“The mind sins, they said, not the body, and there is no guilt when intent is absent”- Livy
When I reread this quotation in preparation for my final exams, it just so chanced that it was the day after the general elections in the UK. And whilst at first I was tempted to write this article in light of the current political situation (the conservative’s re-election into power), I decided that this was not what I wanted this article and my blog page to be about. I do not want it to be about manmade affairs, for ultimately they are finite and at some point will dwindle into nothingness- people will adapt, albeit it begrudgingly, to the Tory rule, because pain and disappointment can only stay fresh in one’s mind for a certain period of time. (Of course this goes without saying that it is the same sentiment too for those who will perceive this election to be a victory) Instead I wanted this post to be about the human affairs- as if I had not stressed enough in my previous posts, for me human affairs are the universal themes and matters that are timeless by our nature; so long as humans live they will continue to exist.
Perhaps it is hypocritical of me to use the example of a punishment system, given the fact that I have just said that I would like to veer away from man-made politics (if there is even such a thing that exists as natural politics- I feel like if it does it would be sought somewhere in the region of natural philosophy) but I guess the issue of intention becomes inextricably complicated for the punishment system which bases its judgement on a statistic of above 95% reasonable doubt. How can we ever form a punishment system if we can never fully know another’s intentions? Instead I bid it safer to turn this discussion to our intentions in relation to jealously.
Jealously is perhaps one of the greatest human flaws. It is problematic in it’s formulation in that when one becomes influenced by jealously, one acts on the basis of passion and on emotional vigour, wanting to blame it on neither one’s physical actions yet even less inclined to admit that it was one’s intention to act in such a way as one did. Only few who are self-confident can admit their own defeat in this regard. If our intentions to others may be obscured it is important to always ensure that our intentions are, at the very least, clear to ourselves, for if they are not we forsake ourselves to the chance of self-delusion and permit ourselves to sometimes justify corrupt actions.
I’ve always wondered what people’s intentions are when they decide to join an army and go to war- do they really think they that killing a stranger can validate what they believe in? Or are they in fact simply drawn into the idea that their intentions so happens to be in sync with what’s been decided by the vague official voice? I’ve wondered even more often what it must feel like to be a part of something bigger than oneself. Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in our own orbs that we forget that there’s more that lies beyond school grades and job promotions. Ambition of course is good and healthy; it fuels the mind and pumps the heart, but it’s also important to remember that these materialistic things written on a piece of paper only last as long as you yourself are alive.
I guess that’s why people blindly want to be part of war, because war does not die with the individual. When I first read Stoner by John Williams I found it reckless and improbable that people should want to give up cultivation of the mind and intellectual enterprise for war- but I guess the sentiment in both undertakings is really the same- whatever the outcome, they’ll be changing the world.
I sometimes think that these people we read about in history become figures of a distant past, something legendary or out of a fairy tale, sadly, something unreal. I remember black history month in primary school whereby I had to research about Rosa Park and Martin Luther King- it was a task like any other which I undertook, not actually understanding or appreciating the significance of their campaigns. Perhaps it’s a thing that comes with time and maturity- the older I get the more astute the drops of knowledge dabbled in at a young age become, maturing into an appetite for erudition- or so they say. I feel like perhaps this is not the case for everyone. It’s certainly not the case for my grandparents who have always been sheltered form the reality of racism and at times have even been blindly racist themselves. It’s therefore an odd privilege for me to have an affiliation and understanding of a struggle that I was not personally part of, which I sometimes take for granted. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realise that ‘international week’ or ‘black history month’ is distressingly not a celebratory event, but rather it seems for me that the very fact it must have a specific allocated time almost makes the information that we learn during that time some sort of commodity on a check list that simply must be achieved. Of course this is the pessimistic way of looking at things, indeed black history month can be beneficial in raising awareness, but why should black history month only be for a month? The changes made by those individuals have changed our lives everyday, but for some reason we western countries have decided to clear our conscious by dedicating a month alone before all their trials and tribulations lay dormant again for another year, but learning is an ongoing process and there should be no apportioned time.
Williams was right when he wrote in his book “a war doesn’t merely kill off a few thousand or a few hundred thousand young men. It kills off something in a people that can never be bought back. And if a people goes through enough wars, pretty soon all that’s left is the brute, the creature that we- you and I and others like us- have brought up from the slime.” I can’t begin to fathom the constant apprehension that the wives of Nelson Mandala and Martin Luther King must have had to endure, the uncertainty and cruelty they had to undergo in their own personal wars, and perhaps the daunting realisation and resignation in Coretta Scott King’s case, when she finally got that call to tell her that her husband had been assassinated, as if all the anticipation and anxiety had built up to this moment to say ‘this is what I’ve been waiting for’- did she possibly for a second feel a moment of relief in not having to be on edge anymore before she immediately delved into regret and grief? There seems to be a certain safety in death and a comfort in one that that makes you a martyr.
Intention is a very problematic thing indeed, because if our memories are distorted every time we recall them, then it becomes easier to corrupt our original intentions and convince ourselves we envisioned something we most probably did not.