I recently came across a quote from the Isa Upanishad, Hindu Scripture. It simply reads: “who sees all beings in his own self and his own self in all beings, loses all fear”. I found it confusing and contradictory but on a deeper consideration of the quote, I realised that most of the problems we face today are a joke when compared to what lies ahead of us. Why? Fear, our ancient companion. Suddenly, my mind was a race track with so many thoughts running through as I considered what matters most in life. The finish line was epiphany- point of realization. Are you Curious? Want to know what I discovered? First I will tell you a short story, one that you have probably heard. I will tell it anyway.
It was a warm Saturday afternoon. Joe was out with his kids and a couple of friends, having fun. They tried several stuffs, had good laughs, basically engraving some pleasant memories on the walls of their hearts. The kids were clamouring for a boat ride and of course they required a chaperone. Yours truly, Joe volunteered; after all the air was cool and the water was calm. Everyone wore a life jacket and the ride began. To the children, Christmas came early as they sang rhymes and told stories. All of a sudden, the storm crept out and the water began to boil. Yes, literally boil. One, two and all the occupants of the boat were poured into the water. Only then did Joe realize that not all the life jackets were fastened properly. The screams changed the water to a labour room. The children labored to swim as they screamed like a pregnant woman being delivered.
Joe’s eyes opened in horror realizing the magnitude of his predicament. A few metres away from him was Mary, his friend’s daughter and further away was his son, James. Joe could only save one of them given the circumstance. He began to swim towards his son. Now pause. What do you see? A rational being?
I see protectionism, but not in the context of international trade. I see the tendency to protect “one’s own”. It is like the Albatross in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime ofthe Ancient Mariner”. The cross of protectionism is getting heavier by the day. Although we view wars, acts of terrorism and violation of human rights as principal threats to peace and development, there are other variables that pose a greater threat- Family, legal system, religion, language, racism to mention but a few which now go with the prefix, “my”. These variables are the vehicles of protectionism; and fear is the ultimate fuel. Fear of tomorrow, fear of the unknown and even fear of the known.
A wise man once said that poverty is the fear of what tomorrow holds. This fear is evident in every strand of the fabric of today’s society. There is a responsibility we owe to all humanity, especially future generations to launder this fabric. It transverses our families, race, religion and other barriers we have put up as barricades. This is an exercise that involves every one of us as we are all proponents of protectionism. A couple of us might beg to be excused, by denying any form of affinity with this reality, but our subsequent detailed discuss of each of the variables of protectionism will prove that indeed all have sinned. Watch out!