‘Let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably,’ – where is that from?
Nope. It’s actually from the Holy Quran.
All religions essentially teach peace. It’s not faith, misguided or otherwise, that causes wars, nor the place you live, nor the colour of your skin or the shape of your eyes. Conflict is the creation of the puppeteers and/or dictatorial types that tribalise it, engineering herd mentalities wrought by fear, desire and insecurities, and marching man off on a desolate path of inevitable destruction; leaving in its wake a wasteland of dead dreams, lost lives and perished potential. The only gain is the royalties chiming in the coffers of the industries of war.
The sci-fi of my childhood was most often than not an optimistic one. With the scarring horrors of the devastating World War still fresh in the memory, fiction sought to free us from the epic mire of the psychological and physical fallout of witnessing first hand, the fearsome new wave of deadly weaponry we were clearly ready and capable of unleashing upon each other – such as the Atom bomb. So future fiction of the day was usually based on a hopeful belief, that in the near future, humanity would mature and evolve, abandon its petty self-destructive tendencies, and move onto bigger and bolder things like higher learning, exploration and pushing well beyond the boundaries of our not-so-limited potential.
Unfortunately we arrived buoyantly in the 21st Century, to find that we are still way too busy hating each other, in the suffocating small-mindedness of our catastrophically limited imaginations, and have simply not found a moment of peace to turn our gazes to the setting horizon and ask the far more important – ‘what ifs’ of our fleeting existences. What if, for example, there were no wars or conflicts?
Sadly, as we can see even as you flick back from this article to your social media feeds right now, it’s easy to generate hatred – which is, of course, what leads to violence and terror.
Rutgers University sociologist Martin Oppenheimer, who with his family fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s, reveals that all you have to do is identify and use people’s frustrations, insecurities, and the fear of losing out on stuff they want, and then convince them that the cause for their anguish is someone or some people else. And he adds that you can easily exploit those who feel marginalised because organized hatred helps give meaning to their lives.
Then frenzy takes over and does the rest for you.
This was depicted so very viscerally in George Orwell’s book, 1984: ‘In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.’
It’s entirely scientific: intense sudden hatred is known to trigger the ‘Fight or Flight’ response in us – the body goes into auto-pilot mode, no longer responding to conscious thought. The more stressful the situation, the less is the ability to reason and think things through. People fuelled by anger and hatred, talk and act without thought – they’re not open to logical or sensible solutions to a situation, because baser impulses take over and reason is completely muted.
But that’s in the spur of the moment. The festering hatred, fear, suspicion and anger is, of course, implanted earlier and over a longer period of time, as demonstrated by war propaganda of old. However, today you can forget classic call-to-arms posters – things are much more efficient, widespread and direct now.
You don’t have to tune-in to listen to war rhetoric or walk down the road to be assaulted by billboards telling you that you these other folk threaten your way of life, because they are the spawn of the devil with pointed ears and bristling beards, red skin and naturally turbans – or something like that. Obviously not really allowing you to pause and consider that your way of life appears to be, to constantly live under the threat of people taking away your way of life.
Anyway I digress; the point was the Interweb has made war-mongering, racism and hatred so much easier, whilst at the same time making it less overt, more insidious and extremely clever. You could wake up as tolerant and unprejudiced as Mother Teresa, pick up your smart phone skim through your timeline posts, and by your second cup of coffee have transformed into a raging racist baying for the blood and gore of the nearest brown-face – without even really knowing how that happened to you.
This was demonstrated in a 2010 study by researchers as Stanford University who measured teenagers’ reaction to hate groups’ Web sites, and found that storytelling with implicit hate messages, rather than direct exhortations to hate, was the most effective way to persuade impressionable minds.
But come on guys. Just look at humanity’s vicious and vile previous indiscretions: 85m killed in World War II, 100m killed in the 1800s Taiping Rebellion, and more recently nearly two million killed in the Soviet-Afghan war, a million dead at the least in the Iran-Iraq war (plus nobody can even quite work out how many casualties we’ve had in the so-called 15-year War on Terror – which itself has caused more terror and given birth to more terrorists than ever before).
And yet we don’t appear, as a race, as a breed, to have learned anything from our past mistakes: the killing doesn’t stop the killing. Funny that. If it wasn’t so tragically sad, and wasteful of precious human life.
In ‘War’ Edwin Starr sings:
‘War… What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
‘War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker; War, friend only to the undertaker; Peace, love and understanding; Tell me, is there no place for them today; They say we must fight to keep our freedom; But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way.
‘It’s an enemy to all mankind; The point of war blows my mind; War has caused unrest; Within the younger generation; Induction then destruction; Who wants to die?’
He sang that in 1970. That’s 45 years ago. Sigh.
So is there an answer? Are we doomed to ride haplessly along our own unrelenting charge into self-implosion? Does the alien invasion force just have to bide it’s time up there sitting on the Black Knight Satellite in orbit, not wishing to expend its armoury as ‘these humans will do themselves in soon enough anyway’?
Or can we prove our ability to evolve? Can mankind achieve maturity? Can wisdom and patience prevail?
Can all the bloody fighting just frigging stop?!!
Can we all just take a breather, calm the shit down and just pause and wonder what the hell we are doing to each and this beautiful gift of a blue ball hanging in space, during our short, and frankly, insignificant lives here?
Sorry scratch that – maybe we can be significant. Maybe we can make a difference. Maybe we can be the generation that actually eradicates war and conflict? Why not? Think about it.
Imagine a scenario, on a much smaller scale, where you could be absolutely ready to slam your fist into a stranger’s chest and pull their heart out just because they cut you up at that junction. And yet under different circumstances if you met the same individual over a coffee you may find that you support the same football team, equally hate your jobs and share the same line of mother-in-law jokes. Or that person could actually just be a dick.
But you see my point? You won’t want to kill him just for being a dick at that point.
Before we all rush out and buy each other coffee, and as naive and ingenuous , as this suggestion might sound – perhaps we should start by filtering out all the hatefulness in the media that assaults us every day – I’m not say become ignorant or apathetic, but perhaps being circumspect and not allowing it to corrupt and poison the inherent goodness that I still believe exists in all of us. You know that stuff that deep down, which would allow you to admit that actually, yes, you do just wish for a safe, secure and happy life for all fellow beings, rather than harbour all that cancerous hate.
And let’s try to replace at least some of the hate with more inspiring, enlightening and hopeful content. Whether it’s a simple self-deprecating joke that reveals the basic sameness in all our insecurities, or a call-to-a-good-deed by example or otherwise, and to preserve and persevere with a belief in the oneness of the global community – made more possible by the self-same technology of communication that is being used to divide us.
We’re a whole load of people existing together (7.3 billion as of the last count), and although we may look and sound and smell a little different, and even if our customs and belief systems might diverge somewhat, we’re all fundamentally the same, with the same hopes, fears and aspirations. Remember the world is getting smaller. But rather than fighting over the planet and its resources, if we could just learn to get along and compromise, Mother Earth might, just might, be able to sustain us for a little longer.
At least until we put our collective abilities and intelligences together and figure out how to spread out beyond our myopic mindsets and secure the glorious future of humanity. Let’s not today squabble away our existence, and instead prove ourselves the architects of a glorious new version of humanity – one that’s done away with hate.