We are born with an identity. Even as strangers we have some sort of identity. You are born a boy or a girl, a Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu. You are rich or poor. You are ‘pure-blooded’ or you are ‘mixed’. “Mud blood”, as Harry Potter would say. If you’ve ever looked at newly born babies, and your mind is anything like mine, then you see them as people with identities, futures, obstacles they will have to overcome or succumb to.
For example, a girl born in Indonesia would have to endure female circumcision anywhere from being a few days old till she reaches puberty. For some reason it is more common for this brutal act to be performed when the girl is old enough to be conscious of it and to be permanently traumatized. Of course, this not only strips her of any self-respect she may have for herself as a woman in the future, it also tells her that the point of her existence is to be an object to be used for pleasure by a man who will probably be at least twice her age. Ironically, it is usually the girl’s mother who holds her down during the procedure, which, besides being monstrous, is done without anesthesia, and has a high risk of infecting the child with countless viruses.
An African-American child born in the 1800s, for example, would not have been born a ‘son’. He’s not even a person. He’s just a future slave, to be separated from his mother and sold to the highest bidder whenever he’s old enough to walk. He will live as a slave, a servant, and he will endure a lifetime of torture, humiliation, and hardships. He will not live past the age of 30, most likely because he will die of one too many beatings.
A baby boy whose father was an alcoholic and whose mother was a foreigner, will grow up watching his father abuse his mother and his mother accepting it. He will either follow in his father’s footsteps or he will struggle to protect his mother while still wondering why she is choosing to be defenseless when she can leave her husband.
How much of our choices are really ours? Is fate a fictional concept or are we really just slaves to predestined stories that we are mere characters in?
What determines our stories? Age? Gender? Who our parents are? What our status is? Where we grew up? What kind of health problems we encountered? Who we grew up loving? What religious faith we followed? What education was imposed upon us? What country we lived in? What political instability we had to endure? What loss we dealt with? What we were blamed for?
A child whose mother died while giving birth to him may forever carry a burden on his shoulders because of that, as innocent as he is of her death. A girl who went to a religious school may grow up believing she is a walking subject of sin because of what her teachers would preach to her. Cinderella grew up lonely and oppressed because her mother died and she ended up living with an evil stepmother. Adolf Hitler decided to wipe off the Jewish race off the face of the Earth because his mother died of cancer and the Jewish doctor who treated her could not find a cure.
A stranger will look at you and write you a whole story. Based on your looks, he can determine your nationality – and he may be wrong. Maybe you have your mother’s blond hair, and the stranger will assume that you are foreign, when in fact your father is Arab. A stranger will look at you and make assumptions based on whether or not you are a veiled girl. He will look at you and decide how ‘virtuous’ you are based on how much of your skin is covered or exposed.
How much of our stories are actually written with our own pens? Is it even our pen that’s being used? Are we even put down on paper, blank and smooth at first, to be filled up with lines whose words we would determine? Or are we shackled and chained, expected to walk around with titanium cuffs around our wrists and our ankles for the rest of our lives?
What if we decide to break free from those chains? I mentioned this possibility to a friend the other day, and she said “but that’s so hard”.
Isn’t it supposed to be? What if we were literally chained? Breaking free is supposed to hurt, isn’t it? You’re supposed to end up with red, bloody wrists at the end of it. And you will have scars. And your captor will try to shut you up, and try to put you back in your place. Of course, giving up is easier. Accepting your fate as a slave, as a prisoner. Maybe even embracing those chains, figuring out ways to make them fashionable, see what else in your wardrobe would match them and make your outfit look nice. Heck, some people manage to brainwash themselves into believing they are free. Creating an alter-universe within the prison-cell they live in.
“I am free. I am choosing this fate. I am choosing to listen to all the miserable things society is expecting of me. I do not secretly desire to do all the things society tells me is taboo. I dream of all the aspirations society wants me to do; I want to end up at a job where nothing is expected of me, I want to have children that I will spoil rotten, I want to watch them grow up to be brats, I want to live without purpose, I want to consume until I am consumed. I am happy. The person I married is someone I married of my own free will. The job I work at is a job that I enjoy; I put my feet up and I drink coffee from 8 AM till 2 PM. The friendships I have are meaningful. The car I own is not for the sake of impressing people I have never met. The clothes I wear are my own taste, and I would wear them even if they weren’t trendy. I don’t sleep to escape reality. I don’t watch TV to drown out the sound of my spouse’s screaming. These chains are comfortable. They protect me from harm. My captor knows what is best for me. I will obey and abide by his wishes.”
Society’s chains are made of titanium. But our spirits are too. Question is, how far is our mind-power willing to go to break those chains? Can our spirits conquer society? What is it that holds us back? What scares us so much that we’re too afraid to even consider breaking free? Is it that we would look odd, being the only ones walking around without any chains? Would we be accused of treason, of being disloyal to the chains? The holy chains. Sacred chains. Chains of sanctity and sin, contradicting everything they claim to stand for.
I wonder, how many people actually have embraced their chains, how many have quietly submitted to them, and how many are violently fighting to break free from them?