We Need To Talk

Bad days come and go far too often. Sometimes, I know why. Grief, I can understand. I know it well enough really and, hard as it can be, it is comforting in its predictability. It means I’ve lost something. It’s painful, but there is a justification for it. I can mourn. I can get closure. I can think about moving on, even if that takes a while. Same thing goes for lesser feelings of sadness. Disappointment at not meeting goals. Anger when something goes wrong. Fear when something could go wrong.

All of that makes sense. There is a clear direction, a cause and effect that can be followed and understood. It might not seem like it at the time, especially when the cause is out of my hands, but I can look back and at least comprehend why I why feel a certain way. But then, there are days when everything is going right – and it still feels completely wrong. Those are the really bad days.

I could be having the best week of my life, no question about it, and suddenly wake up the next morning feeling like the weight of the world is pressing down on my chest. Getting out of bed becomes a chore, one that needs to be broken down to make it easier. Slide the duvet off. Sit up. Put your feet on the ground. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. In an instant, what should be second nature is turned into the most daunting thing imaginable.

Forget having a productive day. Forget going about my daily routine. Forget work, forget studying, forget eating. Taking a step is now an achievement – and when I fail to do even that, I feel completely worthless. All the people I know are there for me every other day suddenly seem like strangers who would be better off without having to deal with my problems. It’s just easier to curl back in bed and not bother any more. But sleep is evasive, so my eyes stay open, the occasional flutter of their lids and the shallow rise and fall of my chest the only signs that I am not a cold, clammy statue.

This is what mental health problems can do to a person. Coming from a part of the world where the only two states of mind are sane and certifiable, it took me far too long to understand that these struggles are not uncommon. They are also extremely subjective. There might be broad symptoms for depression or anxiety or any of the other issues that can affect someone, but that does not mean any two people with the same diagnosis will react in remotely the same way.

People I care about – the same ones I feel toxic towards when I have those bad days – face these challenges too. Some are still dealing with grief from a time long past. Some are having to hide who they are because the world is unfair. Some are losing sleep because complete strangers are getting the chance to determine their future happiness. Some have a myriad of little problems that are creeping up on them. Far too many are not getting the help they deserve.

Maybe it’s the unpredictability of mental health issues that makes us unwilling to talk about them. Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge that something might be wrong. Or maybe we are too used to thinking that if something about us is different, the only acceptable solution is to fix it or hide it, not to accept it and manage it. The truth of the matter is that society still views mental health with disdain, and that judgement makes the situation even more harmful than it should be.

Bad days come and go far too often. They are terrible, but they are not terrifying. What is terrifying is that I still have to feel grateful about being given the chance to talk about my problems, that being able to share my feelings still makes me feel lucky. There is something intrinsically wrong with how we are raised to think about mental health. It is time we changed that, not because it will make us happy overnight – it is not that simple – but because it will make us okay. Right now, okay is a great start.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs in the UK from 11-17 May. Opening up about my problems to friends and family, and to professionals when needed, has changed my life. If you are reading this post, please take some time to take care of yourself and your loved ones, whether that is through professional help or simply opening up to someone you trust.

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Muzzle Me Not

Avijit Roy is dead. The man who wrote passionately against violence, who championed secularism in a country that is becoming deeply conservative, who openly proclaimed his atheism despite his nationality, and who founded an online forum to promote respect and understanding has been taken away from the world. That his passing was brought about by an abhorrent act of violence, born out of hatred and ignorance, shows how valid his concerns were.

The world has taken notice this time and it is refreshing to see. There is a genuine concern of Western-centricism in the coverage due to the focus on his dual nationality, though the media should be commended for taking up the story in the first place. Credit where credit is due – the coverage has also mentioned the similarly brutal killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013, instead of just focusing on the “American” victim of a hate crime in a developing world. The outcry has been immediate and universal. The hope is that there will be justice.

Yet, that hope has been dangled in front of us before. When Humayun Azad, another prominent writer, was attacked in 2004, we were told there would be a swift response. The seemingly agnostic academic had been an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalism and it was the same zealots whom he criticised who ended his life.

Haider was born a Muslim but became an atheist, which in itself can prove fatal in the often volatile arena of Bangladeshi society. His blog helped influence the mass Shahbag protests and, sadly, it was his justified remarks against extremism that signed his death warrant. As with Azad, the authorities put on a show of consoling his family while promising action.

Unlike the other two, Roy had never held any allegiance to Islam, whether the peaceful religion or the warped version that is far too often spouted these days. Born Hindu – the largest religious minority, increasingly facing violent discrimination – the self-identifying lived in the USA but returned to his homeland because of his love for its history and culture, having visited the annual national book fair at the time of his death. Protests erupted after his death, followed by more promises from the higher-ups.

The harsh reality is that the violence meted out to these outspoken individuals was quick, but justice has been painfully slow. The impunity with which these attacks take place is terrifying. The attack on Roy and his wife, who thankfully survived but was severely injured, took place at a popular cultural festival. It was a Thursday, the start of the Bangladeshi weekend, so it was definitely crowded.

Yet, no one has been able to identify the culprits, let alone identify them. Haider’s attackers remain anonymous. So too do Azad’s. It is almost certain that there are tens, if not hundreds, of victims in this same time period who have also gone unnoticed, killed because they dared to speak their minds.

This is a part of the world where security services and the legal system suffers equally from self-created ineptitude and systemic obstacles. So, it is difficult to say whether this inaction is meant to be silent approval by the status quo of the removal of these radical, humanist thinkers or a case of resources being stretched too thin, or a combination of both.

What is certain, however, is that we are being muzzled as much by the ineptitude of the authorities as by the murderers themselves. To face adversity when standing up for a just cause is expected. But to then not be supported by those who claim to be fighting for righteousness, just as we are, makes it far worse. Avijit Roy is dead. As much as I hate to say it, but the ideals and the freedoms he espoused might follow suit.

Charity and Change

The success of the ALS ice bucket challenge (or the MND ice bucket challenge if you are in the UK) has sparked a lot of interest regarding the role of social media in raising awareness and funds for charities. On the monetary front, it has been an unconditional success, as it has raised millions of dollars and pounds for the respective organisations. It has also led to a lot of debate regarding charities in general and has created off-shoots such as the rice bucket challenge to feed the homeless in South Asia and multiple clean water initiatives. What it has not been able to do, however, is initiate a lasting culture of change and support that would really help charitable causes. Nor has it been able to create a long-term commitment to tackling the problem it championed, instead amassing a gigantic fund in one go that, in reality, might not make much difference.

First of all, it needs to be noted that the majority of people who donated with the challenge are those who are likely to donate to charities anyway. They might have decided to prioritise ALS (or any of its off-shoots) due to its current popularity, or they might have made an additional donation to it alongside causes they normally support anyway, but the ones who took time to spend money on the campaign are those who would not have needed convincing in the first place. A lot of other people simply wanted to dare their friends into drenching themselves and took advantage of that trend, evidenced by the large number of videos and accompanying texts that made no mention of the charitable nature of the campaign at all and instead only focused on the participant looking tough while getting doused in freezing water.

With regards to information, the challenge did raise awareness about the disease itself by talking about its causes and effects, but it did not place it within the larger context of rare and orphan diseases. This is, of course, no fault of the charities – their job is to focus on their own work – but there has been virtually no discussion about the actual prevalence and general pharmaceutical funding for the disease. This is not restricted to the ice bucket challenge either; the recent social media campaigns for types of cancer did not try and place the condition in any context. With cancer, that does not matter as much because it is already an issue discussed regularly in the mainstream.

With orphan diseases, that is not the case and it really needs to be. This is particularly problematic because, while the challenge has raised millions, very few participants actually know how much their contributions helped in practical terms. Not this should act as a means of discouraging such donations, but we need to be aware of whether this sort of spontaneous challenge is enough on its own. Common sense would suggest it is not, but common sense usually goes out the window when we are busy congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

Challenge-specific issues aside, the one key failure of mass social media campaigns is its short-term legacy. The ice bucket challenge has been a longer trend than other similar campaigns, which is excellent to see, but it is already winding down. We have donated; therefore, we have done our part. But the work of the charities are not over and the disease is far from being eradicated. Spontaneous campaigns need to be complemented with larger awareness campaigns that encourage long-term commitments by participants. Groups like Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Trevor Project, while similarly requiring donations, tend to prioritise recruiting volunteers because working directly with the organisations provides a deeper understanding of their situation and, therefore, is more likely to make us continue supporting them.

This lack of understanding is reflected by how very few people did not appreciate the difference between the US-based ALS Association and the UK-based MND Association, often donating to the one that was across the pond for them when they wanted to support the local initiative. It did not help that allegations of misusing funds were levelled at the US charity and that they tried to monopolise the ice bucket challenge so that other charities, like Macmillan Cancer Support, could not use it to raise their own funds. The latter attempt was dropped, thankfully. The former concern, meanwhile, was created by misinformation; the US charity did use a large portion of its funds to pay its employees but no CEO bonuses were cashed in using donations.

Unfortunately, when this sort of misinformation plagues such a rapid campaign, it can lead to a sudden drop in support when there is no larger understanding to help counter it. The fact that charities work differently in the US than they do in the UK also complicated matters further because UK donors thought that the MND Association worked in the same way and withheld their support for a while. Further obstacles, such as religious opposition based on how MND research involves stem-cell techniques or environmentalist concerns regarding animal testing, means that the necessarily short-term nature of such campaigns are eventually detrimental.

Charities require substantial support. Coming from a country where most good comes from NGO’s, but where a lot of these NGO’s then feel like they can do whatever they want as a result of that importance, I can appreciate the tricky balance that needs to be struck when handling such important issues. From experience, I can say that working with a group is the best way to assuage any concerns you might have regarding a particular group. Reading a few different Google results (from reliable sources of course) is a good alternative. At the end of the day, however, there needs to be a deeper understanding of how things work, even if it might not give us the chance to brag about helping out.

This post is by no means an attempt to prevent people from donating to the ice bucket challenge. Nor is it a ringing endorsement of the campaign.* All I ask is that whoever reads this understands that charitable organisations and their concerns are complex, and they take the time to find out about a cause they want to support.

*My humble suggestion is to try and support a local initiative. In my home country of Bangladesh, concerns like homelessness, clean drinking water for slums, labour rights, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare and education, and food distribution, are just some concerns that regularly get overlooked, and it might be more beneficial to try and support a group tackling those instead of channelling finite resources into an already-burgeoning campaign.

Hobby Lobby: The Dangers of Imposing Values

Apologies for the delay in addressing this, but here is a piece on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision in the USA. It is a worrying precedent because it is essentially arguing that the rights of a corporation are more important than those of a human being. Once again, a fundamental flaw of capitalist society seems to have been accepted. The piece is from the University of Warwick newspaper The Boar, in the Comments section: http://theboar.org/2014/08/10/hobby-lobby-dangers-imposing-values/#.U-eBt_ldXF4

In a recent landmark ruling, the US Supreme Court has decided, by a margin of one vote, to allow companies a religious exemption from laws that might go against the owners’ beliefs, provided that there are other means of adhering to the foundations of those laws. The Hobby Lobby case was aimed at forms of contraception that were supposed to be covered by the company’s insurance under the Affordable Care Act but which the staunchly Christian company found objectionable.

Living in the UK, where the NHS has free sexual health clinics and awareness programmes, alongside such groups as the Family Planning Association, it might be easy for us to forget how valuable free birth control really is. It might also be possible to try and objectively justify the Supreme Court’s decision. After all, the ruling’s “other means” clause implies that alternative forms of contraception must still be provided, especially since the case was only launched against 4 out of a possible 20 forms covered under the ACA.

Unfortunately, the reality of the ruling and its ramifications are very worrying. In their deluded omnipotent glory, the judges decided to put all 20 forms of contraceptives under the exemption clause and not just the 4 in the original court filings. This means that individuals who do not have any scruples using these forms and who might be unable to afford them unless covered by their employment insurance can legally be denied them if their employer happens to be more religiously conservative.

This also sets a precedent for other crucial rulings to be hampered by over-zealous Republicans and Republican appointees trying to woo over the right-wing voter base. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would eliminate sexuality-based employment discrimination, has already lost steam because of the various religious exemptions added to it. It is one thing to provide religious exemptions for laws that affect religious bodies – such as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 in the UK.

However, the Hobby Lobby case is not one of religious protection; it is one of religious strong-arming. It was seen earlier in the ill-fated SB 1062 debate, but this time, the danger has not subsided. Values created by religious beliefs should be kept firmly in the private sphere. For a country with so many high-profile radicals, it should be remembered that the US Constitution acknowledges this by clearly separating Church and State in the First Amendment. As soon as these values are put into law, they allow prejudices to be defended.

Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby has been considered a victory for the religious right and for any politician spouting the old “family values” shtick. The truth is that is a loss for women’s rights. In a terrifying chain of events, it is also not the only loss. The Supreme Court has deemed abortion clinic buffer zones, aimed at protecting people from vitriolic pro-lifers, unconstitutional. This while the fight against abortion reaches new highs. It would seem that, in the eyes of the American judiciary, it is far more important to preserve a specific interpretation of religious rights than it is to protect women’s health.

The UN’s Latest Questionable Decision

Another post from the University of Warwick’s newspaper The Boar where I look at the United Nations General Assembly’s next President, Mr. Sam Kutesa, and his questionable track record on LGBTQ+ rights, corruption and views on human rights in general: http://theboar.org/2014/07/06/dis-united-nations-appoint-homophobe-president/#.U71s3vldVFM

Since its inception, the UN has strived to represent the best of humanity. It was meant to be a beacon of hope, taking the idealism of its predecessor, the League of Nations, while learning from its mistakes. While some of its bodies like UNICEF and UNESCO have been able to fulfil their potential, the more well-known organisations have unfortunately come to epitomise the very worst of political strong-arming and sycophancy.

With its current reputation for being an ineffective political entity, it is difficult to imagine the UN disappointing anyone with a bad decision. It is a mark of how horrible their latest move really is then, that disappointment would have been the optimal reaction they could have hoped for. This is because Uganda’s Foreign Minister, Sam Kutesa, has been appointed the next President of the UN General Assembly, the so-called “world parliament”, starting in September of this year.

The UNGA President is rotated between five geographical groups (Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe and Other States) on a yearly basis. Under their guidance, the UN’s largest organ elects the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, members of the Economic and Social Council and judges for the International Court of Justice. It also votes on a range of non-binding international resolutions.

The role of the President is arguably largely ceremonial. Although they can influence the direction of debate, they have no executive authority or any veto. Nonetheless, they are supposed the be the spokesperson for the largest supra-governmental body on the planet and that does not come without some degree of influence. It is, therefore, particularly worrying that Mr. Kutesa has been chosen for this role.

As Uganda’s Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in pushing forward his country’s laws regarding the criminalisation of homosexuality. A vocal opponent of any “unnatural” human interactions, Mr. Kutesa is credited with being one of the people who convinced the Cabinet not to scrap the law even under international pressure. With LGBTQ+ rights being such a crucial topic around the world at this moment, the next UNGA head is expected to have to handle various discussions and resolutions on issues such as commitments to equal sexual rights.

His track record on that one significant issue is bad enough of course, but Mr. Kutesa is no poster child for any subject, never mind the fact that his outrage against homosexuality stems from a supposed belief in moral good. His record on corruption is shameful, amassing millions in a country that has significant poverty. He has regressive views on HIV/AIDS and he does not endorse the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights,* calling the latter a matter of ethical superiority rather than unimpeachable truths.

Sam Kutesa is, by any modern standards, a loathsome individual. He has actively worked to hamper equality and he has almost medieval views on authority and privilege. If the UN’s justification for selecting him is that it is purely a formality, then the implication is that they really are a symbolic body with no power at all. The alternative is that the UNGA which elected him consists of bigots like himself. It is difficult to think which is worse.

*Based on a comment made regarding the newspaper article, I feel I must make one addition. While I concede that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is itself an arbitrary document, which therefore does not make it an unimpeachable truth, it is the basis for rights across the world and is also the basis for any burgeoning equality movement in the contemporary world. For Mr. Kutesa to so openly mock it and still get elected to the position he has now been elevated to is problematic.

Fitting In: How the Internet Responded to the California Killings

The California shootings and the events preceding it were some of the most chilling things I have read about. It was encouraging that the reaction to it saw some positive discussions on issues that are so often overlooked. However, I have noticed that some online discussions have become very simplistic and threaten to take the debate in the opposite direction of its initial intentions.

I recently wrote a piece for the University of Warwick’s newspaper, The Boar, that examines this shift towards forcing the debate into one box. I should make it clear that it is by no means an attempt to discredit the#YesAllWomen tag, which I think has been one of the most positive things to have come out of such tragedy. If it does come across that way, I sincerely apologise. I just felt it was important to make sure that the perspective that was seen when the tag and the accompanying discussions were initiated is not lost because of the opinions of a vocal and misguided minority within the debate

 

It has become a tragically common part of reality that there is at least one violent mass shooting per year in the USA which becomes headline news. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Sandy Hook – these names are now synonymous with unimaginable grief. Unfortunately, Isla Vista has now joined their ranks in infamy.

The facts of the incident are chilling. 22-year-old Elliot Rodger had been suffering from severe mental health issues, compounded by feelings of isolation. Blaming women for being rejected, most notably at a college event where he had exhibited some aggresive tendencies, he posted an online manifesto mapping out his intention to kill sorority members. He went on to kill 6 students using weapons legally registered to him before shooting himself through the head.

Immediately after the incident, messages of condolences flooded the internet along with a thorough examination of his motives. The video and written manifesto that Rodgers had posted before he went on his killing spree were easily available. When his statement became widely-known, it launched a significant debate on misogyny and the negative perceptions of “friendzoning”.

Commenters on multiple online platforms, most notably on YouTube and Tumblr, began a healthy debate on the unspoken acceptance of how men seem to “deserve” attention, and how this unchallenged culture of expectation creates a deadly environment for women to live in. A twitter hashtag “#YesAllWomen” was also launched to highlight the prevalence of daily violence created by supposedly harmless male-female interactions.

Amidst the heartache, it seemed that the world was ready to take notice of a greater problem and, while it by no means brings justice to the victims, it was a positive by-product of a horrific incident. Sadly, as is far too often the case, what started as a much needed discussion turned into an over-simplified and sometimes ugly blame game. The online comments and the Twitter hashtag brought vital attention to the abuse of women and the unfair societal expectations placed on them.

However, these same commenters became extremely aggressive when attempts were made to discuss the other aspects of this tragedy. While the discussions rightfully pointed out Rodgers’ feelings of rejection as the trigger of the shooting, they wrongfully painted all of the victims as female. The first three to have been killed were the attacker’s male roommates, alongside a fourth male victim later on.

Similarly, any mention of Rodgers’ severe – and reportedly violent – mental health history was brushed off, apparently because this was coming to his defence. The fact that many other mass shooters, regardless of their or their victims’ gender, have similar histories was quickly dismissed, an alarming reflection on how mental health care is perceived to be inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

Not to mention the fact that the question of gun control and background checks, normally the first point of discussion, seems to have slipped under the radar, even though it is known that Rodgers had legally purchased all three of the weapons with which he carried out the killings.

The debate on women’s abuse that has been sparked by the Isla Vista killings is very necessary. While some have attempted to dismiss it, it is crucial that a usually overlooked feature of these alarmingly frequent attacks is delved into. It is doubly important in a case that was so clearly precipitated by feelings of emasculation and rejection. What should not happen, however, is for well-meaning commenters to then ignore the various other, equally relevant aspects of this tragedy.

Misogyny is a very real thing and should by no means be treated as irrelevant to the tragedy. The strength of the discussions has been using the tragedy as the impetus for further discussions on a wider, more problematic issue. The debate – specifically on social media, not the news – has seen some attempts, however, to try and make Isla Vista the focal point (as opposed to the starting point) of just one issue, instead of on a range of them.

Elliot Rodgers went on his rampage because he felt like he did not fit in. Let us now not try to fit a complex issue into one single box; it is a disservice to the severity of the incident and it risks misrepresenting what should be a deeply nuanced discussion.


After receiving some feedback, I added one paragraph to the original piece for further clarification of my position. For the original, please see here: http://theboar.org/2014/05/31/fitting-internet-responded-california-killings/#.U4n6-PldVFM

A Plea, a Poem

I have not had the pleasure of having a guest post prior to this, and I am extremely happy that this is my first one. At the moment, the situation in Bangladesh is chaotic at best, destructive at worst. My brother, a writer from that part of the world, currently living abroad but every bit as Bangladeshi as those suffering from the upheavals back home – and certainly more so than the selfish minority causing them – recently wrote about it. Instead of trying and failing to explain his work, I am attaching his piece along with a plea that he agreed to post with it. He asks that anyone who is genuinely interested in this situation spread the word and get the world to notice. He is happy to answer any questions or elaborate, should you wish to get in touch with him.

Bangladesh is dying a slow, painful death in the blind-spot of the world. My fellow countrymen and I have let the country down repeatedly, and we find ourselves staring down a familiar abyss once more. My frustration, desperation and depression, accentuated by feelings of inadequacy and insignificance, boiled over today and took the form of a poem, a plea, a prayer. I had to share it with you because I, and many others, hold out hope for a golden sky at the end of this storm. To achieve that, we need the attention of the world.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and, if it is any good, sharing it with people like yourself who can genuinely care about my country and its people. You have the gratitude of a repentant Bangladeshi. If I can ever be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to ask. All I want in return is help for my motherland.

 Very best,

 Ikhtisad

Website: http://www.ikhtisadahmed.com

Twitter: @ikhtisad

 

Thine Kingdom Is Mine

 

Nazrul died today, newspaper says,

Spelt his name wrong, common mistake:

Unimportant, not an op-ed or commentary,

What does it matter anyway?

Father is well and mother survives,

My abode keeps me warm –

Veritable ivory tower, for far away

It is from the damned land.

 

Boy of nine this time, breaking news,

Left on the street to rot, fitting;

You want his name? Perish

The thought, who knows such things?

Father is well and mother survives,

They have democracy for comfort,

And fire on the streets for warmth,

No comparison with my “Communist Manifesto”.

 

Beaten copy, I pat once again –

Feign horror, cry for salvation,

Crocodile tears learnt from the master:

Young leader in pin-striped suit,

Champagne and caviar at night,

Saves us with chest-thumping by day,

Pretence for golden ticket, another slight,

A minister he will be tomorrow, celebrate!

 

His raping and pillaging will have to wait –

Doctor tries to resuscitate a corpse,

One more, what is the difference?

The elders speak of democracy,

Their time is now, we are saved!

Father is well and mother survives,

Wheels turn, world goes round, 

Today’s leaders do so much for us!

 

My gratitude almost given before

Sufiya’s burnt, beaten, blood-stained

Body into focus comes, in print and on screen –

One question: fat or pregnant?

Obesity averted or over-population tackled?

Victory for leaders either way;

Father is well and mother survives,

Join me here they will, together to thrive.

 

Green and red held above our heads,

Pictures I see of celebrations –

Leaders young and old have their say, I 

Join my countrymen from distant land

In their pride on this meaningless sacred day;

Father is well, but mother is silent,

Think nothing of it, she has democracy

To pull her through for decades more.

 

Mother is dead I am told –

First flight to Bangladesh, empty

Going that way, foolish to pay full price;

Plane descends, but no water in the land

Of rivers I see, only hues of red

All over, ablaze and flowing,

Turning, twisting, repeating;

Why am I even here, I wonder?

 

Funeral day, no-one left to mourn,

Nazrul, Sufiya, the nine year-old –

All too selfish, not here beside me;

Second problem: no place to bury,

Left and right I search, we have democracy

This cannot possibly be!

The columns, the talk-shows, the biases:

They were convincing, they assured me!

 

Toss her in the fire, cremation,

Paid the big bucks for my innovation

I am, now back I go, no time to mourn.

Before boarding chartered plane,

With a camera in my face, I say a word,

Maybe even two, I cannot stop!

Limelight seized, father is well

And we have democracy I tell.

 

Too long I spend being self-important,

Something mispoken or a step taken wrong –

They come and take me away,

Today I will die, they say.

This is democracy, I understand,

If not them then the other side

Will kill me for sure, I know this fact;

“Oh mother, what have I done?” I never ask,

No tears forthcoming, why should they?

I feel nothing, those who do are long dead.