Monday, 31 October 2011

Hate vs Hate

Martin Luther King Jr. once said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  It is a simple yet powerful concept.  There are those that advocate that aggressive or adversarial means are a method by which great things can be achieved.  Those who fought for independence in Libya would argue their freedom came about by the gun but I disagree.  Their liberation has come about by their unity, not the use of force.  If rumours that Gaddafi was executed in a vengeful fashion turn out to be true, it would sully and undermine the freedom effort.  It would be a shame that a genuinely just movement would then turn into a hateful moment of revenge, yet their is a swelling opinion that Gaddafi had it coming to him.  That is wrong.  We are never justified in using a hateful act to fight hatred, even if we think it is under the guise of vigilante justice.

Vigilantes fascinate me.  Their righteous hypocrisy and the reality of them achieving rapid results at the cost of inevitable escalation intrigues me.  They exist because they think nothing else will stop the evil that is before them.  Instead of eradicating the problem, they shift it to another place.  It is the moral equivalent of sweeping the dirt under a transparent rug.  It solves nothing in the long term.  Now most people see vigilantes as Hollywood stereotypes, an all action man that goes around killing bad guys indiscriminately.  Vigilantes these days take a far more subtle approach in their wars, in which they fight hate with hate.

Basically, vigilantes are those who fight fire with fire and it is more present than we care to admit.  We see someone share an opinion online and then they can endure a torrent of abuse for having an opinion.  Ridiculing rhetoric and comments that are abject and aggressive are publicly permitted, in an effort to cluster the feeling of fury at the said opinion.  One example was found in New Jersey, where a leader of a teaching union asked her members to pray for the death of the Governor, who had implemented tough but necessary financial measures on the state's educational budget.  Whether you think what Governor Chris Christie did was good or bad does not matter.  It never justifies advocating the death of the man, a democratically elected official, even in jest.  It was casual hatred, hiding under the justification of "he started it."  The fact that this was part of the teaching institution, the very organisation that helps form the minds of the next generation, fills me with dread.

Take another example in California.  The vote about Proposition 8 was heated but done in a democratic method.  No one was coerced.  No one was terrorised.  People used the freedom to vote, a right we uphold and at times shoe horn into other countries because we think it is the better way.  However, when the free and fair vote did not go the way the Gay & Lesbian community wanted.  You win some, you lose some, right?  Wrong.  The Gay & Lesbian community terrorised and attacked religious institutions around the state.  The irony of this was not lost on me.  To fight for the rights they felt they deserved, they went out it by trying to bully people and using bigotry against religion.  The fact that they had endured bullying, marginalisation and bigotry all their lives didn't seem to make them as a community, the bigger and better people.  No, they used the hatred that had been inflicted on them and start to use it on religions.  They became vigilantes against law abiding citizens, using the very weapons, the very hatred that was and is used against them.  Instead of getting what they wanted, they have gone on to polarise a nation.  All of this when simple discussion and compromise would have solved most of the problems.  The bullied have become the bullies.

Ultimately, it may be successful or not.  Yet history has taught us that diplomacy, not aggression, changes society for the better.  Martin Luther King Jr. changed the USA with positive rhetoric and non-violent methods.  He is rightly revered for his efforts because he won a great victory, not just for himself but for mankind as a whole.  Yet we still seem to struggle to realise that in a battle of hate vs hate, there are no winners except hate itself.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

We Are All Rioters

The riots in London and around the UK were horrendous.  They tore up people's streets, communities, livelihoods and sense of security.  The image of the whole scenario was youth wearing masks and hoodies, smashing up the High Street stores one by one.  Tragic and shameful as it was, the visceral visuals on display hid the hypocrisy more prevalent in our society than we'd care to admit.

This was highlighted in a conversation I had with someone while the riots were in full flow.  The person in question expressed their absolute disgust at what was happening, stating that these rioters had no respect, that they were taking what they wanted without paying and showing no regard for how people made a living.  Then, with no sense of irony whatsoever, the person in question proceeded to listen to music on their MP3 player, which I know for a fact was loaded with at least one thousand illegally downloaded songs.

The rioters were barbaric in their methods but we all do similar things, just with less smashed windows and arson attacks.  We download music using illegal methods because we think it is a victimless crime.  We justify it because we see the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by pop and rock stars and it is our little "Robin Hood" moment.  Well, actually no.  We don't think that.  We take it because it is free stuff.  One kid was asked why he was joining in with the riots and his response was "It's free stuff, I ain't missing out on that!"

We watch pirated movies and because there is no violence involved, we think it is okay.  Somehow, the increased sophistication of method over the headline-grabbing rioters makes us better than them.  Interestingly, a petition went out to the Government that offered the suggestion that anyone involved in the riots should have their benefits cut.  Hundreds of thousands of people signed it like delusional zombies, acting on the emotion of the headline rather than the rationality of the story.  If such a law was to be passed, then surely those who enjoy music and movies through illegal methods, those who buy faked goods, even people who decide to not take back that excess change they got from their latest purchase should face the same punishment.  I wonder how many of those who signed the petition would be implicated.  Suddenly it may not sound so appealing, although it would lead to a massive cut on the welfare & benefits costs of the state, so it may not be a totally bad idea.

The riots produced a debate of whether our society was morally bankrupt.  Why it was a a debate and not a simple statement of fact, I don't know.  The evidence was beyond compelling but the ambiguity was inserted by the rioters at home who turned up their noses to the savagery on screen.  We, as a "law abiding" society, masquerade as better than the yobs but the reality is we are all hypocrites.  It is just that some of us are doing it from the comfort of homes, on the sly in the middle of an exotic holiday or as we quietly walk out the store.  The uncomfortable truth is, no matter how brutal or stylish, we are all rioters.