People dying for something they believe in, for something they are fighting for. It sounds noble. It sounds heroic. It makes people larger than life. But I need to say one thing out loud. Martyrdom is bullshit. I don’t want to demean anybody’s death. I don’t want to say that their sacrifice means nothing. I don’t think that the struggle that people endured to make their voice heard, to change the world is a pointless one.
What I am angry with is a world in which people have to die in their fight to make a better world.
I think that conscious life is incredibly precious. In the context of the awesome vastness of the universe, a person who is thinking and feeling is a rare singularity. That this person will use their limited time to try to make the world suck less for themselves and for others should be awe inspiring.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to make changes to the world for the better through a rational, reasoned discussion. But this world sucks. In this world, some people who try to make a positive change are visited upon with violence. In this world, precious lives are lost because some can’t or won’t understand the changes that are being made.
That someone loses their life because they fought for something they believe in is something I can’t romanticize. I can’t bring myself to think that it’s a good thing for a person to lose their life for a cause. The idea of martyrdom is bullshit. It’s bullshit and it’s abused to add fuel to the fires of conflict. Christians justify the crusades that arguably started the world’s longest running religious conflict with their martyrs while Islamic extremists continue to compound the violence by creating martyrs.
Screw martyrs. The world doesn’t need more of them.
I write about martyrs because recently, two people have died for causes I believe are worth fighting for.
In Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer died fighting for a secular Pakistan. While he was a Muslim, he protected a Christian woman being charged with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Taseer was gunned down by his own bodyguard, a man who now thinks he is a martyr.
In Uganda, David Koto died fighting for the equal rights of the LGBT, or at the very least the right not to be discriminated against.
I don’t want to remember these men as martyrs. I think they deserve better than that. They are people who stood for their causes despite great danger. It’s a far more respectful to them to remember them for exactly their live’s works rather than to venerate them and turn them into symbols. It is far better to remember them as merely men rather than saints, for then we know that anybody can do what they did. And the more people that stand up and fight for what they believe in, the more likely the visions of these men will come to pass.
Simple men are more than martyrs.