Thursday, February 26, 2009

I know what you did last summer: Sowing guilt and reaping profits

What is the one thing that we find difficult to handle but which resurfaces time after time? The feeling of guilt which comes out when we read something, listen to a talk or watch a programme on T.V. But what happens when this horrible feeling is manufactured in an assembly line, marketed and advertised in the truest professional sense and sold to an unsuspecting public who then have to buy the product which will help them overcome guilt?

This is then the spiritual commodity of guilt which is sown into the minds of the believers and non-believers, leading to the reaping and filling of the coffers of religious institutions. Rather than dwelling on the liberating aspects of equality, love, peace and justice, religious leaders like to dwell on what has gone wrong in the lives of the ordinary person. Even prophetic voices have turned into ‘I know what you did last summer!!’, sending the believer crashing down into the lowest of low’s with drooping shoulders and negative thoughts.

But does it mean that we should not discuss our past and deal with what has happened in our lives? That would also be running away from what and who we are. The effort rather should be to come to terms with ourselves, not judging others, and knowing that we should do things out of genuine love and concern rather than out of guilt and fear. Religion even in this different era is reluctant to let go of the tried and tested model of playing with guilt.

Churches both in India and abroad work up the emotional quotient of people by showing pictures of poor children and their surroundings. People then pay money out of guilt rather than genuine concern. We also get a very skewed picture of spirituality that we can buy ourselves out of this feeling of guilt, by paying huge sums of money to the church. But guilt is not something which can be washed away with pieces of paper. Rather it has to be dealt with on a people to people level at first.

If we feel that we have wronged someone we have to try to talk to that someone and see whether there is an opening for rapprochement. Sometimes this might not be available easily and therefore it is a process of building bridges over a period of time. The record has to be set straight though. It is okay to feel guilty, we are all guilty of various things, guilt wont go away by paying money and we have to try and set things right with those whom we have wronged and thereby come to terms with our guilt.

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