Why we must meet hatred with love.
Q: My first grandchild was born the same day as the NZ massacre, so my joy has been tempered by a profound sense of despair about what kind of world she will be growing up in. How do we stay optimistic and hopeful in this hate-filled world?
A: Having four grandchildren, I share your concern. We are constantly assailed by news of violence, environmental degradation, corruption and selfishness. It seems naive to even hope for a better world, but it is vital that we strive to sustain hope, to meet hatred with love, and to continue to work to make things better, even if it is in small ways.
My mother was born in the Great Depression, when militant fascism was gearing up for war. She gave birth to my brother the day the Cuban missile crisis came to a head, and a nuclear holocaust seemed inevitable. She grieved about bringing a child into such horror. The sad truth is that there never were any "good old days". What has changed is that we now hear about more of the world's outrages, often as they are happening. All this bad news fosters a climate of fear, and our instinctive reaction to fear is anger and defensiveness.
Unfortunately, the world's media knows that bad news sells. And they trade on our fear. Many of the powers that be use this fear to keep their populations under control. They deliberately demonise their opponents, or single out groups of people to take the blame for problems. Through electronic communication and social media, others pick up this call to hate, often from behind the cowardly screen of anonymity.
We need to be aware of the role language plays in this. When we label someone as a racist, a sexist, a communist, a greenie or a fascist we have reduced them to a thing. Once a person has been reduced to a thing, attacking it can be justified. We do not agonise over the complexity and individuality of every cockroach, mosquito, or termite we encounter. We eradicate them with a clear conscience.
Racism, sexism, environmentalism, socialism and homophobia are systems of belief that can result in certain forms of behaviour. The man who whistles at a woman is being sexist. When you complain that coloured people are moving in next door you are being racist. We people our political landscape with "Lefties" and "Right-wingers". This use of language causes us to reduce complex human beings to goodies and baddies.
This tendency to conflate ideas and behaviours with someone's entire identity is a trap we all fall into, and it leads to hatred. We need to strive to differentiate between an individual and their beliefs and actions. This is not easy, but it is the only way we can escape the hate loop. Martin Luther King jnr said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hatred, only love can do this."
Unfortunately, leaders like King are in short supply, and fear is often cynically used for short-term political gain.
We need to be able to fight against the beliefs, by argument, behaviour, through the law, or by defending victims. As another great leader, Mahatma Gandhi, said: "Hate the sin. Love the sinner."
The trouble is that hatred and destruction are easy, but love and creativity are difficult. Years of scholarship created the great library of Alexandria, but it took moments to burn it to the ground.
Some people see love and compassion as both weak, and ineffectual, but the opposite is true. As King says: "Love has within it a redemptive power ... that eventually transforms individuals ... just keep loving them ... And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That's love, you see. It is redemptive ... There's something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive."
We need to embody the changes we want to see in the world, and choose leaders who are willing to take us along the higher path.
About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media and kindly shared on Bliss for Women. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can email her through firstname.lastname@example.org using About Last Night in the subject of the email.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please read product packaging carefully and follow all instructions.