Who is the mightiest?
What is the most powerful matter or element on this planet? Is it the might of massive armies? the muscles that make our body? ink that flows through a learned quill? the achievements of science? Nay… The most powerful of them all is an element that is far less sophisticated. To prove my point, have a look at these pictures
This picture is from the Long Jump Event 1936 Berlin Olympics – from L-R; Naoto Tajima (Japan – Bronze), Jesse Owens (USA – Gold) and Luz Long (Germany – Silver). What is striking is that while Tajima stands upright, Owens breaks into a standard salute, Long raises his arm in a Nazi salute. The Nazi salute became synonymous with the identity of Germany & despite the horrors inflicted on fellow humans, a common idea of ‘purity & superiority’ galvanized the nation. As is evident from this shot, Germany was Hitler and Hitler was Germany then.
No prizes for guessing what this picture pertains to – the partition of India. What prompted a nation that lived relatively at peace to be torn into two? While there are different opinions on this, the finger of blame can be solely laid to the false thought that persons belonging to separate religious groups cannot stay peacefully together and that the majority would constantly attempt to snuff the life out of the minority; that the minority would never get their rightful share and would be a mere side show. This lie was fed into the minds of our forefathers by Jinnah and to a large extent then, by the British. But how powerful would the thought of this ‘lie’ have been that the hands which came together in prayer now yielded the sword.
Next; look closely at this image. There is nothing extraordinary about this – its just another footprint. But what makes this footprint special is that this image is of a footprint on the moon! What prompted us men who would gaze into the skies, marvel at its beauty, & then overcome the fear of the unknown to take a plunge into the abyss called space? How brave would the first men in space have been? Imagine the power of their collective thought and the confidence in their fellow men. What you see before you, is a remarkable event in the history of humanity and a symbol of how sophisticated our brains are.
Now, back to my question – what is most powerful?
I believe that the most powerful element of them all is an ‘idea’ or a ‘thought’. It is an idea that drives us every moment of our lives. An idea has the power to create something new or, as we have seen so many times from history, destroy what we build over several years. It is the power of imagination – this power through which ideas are born – that differentiates us from other beings. As was written by Michio Kaku in his book ‘The Future of the Mind’ – the power of imagining the future is what makes us humans; other beings are stuck in the present (nonetheless, this makes them no less intelligent – see this video by David Attenborough – https://youtu.be/IFACrIx5SZ0)
What is it that galvanizes us into a coherent (and sometimes chaotic) society? It is the idea of unity. The best example here would be of India. If there was one benefit from the English sojourn in India, it would be that it united us into one nation. Surprised? Prior to the British, India was but a group, albeit massive, of kingdoms. With the annexation of these kingdoms came the idea of a nation under one administration. There are other instances in history where the Bharat stood as one. But as the wheels of time turned, it broke into fragments once again. Winston Churchill once quipped that India was no more a country than the equator! Yet, India stands together as one nation. What is India then? India is a thought; an idea; one that brings us together; one that makes us believe that, despite our petty differences, we are one nation. It is the ‘Idea of India’ that has to be reinforced time and again if we were to prevent another fragmentation.
The same theory can very well be applied to other nations as well. However, as we have also seen from history, aggressive localization of the idea of ‘one nation’ has resulted in countries waging war with one another or for that matter, has resulted in violence between ethnic groups. And yet, despite the sophistication of the nuclear arsenal at the disposal of many nations, we have not witnessed another Hiroshima for nearly 7 decades. Even India and Pakistan, though being equipped, did not use nuclear weapons during the ’99 Kargil War. What could have prevented this? Maybe the ‘Idea of Humanity’.
I believe that the ‘Idea of a Nation’ is subservient to the ‘Idea of Humanity’ and it is this idea, for the longevity of our world, which needs to be reinforced into our being. If the world has to be a better place to live in, we would need to rise above all thoughts or ideas that brings about divides or those that cause us to believe that we are in someway (race, religion, caste, wealth, knowledge et al.) superior to others.
This thought is very hard to implement – and I for one am guilty of having succumbed to the temptation of ‘superiority’ several times. Yet, if we wish to be happy and spread happiness around, we would need to yield the power of thoughts & ideas judiciously. For as we have seen above, this is no doubt, the most powerful element & as the saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.