep rooted. How these things determine how a student feels about the school. How these things can promote or hamper the learning. As usual I have a lot of questions.
Are schools today all about money making and prestige? Is the cash flow more important than the well being of the students? What do the schools do to ensure this well being? Do they realize the role they play in shaping the lives of these students? Is it all about the grades and academic performance? Is it just about sporting tournaments and debates where the schools compete for prestige? Do the schools know what the students want? Do they attempt to find out? Are there professionals around to help students needing assistance? Are those professionals competent?
13 reasons why as a show exhibits how institutions may think they are doing the best for the students (just like parents) and be missing the point completely. And how that may cost someone as much as their life. Well fair enough that may be an extreme measure and I have seen various discussions where people have focused more on the ‘glorification’ of something like suicide rather than seeing that what is important is to understand the damage that is being done. How many students fall under the cracks? Their lives getting altered and moved in the wrong direction. Some whose lives can become even worse than the acts of ending them.
Who watches out for the signs of distress? What actions are taken when such signs are seen? Who helps those showing such signs? Who raises awareness about these things? Who is there when the young people want to reach out? Yes there may be some people who make up their mind and cannot be helped. But can we honestly say we have done all in our power to help? And this is where it becomes applicable to all parts of community institutions. Not just the schools. Every aspect of our communities and societies that interacts with the young people should be prepared to handle these challenges.
That might sound like a lot of work. But with what is at stake is it really? Our future depends on the how we support the growth of the young ones today. How we protect them. How we nurture them. How we create a better world for them.
First things first:
- Despite being inspired by ’13 Reasons Why’ I don’t think I am going to write 13 posts. That would be too cliche. Although I don’t really know. Maybe I will.
- For those who have not yet watched the TV show yet I will try to keep the posts as spoiler free as possible. Again no promises though. I am one of the few lucky people on the planet who aren’t driven nuts by spoilers. I must watch something for myself to experience what happens. People telling what happens doesn’t really spoil it for me (boo-hoo).
In my last post I mentioned a dialogue said by Clay – I feel like as a society our priorities are all out of whack, you know? That truly spoke to me. Probably because it is something I personally have wondered about before. A lot. I do not deny that there is a lot of good happening in the world and that is reason enough to have hope. But one cannot deny that clearly there is a lot more wrong than right. If you don’t believe me just check the news and you will know.
Lofty statements sound fancy but may not necessarily elicit action. That is exactly why I am going to try and break down the ‘society’ that is mentioned in that statement. And for this post the first element of society will be the Parents.
Before I start preaching I need to get this out of the way. Disclaimer! Yes I am not a parent yet myself and God help me I do not promote the whole concept of being ‘Holier than thou’ but I think as a human being of normal thinking capacity I am able to observe the things happening around me and be able to empathize with those around me. Both the parents and their children. And so my question would be what do parents prioritize when it comes to their children?
Is it enough to put them in the best school? Is it enough for them to have the best gadgets? Is it enough for the parents to have ground rules that the children are supposed to follow? Is it enough to give them everything that they want? Or are those once or twice a year holidays enough? What would be enough? What is it that the children truly need? Do we know what they want? Do we ever take the time to ask and find out? Do we give them a say in their own future?
I guess that is all I have. Questions. But I hope that these questions will be enough to incite some thought process. In today’s fast pace rat race oriented world it is very easy to get lost. To ‘think’ that we are doing the best for those we love the most. But really are we? Do we know what is truly going on in their lives? Funny enough in this routine process those we consider closest are the first to fall through the cracks. The first to be taken for granted.
In my short experience of life I have seen parents say to institutions ‘You can do whatever you want with my child … I have tried everything and cannot do anything anymore’ and have always wondered – how do you as a parent give up on your child? And if you do give up then who else will hang on? I have seen parents treat their children as objects being passed from one hand to the other.
Well now if all the parents (and future parents) reading this think that they have never done something like this or would never do it then great! Please take this post as a work of fiction and forget about it. If they are sure of what they are doing then please forgive my ignorance. But if any of what I have said feels close to home then my only plea is to think about the whole process of upbringing. Check our priorities. Communicate with our children. Find out what is actually going through their minds. And do it right! Parenting is not just about continuing life. It is not just about conception and birth. It is about creating and maintaining a life. And every life is worth living.
Here we are again. Me writing a blog post after a long silence. And since the title of the post is even ‘reasons’ I am sure those reading this (will anyone even read this?) will expect a whole list of reasons as to why I did not write all these days (or maybe they won’t). However there are no reasons. I guess writing for me will always be something that I will do when I am truly driven to do it. It won’t be a career (despite a lot of suggestions to write books). It won’t be a commitment. There will be periods when I am uniquely inspired to write. And there will be periods of silence (I refuse to label them as ‘writers blocks’).
The other reason for the title (Ah there’s the irony) is that this time I have once again been inspired to write after watching a TV show. That seems to happen a lot with me. I can actually chart many milestones in my life that were inspired by certain TV shows. Perhaps that’s a story for another day. But for today the TV show that has pushed me to write is called ’13 Reasons Why’. An immensely popular although highly controversial (are those two related?) TV show that is rightly so. Probably because it mirrors our society today and asks difficult questions probing us to look within. I guess more on that later.
Before I talk about why the show pushed me to write (that might actually even be another post) I feel I must talk about how I cannot binge watch TV shows. I have always wondered how people do it. For me the experience of watching TV shows is about understanding. It’s about learning. TV shows take me into a different world. And in all honesty I think binge watching does not do justice to that experience. Binge watching is how you go to a buffet and eat just because there is a lot of food available without actually savoring the taste of each dish. Doesn’t work for me.
So going back to the show ’13 Reasons Why’. I feel I have learned so much from that show that I will probably do a series of blog posts in relation to those things. What is amazing is that some of the things I always wanted to write about. I now just have a good reference point and visual representation to base the writing on.
Because I have a personal word limit for each of these blog posts I will leave this post with two lines spoken by Clay (one of the characters from the show) in the last episode:
‘I feel like as a society our priorities are all out of whack, you know?’
‘It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other, it has to get better somehow.’
More on that later. Feels good to be back.
Africa – the continent of potential, the continent of the future,
But to achieve that its youths it must carefully nurture,
With allies like the youths of developed communities like Europe,
The growth and development of Africa will never stop,
Solving the current global challenges requires the strength of partnership,
The coming together of communities – the bonds of friendship,
Together we can achieve a lot and so together we must stay,
This Africa – Europe Cooperation Summit will surely pave the way,
The time of change is here – the time of real action,
This summit is most definitely a step in the right direction,
These kinds of interaction today is what we global citizens need,
Everyone else will watch in awe as we plant this pragmatic seed.
Most if not all of us tend to think about the legacy that we will leave behind some day. For some it is confined to their family. For some it is related to their profession. For some it is an initiative they began. For some it is the difference they make in a person’s life. And for some it is about mass change and impact. In one way or the other all of us think about how we want to be remembered someday. And for those who have not thought about it perhaps this post might ignite that thought process.
But is a legacy supposed to be a complicate planned process? Or is it determined by our everyday conduct? Every choice, every word, every action leaves a mark somewhere and that ultimately is what becomes our legacy. While the title of this post was written for a dramatic effect (there’s my confession), can a legacy truly be killed? Or does it turn from a ‘good’ legacy to a ‘bad’ one? As always there may not be a right or wrong answer but rather a matter of perspective. However, when I was thinking of writing this post I had a few points in mind that I have seen can lead to the apparent death of a legacy.
A legacy is more about immersion rather than superiority. One does not simply gain respect from those around them by virtue of their financial position, their age, their experience or thought process. Respect has to be earned by immersing oneself together with those around us – be it as a leader or as a follower. People need to understand and believe in one’s vision and feel a part of it before they can adopt it as well.
A legacy is more about empowerment rather than control. All our decisions and actions must spark growth in those around us. It is not about giving instructions and getting the tasks done and milestones accomplished. It is about individual growth and the ownership of those decisions. It is that kind of capacity building and empowerment that will leave a mark for times to come.
A legacy is more about creating partners rather than workers or followers. As the famous saying goes – if you want to go fast go alone but if you want to go far go together with others (#paraphrase). The point being that long term visions can seldom be achieved by one individual. While that person can be the initiator of the thought process real accomplishment will heavily rely on a good team.
A legacy is more about providing a vision rather than resources. While the resources you can or do provide can make you feel essential one must remember that resources can come from various avenues. A good vision will attract resources often from unexpected sources. A good vision will drive the team to become resourceful and productive rather than dependent.
A legacy is more about impact than it is about quantity. We live today in a world of data and statistics. A time of democracy where numbers are determinants of success or failure. But when it comes to real impact do the numbers matter? Do large numbers necessarily mean greater impact? One must ensure that their vision promotes great impact be it even for one individual and believe in the ‘butterfly effect’ of that impact.
As always the choice of what we leave behind lies with us. At times it may be difficult to critically determine the consequences of our own choices and actions. But a good glance within and the authentic feedback from those around us will often show a sign. Perhaps it is those signs that we must look out for and not be afraid to accept the changes that we may need to make. Hanging on to something in the guise of a legacy can often undo the good that we may have done in the process. Let’s try our best to not be the murderers of our own legacies.
#LookWithin #SeekFeedback #LeaveALegacy #UseYourPotential