first reaction upon hearing about the shootout at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut was- The world needs the leadership of a Gandhi. and every individual needs to follow the curiosity of Buddha and Emperor Ashoka.
Emperor Ashoka ruled the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BCE to 232 BCE. In about 260BCE Ashoka waged a war against the states of Kalinga (modern Orissa). He felt remorse for the war, which had resulted in more than 100,000 deaths. He converted gradually to Buddhism. Ashoka regarded Buddhism as a doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity.
I hope that much as the Kalinga war served as a wake up call for Emperor Ashoka, the incident at the Sandy Hook Elementary School will serve as a moment of reflection for the United States and for the rest of the world. World’s mightiest power- United States of America- has set in place a massive homeland security department to defend itself from terrorist attacks- yet finds itself vulnerable at the hands of the devil working in the minds of its own citizens.
It is time to take responsibility for preserving humanity. It is time to question the American Dream that has been packaged nicely and sold worldwide as the ultimate template for happiness. It is obvious that in pursuing material progress the world has lost track of the turmoil playing havoc in the minds of the youth who are from time to time driven to violence. The shootout at Sandy Hook Elementary School is not the first one and will not be the last one.
Economists have developed measures of material progress, but there is no measure of harmony in the society. The stock market indices illustrate economic progress of publicly funded companies. Unemployment rate indicates what percentage of citizens are still without jobs, the consumer confidence index gives us a sense of the mass of people who have gone back to spending money on things they don’t necessarily need but crave for. We are good at tracking volatility in the marketplace but not as good at sensing the volatility in the minds of our own people.
I am not suggesting that like Emperor Ashoka we should seek solace from religion, nor am I recommending renunciation of desires. I am only suggesting cultivation of a new public discourse that brings focus on citizen’s responsibility in nurturing social harmony. I am suggesting that its time we recognize that mindless “Pursuit of Happiness” is exhausting or alienating a lot of people and is turning them into psychopaths.
The United States, the poster child of capitalism, has re-elected Obama because in him the marginalized sections of the US society saw a hope for justice and equal opportunities. America is fast recognizing that American dream may be a reality for some, but at the same time, the number of families that are suffering due to the harsh economic conditions is growing.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootout has taken place at a time when republicans are engaged in a brinkmanship with President Obama as the economy is heading towards a fiscal cliff. While Obama wants to keep his election promise of taxing the rich and preserving funding for the social programs, republicans are hell bent on pursuing their economic philosophy of taking funding away from what they call entitle programs which are essentially programs that ensure social equality. The shootout at the Sandy Hook Elementary School should serve as an alarm to those who would rather let the marginalized sections fend for themselves than to be helped by the state. In one of his election speeches Obama outlined the two philosophies amazingly well when he said, its time we make a choice whether to vote for those who say “We are in it together” or for those who say “You are on your own”.
I do not believe banning guns is going to avoid repeat of Sandy Hook Elementary School incident. It is time for the people to embrace the metaphor “We are in the same boat”. World is watching the United States as a failed role model as violence escalates everywhere. We have tried pursuit of happiness. Now its time for to embark on a pursuit of harmony.