I’ve been thinking a lot about hate lately – violence, crime, and hate. I’m only one person, and my experiences and perspective are limited and subjective. I am no great intellect, nor expert, but in writing my thoughts, I hope to better measure, order, and understand them, and in sharing them, I hope to add my thoughts to the collective consciousness in the hopes that they hold some value for someone other than just myself. If you’re not interested, I respect your right to skip this exceptionally long post. I’ll be the first to admit that I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.
Here is what I see: I see a growing divide in which polarized ideologies are defining themselves as one another’s antithesis, and in which the gray area is being labeled as cowardly, selfish, ineffective, and even “a part of the problem.” I see media that sell us back condensed versions of the worst that we are capable of, because that’s what sells, what gets clicks, and what pacifies their sponsors and investors. I see social media, which has become our primary source of information and our primary medium of communication, employing algorithms to play us against one another, and expose us to that which angers us, or makes us afraid, because that translates to more frequent and longer periods of engagement, which translates to profit. I see people decrying violence, while labeling and dehumanizing one another in order to excuse and justify treating one another inhumanely – up to and including violence. I see people so goddamn CERTAIN that they’re right, that they’re not willing to listen to one another, have civil discourse, or for an instant entertain that they might be mistaken – because it’s obviously the OTHER team that’s mistaken… obviously.
I don’t know what to do about gun violence, or non-gun violence, or rape, or sexism, or racism. I’m not sure that guns turn otherwise peaceful people into criminals, and I’m not sure that people rape simply because they haven’t been told not to. I’m not sure that change in regard to -isms isn’t simply generational, and I’m not sure that our modern attention spans have the patience for the timeline of change. I’m not sure that passing more laws will stifle the actions of a group that defines itself by disregarding the law, nor am I sure that it WOULDN’T work. I do know that we want change NOW, but I don’t know how realistic or feasible immediate change is, and I know that’s frustrating.
Maybe we need to address the factors that make people want to hurt one another in the first place. Maybe we can look at the circumstances that create criminals – parenting, poverty, education, mental health, and ideology. Maybe we need to look at the way we classify and label other human beings, and maybe we need to be honest with ourselves about why we do it, and why we feel that certain “others” (be they illegal, or young, or old, or red, or blue, or stupid, or uneducated, or privileged, or toxic) are somehow less human than we are, and less deserving of our compassion and understanding.
I’ve heard that, statistically speaking, this is the safest time in human history to be alive – so why don’t we FEEL that way. Maybe it has something to do with the media (absolutely including social-media). Maybe it has something to do with our need to understand the things we don’t like, and our tendency to want to explain them by placing blame on someone, or some-thing, other than ourselves. Maybe we can take a look at the way we’re treating one another right now in our lives, and right here on facebook – our fellow human beings – and extrapolate that out. What kind of example are we setting for the next generation, and how can we blame them for thinking that the world is a piece of shit when the lenses we’ve given them through which to view it are DESIGNED to make it look so shitty?
Look, I’m just some guy, flying by the seat of his pants. I say that in jest to explain the trial-and-error way I live my life, but deep down, it’s true. I don’t know what I’m doing – I’m just trying to find the best way to live my life that affords me comfort, love, safety, and peace. I’m learning, and trying to better myself. I imagine that’s what we all want, deep down. So, what part of you is the part that’s driving you to treat others as less deserving of these things? Whatever that part is, question whether or not it’s serving you, and whether or not it makes you happy.
If your ideology teaches you love and peace, and you use it to justify hate and violence, then you’re probably either reading it wrong, or you’ve joined a club that probably won’t make you any happier. If you can’t be friends with people you disagree with, then maybe you’re misunderstanding what friendship is supposed to be, or maybe you’re just not very good at it, and that’s okay too. Maybe you only want like-minded friends, and that’s your right, but it’s also your prerogative, and therefore no one else’s fault. Maybe these people belong to an ideology that simply isn’t compatible with your lifestyle, and maybe that means they’ve lost their way, but does it mean that they are inherently bad people? Is it okay to be an asshole as long as you’re not hurting anyone or going out of your way to make others miserable, and where do you draw that line, and why? Can’t we find space to both disagree and co-exist peacefully? If you ENJOY treating others poorly, and you do it intentionally, then maybe you should stop feigning surprise or indignation at what’s happening around you.
How do you propose to change the minds of those that disagree with you? Can we change their minds by insulting them or shouting them down? Can we change their minds by bombarding them with links to articles they’ll probably never read, or statistics that we only googled in order to support our own position in the first place? Are we hoping they’ll just “go away”… or are we going to LABEL THEM as something we can justify unfriending, insulting, punching, imprisoning, deporting, or even killing? Is that the goal – to eliminate the opposition?
I don’t know how we can stop crime, but I don’t think we’re going to help by treating one another like shit and hiding behind the safety blanket of our certainty. You’re not obligated to weigh-in. You’re not obligated to argue. You’re probably not going to change anyone’s opinion by being a dick, and shouting into your like-minded echo-chamber might feed your ego, but I’m not sure it’s going to change anything. I’m not saying I have the answer. If anything, I’ve made it absolutely clear that I don’t… but I don’t think we’re going to clear up all this hate by just throwing more hate at it.
…but, I could be wrong.