I've written on this previously, but the world, by and large, hasn't taken much notice.
Perhaps then, one more try will do the trick?
Online comments tacked on to the end of media reports often depress me. You know, where readers vent? It's not so much the lack of grammar, spelling, or abusive put-downs (bad as they are), that bothers me, but the almost complete lack of anything resembling conversation. The communication in these venues, if you can call it that, is pretty much like that of pre-schoolers and because of that, is pretty much pointless.
One of the comments at the end of one opinion piece this morning, bucked the trend, and pressed my interest button:
“So many people talking but in separate orbits often so not really knowing what the whole 'conversation' is. So much for the global electronically connected village, eh?”
This wise observation nails my concern. We don't listen to each other. We talk at each other: parallel conversations going nowhere and contributing to the white noise of alienation. As well as filling electronic pages with self centred twaddle, we just love to use labels, don't we?
Unfortunately, labels have a down side. They can remove the need for empathy at times when we badly need to show it. Labels can make the people less visible and less human. A nuance, like the value of another person, evaporates in the heat generated when we use labels. We can say things and think things and do things to labels that we would not do to living, breathing people.
Labels can be used as weapons against ideas as well as against individuals; quite handy for shutting down communication and stopping debate. Labelling an idea “offensive” places it somewhere we don't need to consider it seriously or respectfully any more. It shuts down debate, and also, most likely, prevents any possibility of resolution. There are others like that one that are quite handy for the same purpose: 'Racist'; 'Homophobic'; 'Islamophobic'; 'Queue jumper; 'Fascist'; 'Subversive'; 'Medieval'; and so on (the list is long).
You know the labels people use. Like me, you probably use them too. I am certainly no saint (another label). I can see the failings and the stupidity of others with crystal clarity. Unfortunately, as valuable as such ability undoubtedly is, and however righteous it helps me to feel, I can also see that it serves only to build walls. The labels I assign so freely do a similar thing. Not only do they prevent me seeing my fellow human beings, they prevent me from listening to their wisdom. All right, some have more or less than others, but you get what I mean.
If I had begun this post by saying I believed the western world faced an existential threat from muslim extremism, would you have immediately reached for a label to attach to me or a box in which to place me?
I have a deep seated sadness in me at what has become of us in this messed up world. I don't think we need to sit in a circle holding hands, singing songs of international goodwill. That would just allow the wolves free reign. Some threats need to be identified and dealt with accordingly.
That deep seated sadness in me, however, will not be healed by the necessary elimination of existential threats, nor the resort to labels to shut discussion down. For me the path to healing is the path that takes me to my neighbour's door with a listening ear.