What Unites Us: Rising Above Hate

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Tribalism has been instinctive to humans since they began to organize socially. Our identities revolve around our so called tribes. It may be based on nationality, race, culture, religion, creed, sexual orientation etc. As we appear to be escaping perhaps the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in some countries, much has been revealed about the darker side of humanity. This piece is a look at the darker underbelly of hate underlying some communities, which has recently reared it’s ugly head more prominently. We dive into what some of the root causes of hate may be and what might be helpful to rise above it.

GLOBALIZATION

The emergence of globalization in the past few decades has accelerated the interconnectedness of the world, whether one likes it or not. The reality is that telecommunication advancement (i.e. the Internet) and increased air travel by the masses, has brought more people from diverse backgrounds together, than ever before. This is true both online and in the real world. It seems that more places than ever before, are seeing more multicultural interactions; both physically and online. In business and education, the brightest minds in the world, wherever they come from, are interacting on a regular basis. Such collaboration is perhaps a major driver behind what propels the world forward scientifically and technologically.

But globalization is also a source of tension in many places. Some formerly homogenous communities are facing changes in demographic composition, due to changes around immigration, migration and refugee flows. There is unease among members of many populations about newcomers arriving within their borders. Whether the world turns inwards towards nationalism post-pandemic, remains to be seen, however. What we do know is that globalization has upended the social equilibrium in many places.

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THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Quarantines, restrictions, states of emergency, limits on freedom and movement — they have all increased stress. Millions of jobs have been lost for good and countless small businesses decimated. Lost along with these jobs and businesses, were dreams. Many people are angry. Frustrated. Distraught. Desperate. It can be understood then why so many may not be the best versions of themselves, at the moment.

Racism, in particular, has emerged as a concern for many members of minority groups. The George Floyd murder was seemingly the spark that really shone a bright spotlight around issues of race and discrimination. Indigenous reconciliation, anti-Semitism, anti-Asian hate, Islamophobia, misogyny or bias based on sexual orientation, are all seemingly at the forefront right now. And not to mention discrimination based on age, family status, disability etc.

Much has been revealed about social injustices and inequality, past and present. It took a global pandemic to blow the doors wide open on long-needed discussions and introspection of biases and discrimination in society. People may have had more time to pause, think and reflect on these important issues during recent societal shut-downs. It was clearly long overdue. In addressing these issues, however, we risk rapidly losing our sense of commonality. We should be mindful of the consequences of that moving forward, as we look for solutions.

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WHY DO PEOPLE HATE?

So why do some people have a seemingly inherent propensity to hate others? Especially those they know absolutely nothing about. Random strangers. People who may not even be a part of their daily life routines. Such hate, in all it’s forms, sadly tears at the fabric of a society. I’ve been pondering what embeds mean-spiritedness, anger and resentment in one’s soul. My most basic ideas around this are noted below.

Economic Stress

When economic times are challenging, it’s not uncommon for some members of the dominant culture to lash out at visible minorities or immigrants for being the source of their problems. “Stealing all the jobs” is a common example. Down and out workers are naturally bitter and sometimes seek out scapegoats for their misfortune. Newcomers and minority groups are often singled out and may be unfairly lashed out at.

Political Influences

It is not a stretch to suggest that many politicians are inclined to create wedge issues to divide communities and nations. In the naked pursuit of individual power, political self-interest sadly supersedes thoughts around the greater good. Some well-known politicians have openly increased hostility towards immigrants and minority groups. These vulnerable people have had to endure more and more forms of hate attacks, as a result. Politicians who engineer divisions, based on identity, openly harm the elusive pursuit of societal unity. And this is not good for the overall progress and welfare of a society.

Fear of the Unknown

Members of a dominant group may have little or no exposure to members of minority groups. This may be because of where one lives (i.e. there are few minorities around). In this way, a person may not get the chance to interact with and gain social experience with people different from themselves. A lack of exposure to people, other than one’s “own”, can be a barrier to understanding others. In turn, people may tend to fear people different than themselves, because they remain a foreign unknown. Thus an opportunity to build social capital is foregone.

Family History

Many people unfortunately are born and raised in homes where bigotry is commonplace. Children are influenced by what they hear and see in their homes, when it comes to how their parents or guardians regard minority groups. If prejudice is ingrained at home during formative years, then it may become somewhat more difficult for a youngster to shake off such hatred towards others. Discrimination and hatred can be passed down from one generation to another in this way.

KEEPING AN OPEN MIND

There is beauty inherent in diversity, if you care to open your heart and eyes to seeing it. Much can be learned from other people and groups, outside of your small bubble. The world is an amazing and fascinating place. With the world being so rich, vast and diverse, great joy can be received in exploring the peoples, places, cultures, climates, foods etc. that make communities and countries so unique. To benefit from the potential learning opportunities this social acceptance offers, you have to adapt your way of seeing and thinking about the world.

An open mind allows for a variety of viewpoints, if only you are willing to except that your world view isn’t the only one or best one. This continual building of knowledge, in turn, allows for personal growth and enlightenment. To be your best and to get the best from others, you need to accept people for who they are. Look for the good in them, irrespective of race, religion, caste, creed, culture or any other identity characteristic for that matter.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Within any and all cultures or communities, you will likely find mostly decent people. That is, if you care to see the good in people and give a chance to learning something about them and their background. A huge benefit is being able to draw upon the best aspects of other groups. You can potentially learn from and adopt things that can make you a better person and enhance your own life. There isn’t a singular way that people or the world ought to be. That is the ultimate in naivety. Denying yourself the opportunity to learn about others is denying yourself the opportunity for personal development.

WE HAVE A LOT IN COMMON

Generally speaking, us humans all have the same basic needs, as Maslow showed us. The need for food, water, shelter, warmth, rest and a sense of security or safety are universal needs. We also want to feel a sense of belonging; loving and being loved by friends and family. Moreover, we all generally want to feel a sense of acceptance by our social circles and the immediate society we live within. Surely it is safe to say that we all have goals and dreams for ourselves and our loved ones too. And most probably want to live in safe, clean and stable communities.

Against that context, the human essence isn’t all that different, no matter how one identifies or where they live. With that in mind, the major problems of the world require a coordinated and collaborative approach. This is because we share a common fate around the potential outcomes. Let’s touch on some of them briefly.

GLOBAL PROBLEMS REQUIRE COMMON GROUND

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set their Doomsday Clock in January 2021 to 100 seconds to midnight. The underlying analysis and themes that calibrate this measurement comprise issues that transcend geography. We all have our existence at stake, in other words. I note a few major pressing issues below, that we as a global community face together. If we value our survival, these are shared human threats that we must set aside our differences to work towards solving.

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Health Crisis (i.e. COVID)

As we are seeing from COVID-19, confronting a global pandemic requires a global response. Vaccine development and distribution must be a collective global effort in order to overcome the deadly virus. A new saying has emerged during the pandemic that says “until all of us are safe, none of us are safe”. Let that sink in for a minute. In such an interconnected world as ours, COVID-19 must be under control everywhere on earth for it to be contained. A divided world that isn’t willing to cooperate on things like equitable distribution of vaccines or personal protective equipment, only prolongs medical emergencies like a pandemic. And we can be sure that COVID-19 won’t be the last global health crisis that the world sees.

Climate Change

The extreme weather events associated with global warming or climate change are becoming more and more real, in more and more places around the world. Although some countries are clearly heavier polluters than others, we as a species have been and continue to negatively impact Mother Earth. We relentlessly pollute our air and water. We savagely engage in deforestation practices and damage fragile ecosystems. Humans have destroyed and made extinct countless animal species. We are now about to reap what we’ve sown when it comes to the harm we’ve done to the one and only planet that sustains us.

Finding solutions to mitigate some of the environmental damage already done, requires an unprecedented coordinated global effort. We truly have a climate emergency on our hands. But do we have the collective will to save ourselves?

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Nuclear Proliferation

The fact that countries are capable of annihilating the human race off the face of the earth should give us all pause. Atomic Scientists are deeply concerned about the accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries. Accidental or purposeful use of nukes is a growing concern sadly. Nuclear Armageddon is a real potential threat on the planet and has been for too long now. It would appear logical then that the citizens of the world may have a shared interest in pushing their respective nations in seeking a pathway towards global nuclear disarmament.

Inequality

It is no coincidence that social unrest has been rising alongside rising wealth and income inequality. Sadly, COVID-19, widened these gaps to new extremes. A segment of the population has thrived economically, while others went backwards, or if lucky, managed to stay afloat. The protests and civil unrest we’ve witnessed across many countries in recent times likely stems from populations that are having a harder and harder time simply surviving economically. Stagnant or falling (real) incomes, combined with rapidly rising prices for essentials like food, shelter and fuel are leading to economic strain.

While we’ve all known that the rich get richer and the poor poorer, things have gone to an unbearable extreme level. We’re at an economic breaking point. Capitalists and corporations have made off like bandits in the past few decades, on the backs of the labor that had a big hand in productivity gains. These gains were not shared equitably with workers as more and more income/wealth has been sucked up to the top 1% of elites. It might be fair to suggest then that there is a common class struggle for workers across the world. The global economy needs to recalibrate to share more prosperity with labor.

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GIVE ACCEPTANCE A CHANCE

The biological and ecological spheres present unbelievable diversity. Naturally then, the human species too contains diversity within it. This isn’t going to change. It makes the world a far more interesting place. The global problems that are confronting societies all over the world necessitate the finding of common ground.

Call me naïve, but seeing the world as one big human family can certainly change one’s perspective on our individual place in the world. So why don’t we consider shedding the weight and burden of hate and lighten our lives with goodwill? One may find the journey through life a lot more fun and enjoyable through the lens of acceptance.

Prejudice and hatred are wrong. The more we divide ourselves up, the less we have in common. It’s time to stop. Social cohesion is necessary for a society’s advancement politically, socially and economically. In pursuit of social justice, let’s not lose sight of the common good and the social contract implicit in all civilized societies. We can all try to be decent and learn from past mistakes and injustices. Moving forward in a better direction from here is what matters most. A kinder, cleaner, safer, more equitable and gentler world is a far more pleasant place for us to pass our collective days together.

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