The Fight Against Hatred

purelyspeculation‘Sit down and shut up.’

Too often, it seems like the most prudent advice. In a world so chock full of contradicting thoughts and overt hatred—how are we to parse out truth from nonsense and be sure we take the right stand? It’s no small task, and all too frequently the safest bet seems to be sitting on the sidelines—unwilling to take a stand one cannot fully commit to.

In our recent article, ‘Why You Should Seek Contrary Friendships’ (Link), we discussed the importance of expanding our social circles in order to enhance our understanding of the world and diversify our own perspective on life.

But sometimes, this proactive effort falls short in the face of modern reality. While growing ourselves and seeking higher understanding is undoubtedly among the keys steps to squashing hatred in its tracks, it isn’t always the most expedient.

Some deem it best to bow out if they are not directly involved, but this is misled. It is incumbent upon any decent man or woman to endeavour always to speak out in the name of what is right, even—or especially—when doing so seems the most difficult path. It is precisely this individual fortitude of character which empowers the world as a whole to take a stand for decency, while it is the lewd and cowardly act of sitting impotently on the fence which enables hatred to take root.

So let it be known: when it comes to the condemnation of hatred and intolerance, inaction IS a stance, and silence DOES speak.

When we witness acts of hatred or intolerance, it is the duty of anyone who values virtue to speak up loudly, to call it out by name and make clear that there is no place for such atavistic atrocities in our world.

It may not stop such vile acts forever, but it will certainly make a difference to the present victim.

What about the long term, then? Is it a reasonable goal to eliminate—or even substantially reduce—the hatred so malignant in this world, and if so, what will it take?

Certainly, to seek its total elimination seems perhaps over-ambitious. But if we are to effectively enact its reduction, the best strategy may be the concurrent elimination or reduction of fear.

Yes, fear is most often the driving force behind hatred: Fear of the unknown, the foreign—the strange and the different. Fear of anything which makes us step back and experience the world outside the comfort of the familiar. After all—that which is different presents us with a sudden and startling awareness of our own unlimited options—and that can be a lot to handle for the simple-minded zealots most likely to cling to such divisive rhetoric.

The above may seem like a hateful or derisive over-simplification in and of itself, but I don’t think it’s far off base. Hatred is bred from fear, and fear itself is most often the product of ignorance.

The ultimate goal then, can only be education. Not teaching people WHAT to think per say, but rather teaching them HOW: How to think critically. How to evaluate facts. How to consider other perspectives.

As discussed in the article cited above (Link), it is by the constant challenging and re-evaluation of our own innate assumptions that we learn to better understand the views of others. Without this, we are left to blindly fear the dark—assuming that only terror can be held beyond the short sight-lines of our own stunted knowledge.

It must be clear however, to any thinking person, that such assumptions are faulty from the start. Few indeed are those who would willingly seek chaos over comfort, or cruelty over kindness. All sides of every debate must follow this same advice—to learn about the other, to understand their fears, and to evaluate with reason and unbiased ration their own contributions to the present state. We must seek to unite in our common truths, rather than draw lines in the sand over perceived differences.

Then, and only then, can we hope to live in a world less fraught with hatred and disdain, and embrace instead a future of understanding and opportunity for all.

-Brad OH Inc.

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One Tin Soldier

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI’ve never had any real talent when it comes to music, which might cause one to think that music class in elementary school was a squandered opportunity for this particular writer. Not so.

I always appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the creation of music—and had the opportunity to experience a great deal of fresh sounds and bands, which fed more naturally into my deeper passion for story-telling and metaphor.

I recall one moment in particular, likely around grade 2, which stood out to me as an exciting introduction to the incredible narrative potential of music. My small class had filed into the music room, and sat in a semi-circle upon the cold, carpeted floor. There, we waited in silence as our teacher played us an old song, ‘One Tin Soldier’, by ‘The Original Caste’ (Link).

The song tells the story of two different kingdoms—one on a mountain, and one in the valley below. The people of the valley have heard legends about the glorious treasure kept by the mountain people, and demand the mountain kingdom surrender their riches immediately. The mountain folk welcome the valley people, and offer to share all they have. Needless to say, this proves insufficient for the violent valley tribe—who slaughter the mountain people and take the prize all for themselves.

When the battle has ended and the mountain people all dead, the warriors from the valley turn over the stone to reveal their prize—a simple proclamation of ‘Peace on Earth’.

The chorus of the song—repeated throughout—brings home the terribly apt message for us kids who may still lack the nuances of literary interpretation. It says:

‘Go ahead and hate your neighbor

Go ahead and cheat a friend

Do it in the name of heaven

You can justify it in the end

There won’t be any trumpets blowing

Come the judgment day

On the bloody morning after

One tin soldier rides away’

These lines reverberated loudly through my child-mind, and continue to do so to this day. They are a poignant reflection on the folly of using God to justify atrocity, and seemed a sacrosanct truth to my youthful and naïve little brain.

I admit, it still feels like it should be as self-evident now as it was then, and I should expect to look around and find the lesson here to be well and thoroughly applied all around the world.

Sadly, this certainly isn’t the case. To the right and the left, every side of the political debate calls upon the name of God to justify their vitriol and hatred—encouraging increased violence and tighter control to continue their war against the dreaded ‘other’.

This ‘other’ of course, is on a holy and justified-from-on-high mission of their own.

It’s a strange situation—that the entire world stands ready to tear the throats from one another all over the assumed intentions of a God who has up to this point made no clear endorsement of any of this childish bullshit.

Where does this leave us? A sorry state, to say the least. With everyone feeling justified for every vile thing they do, and trumpeting the name of God about as if that undoes the sin of their actions, there is little room for somber reflection or moral consideration. When we self-justify by appealing to a greater power, we thusly strip ourselves of the responsibility of our actions.

God is never an excuse to act unjustly—and it is an especially cowardly and desperately ironic excuse to attempt.

Again, the lyrics come to mind.

‘You can justify it in the end…’

Good luck with that.

We will, before this age ends, be faced with many more bloody mornings no doubt. But at the least, let us face them with self-certainty and personal empowerment. Let us act for ourselves and our own values—with consideration and compassion for all others. That—and that alone—is acting in the name of God, no matter what name you choose for him.

All else is the purview of Tin Soldiers—hollow and blood-soaked—who ride away with hopes despoiled and fates long-sealed.

-Brad OH Inc.