What makes people change?

12 May

I was just asked by a Muslim person (I suppose username “gloryToAllah” belongs to a Muslim) in a comment to my YouTube  video on Chewing sticks to give him a proof that chewing sticks had been used widely (by all old nations), when Muslims used it and all other nations mocked them for that?

Here are my thoughts on the question…

If miswak (chewing stick) is a major distinguishing item that qualifies a Muslim, then I have to ask the question: How many Muslims world wide use only miswak for oral hygiene? I doubt there is any extensive study but judging by the Muslims I met on my travels the percentage is low. And even when I did meet someone using it they still had a plastic toothbrush in their bathroom.  Today miswak is hardly anything more than ritualistic paraphernalia used by very few.

And one more thing: if key proof of being the inventor of something is that other mock you for it then I am actually the inventor of the chewing stick! You can’t imagine how much others mock me for it! And I actually use only miswak — no toothbrush at all!

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Anyone who does something differently than the people around him gets mocked for it, whether he’s the first to come up with it or not.

In other words: I don’t think the above question was well thought over. If you’re proud of a good habit that your ancestors (supposedly) initiated (and were even mocked for it), but at the same time you’re not cultivating it yourself, you’ve lost the right to claim it!

Why did you stop doing it? You gave up your good habit and adopted a dull plastic tool that was sold to you by unscrupulous tradesmen who care more about their profit then about your health. Should I moralize any further? I could but I don’t think it would make any difference.

I gave up trying to give people the facts, I can’t really give you any facts. I am always giving interpretations and then you filter them through your mental sieve and give me back your interpretations. I gave so many well researched, proven “facts” to people through books, articles and videos but I saw very, very little change. What makes (most) people change is either fear or social pressure.

If everyone around you does something stupid, you’ll be doing it too, only to fit in. You’ll defend this stupid habit and even if you agree with the arguments you’ll go on doing the stupid thing because otherwise you’d stand out and risk being mocked for it. If you’re threatened by punishment for not doing something that will be a very strong incentive for doing it. In cultures based on fear creative freedom and non-violent truthfulness are practically impossible.

Isn’t it interesting how people who defend an old innovation for which their ancestors had been mocked, identify with this innovation (even without even practicing it), and at the same time hide in the herd without risking to do something new, fearing they’d be mocked or even punished by others? It doesn’t end there: they’ll be the first to mock those who are doing  something different.

So, I don’t really care if you use miswak or not. I don’t care was The Prophet the first to use it or not. I don’t want to try to prove to you anything, even though I could have given you a list of articles from medical journals with research about usage of chewing sticks on all continents by tribes that existed long before our civilizations. I also don’t want you or anybody else to start using miswak due to guilt feelings or religious zealotry.

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I’ve been a religious zealot. I’ve been writing a diary for eight years in that state of mind. And looking at my diary I know that religions don’t care whether the facts are right, they care about proving their interpretations are right — regardless of the facts. That’s why I’ll never try to prove anything to a religious person. They already know and they know that I don’t know because I don’t think like them (meaning: like their religious authority).

When you see two groups of people categorically disagreeing about something, you may be sure neither of them cares about facts. They only care about their own “truth” and they won’t feel OK until they convert the other to their own “truth”.

A wise man from Belgrade, Duško Radović, said it so wisely: “When we know, we all know the same, when we don’t know, each one of us doesn’t know differently.”

Ultimately we end up fighting about completely unimportant stuff and forget noticing all the beautiful characteristics we have in common!

I am sure the man who asked me the question about miswak is a caring person, eager to do good in his own way, earnestly striving for truth and righteousness. I am sure he loves to laugh and enjoy a good meal and I know we’d find each other amazing, had we sat down and told each other the stories of our lives over our favorite meals.

I admit, I judged the man when I read the question and there is judgment of him in this text for sure! Now I must reset my thoughts and be wiser and unwrap him from my mental imagery! I can’t know him and I shouldn’t make such judgments neither of his question nor of his personality nor of his religion.

I may ponder over what it triggered in me. I may say it out loud or write it down and share it with the wide world. I may argue about social dynamics and human psychology, but I can never claim anything I’ve written is a fact! Nothing I’ve written above is a fact! I can’t give you anything else but a meandering river of my mind.

Well, there is something more I can give you! I can give you my eyes to look into and if they reflect your smile that is the best you can get from me! If this doesn’t change you, nothing will.

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Salam alekum!

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One Response to “What makes people change?”

  1. Andreja May 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Večkrat sem se spraševala, če tebe kdo lahko razkuri. Tako torej to zgleda…. Pa človek te mora imeti rad…

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