Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Saqamoli for Your Thoughts

I am sure that many of us a grateful for the fact that there is no such thing as the Thought Police here in Fiji. We may be punished for our written and spoken words, our meetings or marches, perhaps even our You-Tube broadcasts; but as yet the Public Order Act, Public Service regulations, and other ad hoc means of censure have yet to design a means of detecting and apprehending thoughts that go against the thoughts of the ruling junta and its fearless leader.

A number of books and films, point to the future in which thoughts and intentions are not only monitored but controlled. While, this is yet to happen, in Fiji at least. It's not hard to see where this would lead us.

Could, for example, the coups of 1987, 2000 and 2006 been prevented, had we known what was being thought by the “masterminds”. Could the recent centipede attack which has delayed our elections been avoided, had the victim known the intention of the centipede in question. Would the relatives of happily newly-wed couple from Qauia have filed the missing persons' report if they had bothered to read the mind of the couple, or in fact realised that most couples do not sit down and drink grog or whatever with their friends on the evening of their marriage.

If a thought monitoring system was introduced, would the statement “a penny for your thoughts” be contextualised into “a saqamoli for your thoughts” and then actualised into a thought-tax or thought fine depending on what you thought of the current regime. This may have been the thinking behind the much discussed back-pay or the much deferred pay-rise.

Reality is such, that too often we have experienced, and on occasion are guilty ourselves of, one thing being done or said while another thing is being thought. We call the art of discerning what is thought from what is said or written or done, “being able to read between the lines” or in literary and dramatic circles “read the subtext”. Some legal eagles, interim or otherwise, refer to it as “reading the small print”(in our current situation the small print can only be read by reversing the Hubble Telescope).

I suggest that if we gave this process some serious thought (no pun intended – I think), we could begin to really understand the apparent contradictions by our fearless leaders.

For example, if those affected by the floods could read the minds of the junta, they might be able to understand why despite having a military-run government, the military – did not immediately deploy its extremely capable sappers (engineers) and other troops to assist during and following the natural disaster. They might have been able to find out whether the junta can only think of one type of clean-up at a time.

We, the people, would know through this process, that when the “March '09” election promise was made, our fearless leader was actually thinking “March '19,” or perhaps he was thinking that in March '09 he would make an announcement about when he actually thought elections might possibly be held, or be given further thought.

If journalists could read the minds of those they interview, they would not find themselves being attacked for misquoting. If Russell Hunter, Evan Hannah and Rex Gardiner could read the minds of the Government, they would have booked their tickets, said their goodbyes and had time to do some duty-free shopping before being “expelled”.

If the Auditor-General could read the minds of the Military he would be able to understand how (and hopefully why) they processed their fearless leader's back pay. If we could read Mr. Vatuloka's mind he wouldn't even have to make his report public.

Perhaps we would know whose words are being spoken by whom. Our fearless leaders would not have needed a Charter process or even response form as they would be able to know exactly what people thought of the Charter.

FICAC could save time by frog-marching all those under investigation and charge them for thinking in a corrupt manner.

There is a famous saying that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”. It is usually used in reference to those who drop out of school, abuse various substances (although not many dare apply it to those minds wasted by excessive kava-drinking) or turn to a life of crime. However, many of us who consider ourselves educated, intelligent or wise waste our thoughts. Einstein, I believe, once said, “Small minds discuss people. Medium minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” If this is the case then perhaps the greatest waste is those great minds that discuss ideas which only serve the interests of a few.

But we are also a nation of great non-thinkers, of people who like to speak before thinking. The lesson of “engaging the brain before opening the mouth” has been lost on many who, to use a non-military term, prefer to “shoot from the hip” or perhaps “fire from the lips”.

Just as physically we may be what we eat, so psychologically we may just be what we think. If we continue to think of ourselves as oppressed and powerless, should we be surprised when leaders act like tyrants and despots?

We may like to think that while we may be able to control our actions and our speech, we cannot control our thoughts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nineteen-year-old Liu Shih-Kun was an esteemed concert pianist in China until the Cultural Revolution banned all things of Western influence. Refusing to renounce his beloved music, Liu was deemed an enemy of the people, beaten and imprisoned. There he languished in a tiny cell with no books, no paper, and even worse - no piano.

Six years later, for propaganda reasons, he was asked to play in Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. After years without an instrument to practise on, he performed brilliantly. And 18 months later when he was finally released, he again played flawlessly. That Liu survived is remarkable; that his hands continued to move as if they'd never stopped playing is amazing.

His secret? Stripped of everything musical, for seven and a half years Liu disciplined himself to shut out negative thoughts and practise hour after hour on an imaginary piano.

In a country that craves, peace, reconciliation and a united positive future, how many of us practice thinking positively, practice peace and imagine a reconciled and united nation to the extent that we can manifest it in reality when the opportunity comes?

A well respected counsellor says: "We don't realise the extent to which our own thinking contributes to our mental anguish. The earlier you stop 'thought attacks' the easier it is to regroup and get back on track.

Now, while the concept is simple, it's not easy to implement. Once you start paying attention you'll probably discover you have a lot more 'thought attacks' than you can possibly imagine." Police shout "Freeze!" when they want to stop a suspect and protect themselves. And you can freeze out harmful thinking by capturing every thought and making it "obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5 NIV). Paul says: "This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with... spiritual forces" (Eph 6:12 GWT).

Your thoughts have power. To win over them, you must submit to Christ and control what you allow your mind to dwell on.

Think about it.

May the rest of your week be blessed with light, love, peace and positive thoughts.

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