So I was watching TV the other day (rare for me, lately) and ended up catching most of a showing of Jinnah, feat Christopher Lee (one of my favorite actors), which is about Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah (for those of you who don’t know like me) is the guy who founded the state of Pakistan as it split from India at the end of the British Colonial Period. The primary reason for the split was certain areas were Muslim majority areas, but the Muslims as a whole were a minority in India. There was something as well about them wanting their own land for the sake of having it (I’ll admit, I wasn’t paying the utmost attention).
The movie is set as Jinnah is dying, and he’s being escorted about by a Heavenly bureaucrat to review his life to see if he should go to Heaven or Hell (because apparently Heaven has a habit of misplacing their files). It’s a pretty good way of framing his story, showing both the political and the private, without getting bogged down with stuff. Plus, you get to see old Jinnah talking to young Jinnah a couple times…which opens up some time travel things, possibly.
But at one point, the Heavenly dude is talking to Jinnah and asks him “if you had to do it over again, would you change anything.” Now, Jinnah did some pretty impressive stuff and fought for what he believed in…but he also wasn’t the best husband and father (not to say he was bad though, more like typical for his time perhaps), plus some other stuff so one would think there were things he’d want to go back and change.
Jinnah responds, however (and I’m paraphrasing slightly): “No, I wouldn’t, but I would wish that others had behaved better.”
Jinnah is referring to some of the British and Indians who…did what they thought was right, even if it screwed over the formation of Pakistan (and there was some screwing over, like Kashmir, which has resulted in long term problems). But it was what he said, and how he said it, that struck me.
How often do we, as individuals, look over our lives? How often do we consider standing at the gates of the afterlife we go to, and being accountable for our deeds? And what would we say about our deeds at that.
It is something I do think about. I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who will take issue at that, as they have with others who have brought up the Gods, Judgement, Accountability, and the Afterlife…but my practice is a practice of Hela, and the Dead, so these things are integral to my religious path. Say “it detracts form this world and its issues” and you’ll be right…but those issues are not part of my religious practice. Death is.
I often think back over my life and wonder: “is there anything I would do differently?” And often enough, even though a lot of bad shit has happened in my life, I tend to say no…because to change that would be to change who I am. I would not be who I am had I not made the choices I did, and I try always to make a choice I will not regret. Do I wish others had “behaved better” in my life? Yes, yes I do.
But I also realized something. Almost everyone thinks that way.
When, let’s say, Rhyd Wildermuth or John Halstead die, and they come before the Gods and they experience some sort of Celestial Review….do you think they would say anything but the same? “I wouldn’t change anything, but I wish others had behaved better.” What about Joe or Krasskova? Clinton or Trump? Any one of you?
Would you say or feel anything but the same?
In life, we want to feel like we’re the hero of our story. That our Morality is the best morality. That we’re the righteous, the noble, the good guy fighting to make the world a better place. Oh sure, we’ll tell ourselves we’re accepting of other people’s moralities…and we are…so long as they tend to run parallel to ours. The instant they run crossways though, it’s a fight and they’re a bad person.
This is especially true of those who take positions of leadership. Who want to build something lasting, a legacy, a vision made real and whole. Like Jinnah and Pakistan, Rhyd with his Marxist Society, John with his Atheistic Paganism, or Krasskova with her Devotional Paganism. It doesn’t matter if you’re a leader of one or millions.
There are plenty of people who I wish had behaved better in my life. Of course, I’m sure there are plenty out there who wish I had behaved better as well. But I didn’t choose to change my behavior to suit them…nor did they choose to change their behavior to suit me. There are oaths I didn’t flex on that maybe some wish I had. There are oaths that others flexed/broke that I wish they hadn’t. Each of us feels justified in our actions, that they were the right ones. Or so I presume. But there are things I could have done in the past that could have circumvented behaviors that I did not appreciate…but I did not do those things. Because of consequences, because of cowardice, because of law and oath, because of humility or humanity…I didn’t do them…and so the behaviors that I wish had “been better” are also on my hands in a way.
Is it reasonable for me to be upset at the “misbehaviors” of those I wish had “behaved better” when I myself would not change anything I had done? If I did not do what I had done, endured what I have endured, I would not be who I am, where I am, for good or ill. Nor would they be them. Is it reasonable for me to demand someone “destroy” themselves for my benefit…especially when I had the chance to destroy them for my benefit and did not?
Honestly, that would be like expecting a man to commit suicide simply so I didn’t have to get my hands dirty by executing him.
So I suppose this is written for everyone across all the lines. When you think “I wish this person would behave better,” stop for a moment and consider. You are very well asking them to destroy who they are, were, and would be by changing their behavior in to suit yours…because you feel it is justified that they do so for your benefit. And they might very well be wanting the same from you, to behave differently than you are, to behave better. If you would change nothing, but wish others to behave better…you would ask a man to kill himself so that you do not have to.
But one should never ask another to do a thing they were not willing to do themselves. They should not ask another to suffer a thing they would not suffer themselves. If you will not kill for your beliefs, you should not expect another man to kill himself because he stands in your way.
I suppose this could be interpreted as a way of saying “have the courage to kill for yourself,” but only if one wanted to look at it that way. This is a realization as violent or non-violent as the person who accepts the revelation. If you will not kill, do not ask another to kill themselves for you. And if you will kill for yourself, then do so, do not expect another to simply hand you the victory.
If I had to do it over again, would I do anything differently? No.
But I suppose, at the end of the day…I shouldn’t have expected people to behave better when I refused to make them do so. Nor should I ask them to, when I refuse to behave better for their sake.