I find myself feeling increasingly isolated by the groupthink I see everywhere these days.
Am I the only person who is uncomfortable with the spirit of the times which divides people and judges them on the basis of what they believe or how they vote?
(Photo of a memorial to prisoners of war killed building the Thai-Burma railway in World War 2.
Hellfire Pass, Thailand)
How sad it would be
If I believed in tolerance so strongly,
I could show no tolerance
to those who saw things differently.
If I praised diversity in all things
except opinion.
If I defended human rights
with personal abuse,
foul language
or violence.
If I believed those who thought differently
were stupid,
or evil.
If I my belief in a cause
stopped me reaching out in friendship.
If I believed I held the truth and it were mine alone.
How sad it would be.

The Sadness of Labels

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.

Mama Jumbe’s Facebook Site

Mama Jumbe’s Facebook site found its way to my facebook page this morning. I have copied it here:


“Nothing to see here. Just 234 girls that were abducted from school 2 weeks ago that nobody is talking about.
It’s not the Malaysian Flight 370 or Sandy Hook Elementary, so the media hasn’t deemed this must-see TV. But parents who can’t sleep have taken machetes to cut through the country side to look for their daughters with no luck, diminishing hope, and no voice to be heard by the rest of the world.”

Rob’s editorial

Boko Haram Muslim extremists have claimed responsibility for kidnapping over 200 secondary school girls in one attack in Nigeria last month. In the last couple of days one of their leaders has appeared on a video taunting authorities and the girls’ families. He seemed very pleased with himself. Apparently Allah told him to take the girls. Allah has also told him it is ok to sell them on to slavery, according to a credible source – himself. What a croc!

And the response from the world?
Studied silence; hands over ears.

. . . Interesting just how flexible and relative is our threshold for moral outrage. I can’t help thinking, if it had involved some westerner’s rights or entitlements being under threat, the frothing at the mouth would now be well underway.

Where is the outrage from Muslims at what some of their more extreme brothers have done in their name?

Where is the response from Nigerian authorities to ensure the safety of their own citizens?

Where is the West? The snatch teams? The attack helicopters?

Where is the condemnation from the usual suspects who normally jump all over human rights abuses?

These poor kids are presumably Christians, and thereby it seems, invisible to professional hand wringers in the western world. Their human rights are just a theoretical construct it seems; to be ignored when it suits. Their ‘crime’ was to want to go to school to sit for their exams.

A criminal gang broke into their school and snatched them away at gunpoint. I don’t want to think about what they have endured since then. Neither do their families; their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, who are left with a black bottomless chasm at the centre of their lives. No one wants to listen. They are on their own. I think of my own daughters when they were at school and I want to hurt the scum who took them.
Two hundred young kids treated like expendable goods, and the western world’s outrage meter is not even registering.

It’s not just sad. It’s appalling. Our hypocrisy stinks! Our confected outrage at any number of other causes is shown for just it is: selective, convenient and expendable.

I feel a rising anger at the pious hypocrisy which is at the heart of our western culture. We deserve the contempt in which we are held by those who are presently working to undermine and destroy us and our way of life.

Maybe its not anger that I feel. Maybe I’m just ashamed.

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