The Politics of Hate
Do things have to get worse before they get better? I get around a bit checking out all the many blogs. It’s fairly obvious, if we don’t consider the ‘apolitical’ blogs (recipes, what my dog did today, personal stuff, etc) that there are two diametrically opposed worldviews presented in blogland. Those on the right who love to hate the left and ‘liberals,’ as if their raison d’etre was to destroy any political influence, gains and activism of liberals and the left in general. And then those on the left side of the equation where we find just as many passionate voices and just as many name-callers and at times intolerant points of view as we find on the right. I saw one blogger who thinks that in the USA we are even headed for civil war. If you have ever checked out a discussion forum on a Yahoo news article it is incredible the level of bigotry, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, meanness and stupidity that you can find there. And as expected the comments there also for the most part divide along Right/Left lines.
Are we living in two Americas? Are the persons who participate in this new medium representative of the divisions we could expect to find among the general population? Do blogs influence anybody or anything? Does a ‘left-blogger’ expect to win over a ‘right-blogger’? Could we ever find some common ground between these disparate points of view where both sides could save face as it were, and we could all work together to solve some of the urgent problems that we as a nation, as world citizens, are facing?
I once read somewhere that one should try to speak simply and clearly when confronting complex things, as if we were speaking to a child of ten years old child. I like that: certainly some comments I’ve read recently don’t go beyond the level of a 4th grader!
So, what makes the world go round? Many, if not most, might agree that money makes things go. We work to have money to survive. Now those leaning toward the right would add that this is the best and only system we have; that yes there are problems, that other systems (socialism, communism) did not work so we have to work with what we have. After all look at all the wonderful achievements mankind (with Capitalism) has realized. They might also accuse those who criticize this point of view of a certain hypocrisy: ‘It’s just too easy for you who benefit from the American system, that in fact has guaranteed your right to freedom and wealth and provided you all the privileges you enjoy, to turn around and hate America!’
Others would counter, yes, money does make the world go round but it does so only by a structure formed like a pyramid, where many, if not most, are poor, and a few rich persons (or countries) decide and control everything. That this is the root cause of all the bad things, from pollution, to war, to child labor, etc. And that we also love America and are just as patriotic because it does give us the right to criticize and you guys on the right have forgotten what’s written in the constitution about individual freedoms and the right to free expression.
Both sides in their own way use the same words: liberty, justice, freedom, etc. And the bickering goes on and on and everybody’s getting hotter under the collar.
Well little Joey (my theoretical ten year old), I say that both of these points of view are wrong. It is not money that makes the world go round. It’s not profits and Capitalism, or exploitation and poor workers, or rich nations in relation to poor ones. Yes these things are true and both sides when they speak about ‘the system’ are right in what they say. But there is something much more fundamental and basic to life, society and humankind. How is it really that schools and hospitals and roads are built and function?
How did it happen that we created cities and farms and medicine and rockets? How is it that millions can even live altogether in one city without hurting one another? How is it that food is brought all the way from the other side of the world right to your dining room table? Is it because we hate one another, live in fear, wage war, are greedy and self-seeking, are divided into rich and poor, need police and guns and jails and banks, have the stock market, are forced to work?
All these things on the surface seem to guide and order our lives. But are all these negative aspects, these structures, laws and systems responsible for the good things people and nations do? Is there not rather an underlying positive aspect: the fact that we cooperate, that we basically are a peaceful and collaborative and imaginative species? That without these basic qualities of respect, love, empathy and tolerance for THE OTHER, that without this divine capacity to imagine and create we would have perished as a species hundreds of thousands of years ago! It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention but I say love and caring, and the desire to help are the seeds of the fruits of invention.
But why do people forget this, and if people remember these things, Joey asks, will that solve our problems?
Not right away but UNLESS we have find this basic respect and tolerance for those we see as ‘the other’, for those we call ‘enemy’, for those we disagree with, what other possibilities are there? To use force, strength and violence; to out number the other guys; to weaken, discourage and dominate them? Let’s say you and I disagree Joey, that we are having a big fight: yes I can make you do what I want because I am bigger than you. But you will always remember that I forced you to accept my way and you will never forget that. It will flavor our relationship until the day you are big enough to try and make me accept your way.
We say: means determine ends. The manner in which I resolve a problem determines the nature of that future relationship. This is true between individuals, groups, and nations. True between those on the left who want to defeat those on the right, and vice versa.
To finish I think there is something in common that those on the right and left both share. There seems to be in the ‘American spirit’ an underlying ‘nameless hope’. Call it the American project. I think it has always been connected to our origins, to this land. (Leaving aside for the moment the genocide of Native Americas.) One feels it in the passion of all the writers of blogs, one imagines it in the hearts of the soldiers in Iraq, and I even believe many politicians have this same hope.
I can only wish that along with this feeling and desire for change, of this fundamental hope of improving life, that we can always place along side it the words: tolerance, respect and patience. And a new pledge of allegiance to the principle of ‘do no harm’. There is much that is wrong, much right in our country, and each of us sees the world their way. Before we can begin to address these many overwhelming problems, it seems a new communication grounded in respect has to be the first step. And above all: Stop the violence.
Gary Brackett’s blog: This Week’s This