Mother Teresa said it best:
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
We socialize within groups of people who affirm one another. We take an idea that we identify with, find others who agree (either by virtue of who they are, or who/what they mutually dislike/disagree with) and live only within the parameters of that line of thinking, rarely being probed to consider that there is anything else, because nothing else exists to us.
The people we “dislike” are the people who, in some way, we perceive as being “different” to the extent that the way they are is the opposite of us, and therefore, we cannot both be correct. We are nearly incapable of continuing to socialize or even be around people whose opinions contradict ours, because simply, it undermines the foundation on which we understand who we are.
We identify with thoughts. We identify with beliefs: as a culture, a nation, a race, a religion, a gender, an ethnicity. What we think is who we are. And therefore we must force other people into agreeing with us — being like us, being correct, being what we deem as acceptable — to affirm ourselves. When that compulsion of knowing is not internal, but rather derives from a set of beliefs, it has to be correct within an external context.
People do not see their lives beyond the microscopic scope of what they perceive. They do not understand that what is “right” to them is “wrong” to someone else. The history of the world wars is not taught the same in every classroom. Defeat to one was victory to another. Growing up, in church, in school, with our parents, the conversation wasn’t: “Here is one way of thinking, how do you feel about that?” It was: “Here is what you need to do and say and be and think, there is no other way, and if you find one? It’s wrong. Don’t question it. Just change it. Now.”
But we don’t get offended by everything we hear that isn’t aligned with what we think. Many of us fancy ourselves to be objective in the sense that we believe all people are equal, and yet, if there were a record of every single word we spoke in just the past week, how many offensive things would you find on there against other people’s arbitrary choices?
How many times throughout your day do you say something that would hurt someone else’s feelings — offend them — if they heard it? How many slurs do you make that you don’t even notice? How many of your collective beliefs do not align with the hypothetical, universal ideal of unity and understanding and love? How many beliefs do you hold that someone of a different religion, a different ethnic background, a different social class would find offensive? How often have you considered what your mindset would look like within the context of another person’s life?
Only some thoughts and opinions and ideas are publicized. In the media, in our conversations, to our friends, etc. That does not change the ones that aren’t. If you were to have your every word recorded, you’d change your language, because you wouldn’t want to get into a conflict. But would you change your beliefs? You change your language depending on who you’re around every single day. You may feel one way about someone but you don’t say it to them. Doesn’t mean you don’t feel it.
The only way you’d change your mind, however, is if you experienced otherwise. And by “experienced otherwise,” I mean, found the wherewithal within yourself to not feel the need to insult others. Healed yourself. All hatred is self-hatred. Psychologically, the only things we recognize and dislike in others are the things we identify within ourselves (or some derivative of that notion, it’s not as cut and dry as that simple sentiment puts it).
The very concept of feeling offended is just saying: “X idea goes against what I believe, and every single person I come across who doesn’t agree with this is therefore a challenge that I must speak out against (because I do not consider that other people inherently disagree without my being aware of it) and because of this newfound knowledge I come across, I must fight for it to stand up for myself, and to perpetuate what I perceive to be righteousness, and goodness, and kindness, and love — even if it means making myself act in a way that is opposite of those things, and then spreading those opposite things (hatred, retaliation, etc.) to everybody else.”
We become so enclosed, so afraid to hear anything but what we’re told is “right” we silence one another because the absolute worst thing you can do in this world is “offend someone,” in other words: “tell them that you believe something that they perceive is incorrect and rock the notion of what’s right and wrong on it’s head.” (Right and wrong is a little hard to navigate sometimes. This is why we cling to what we are and are not comfortable with. This is easier to differentiate.)
Yeah, of course that’s scary. Of course you don’t want to have to be confronted with the fact that your opinions and morals and ideologies could be entirely unfounded. That forces you to stand on your own. To not have your beliefs backed by an indefinite group of people. That’s not comfortable (and we seek comfort, above all else.)
So let’s take this all within the context of what we tend to fight about most: human rights. In other words, why we should love and accept one another. Why we should fight for love and acceptance. (I hope you see where I’m going with this.)
You see, when people take “outrage” as a matter of defense, as a cry to get up in arms and stand against something, they perpetuate the cycle of hatred. There is a hilarious irony to the fact that people often retaliate against things they are offended by with more violence. Death threats are made to people to try to get them to stop saying things that are hurtful. The people who scream the loudest not to be violent are often the very ones who are screaming violent things back!
We are propellers of the outrage machine, the very machine that is built on the hatred and judgement we are fighting to dismantle. We do not recognize it because we only understand our right and wrong. We cannot see that misunderstanding because we cannot see ourselves out of the context of the ideas we have identified with.
We move from human right to human right because we are focusing on one idea at a time as opposed to releasing our ideas and connecting on a more core level. We’re just running in mental circles, whacking down the weeds that sprout while our feet are planted in the roots.
There is this sense of uniformity that comes with outrage. There’s this pridefulness that comes with sharing and speaking out against something. Because people are quicker to do that than they are to speak for something, with love and lightness and compassion. Rather than sharing an article that offends you (which gives it more attention and spreads more of your perceived negativity) why not ignore it entirely and go out of your way to do something for the cause?
The more we see other groups of thinking and ideology (that we would have previously been blind to) the more we roll our eyes and say that everybody is stupid and ridiculous and moronic. That implies that we know best, and that they know nothing. That implies that we have neglected to realize that we’ve all been at even the shallowest, lowest frequency of thought as well, at one point or another.
Shunning the people who aren’t proponents of love will not make them more loving or accepting of others. Silencing them doesn’t mean their opinions are gone. If we genuinely want change, we have to genuinely confront the reality of what is. Until that happens, we’re just speaking to groups of people that already affirm us, and we’re not actually changing anything at all.
Here’s what I believe.
I’m not saying this is what you should believe.
I’m just telling you what I believe.
I believe that the purpose of our lives is growth. I believe that we have to face and heal our imbued energy to move toward lightness. I believe that we have a responsibility to one another, because I believe that we are all deeply interconnected. I believe that ideas pertaining to racism or misogyny or homophobia are mere illusions of the ego that keep “us” separated from “them.” Essentially, the elements of a person are irrelevant, the idea that anybody is different than us but another illusion.
It is not our duty to love and support and be kind to each other, it is our essential nature. We just have to get a lot of other crap out of the way first.
And unfortunately, “getting a lot of crap out of the way first,” often begins with honesty. The roots of the most profound changes are always a little tough.
Honesty is then met with discussion.
Discussion then paves a pathway for understanding, even for the most misunderstood.
When we push the misunderstood down and ignore them we fuel their feeling of being disconnected and hated. They then find others who are equally repressed and ignored and together they create a group (much like we do our social circles) perpetuating their beliefs of other beings — hatred — because they have not been shown that there is, and should be, and can be, and will be, another way.
You cannot oppress some people to free others. You cannot use force to incite peace. You cannot hate people into being loving. You cannot fight your way into understanding. You cannot be close-minded about others’ opinions and then expect them to acknowledge your own as correct. You cannot wrong your way into righteousness.
You can listen to ideas that are not your own and choose not to identify with them. If your mental well-being rests on whether or not you hear or see or read something that you perceive as violent or unjust or mean, you’re going to make a really tough life for yourself.
You can prove why choosing love and acceptance is the best way by being loving and accepting. You’re not convincing anybody to follow on your path when all that your path seems to be is hatred and judgment in another form.
The root of all change is realizing internal connectedness. It allows you to drop your illusions of “right” “wrong” “us” “other” “good” “bad” and just be. Once you can be within yourself peacefully, you have no need to identify with things, therefore no longer making the opposite of it “offensive and wrong.” You can just allow yourself, and by allowing yourself, you allow others. Without words or ideas or notions or opinions, you begin to coexist.
Will this change the overarching structures? Not overnight. But we are each pieces of that structure, and the only way to change the whole thing is to change one part at a time, and the only thing that each of us can individually control is ourselves.
The media does not drive what you see and hear and read, you do. You create it and spread it by your outrage. Because it is a business, what makes money is what is popular, and what is popular is what you decide is popular. People publish things that you could find wrong and offensive every single day.
By sharing it and discussing it, you’re allowing small voices to grow into large, dominant ones, while claiming that’s the opposite of what you want.
Whether or not you see that content, overhear that conversation, come to know something you previously hadn’t, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It all exists. We have to stop being so fragile that opinions that don’t align with the highest form of lightness and love stoop us down to that same level with them.
No, we cannot force everyone to begin that change toward love — this is par for the course. We’re not supposed to. We’re suppose to gain awareness, and knowledge, far beyond the infinitesimal scope of what we experience each day, and learn.
There will be people who remain in their hatred, and that will be theirs to walk themselves out of eventually. There will be people who want to spew reasons why you are beneath them, and unworthy, and wrong, and inhumane, and you can choose to let those words make you feel that way and have you retaliating at a level as low as theirs, or you can turn around, and keep supporting the love you have and feel within you. The tiny pieces will create momentum and the momentum will incite the real change.
We all want to change our society, and yet none of us seem willing to take the initiative to change the only thing we actually can control.
I’ll close with a great excerpt from a fellow writer, from an article that was published a few months ago:
Imagine we say “some opinions are completely unacceptable and we will not talk about them publicly because it will hurt people’s feelings.”
Does this statement and set of actions magically change the bad person’s thought so they won’t think the offensive thing anymore? No. But it will take them out of the public sphere where they would meet people who disagree with them and, hopefully, over a period of time add enough contrary evidence to their brain that they might actually change their mind. But, because their opinion is not “acceptable” to be shared in public, this person will likely only reveal their thoughts in private conversations or on forums to people they guess will agree with them. Because they are now speaking only to an audience that agrees with them, their thoughts will remain unchallenged.
See what happened? In trying to do right by our beliefs, we’ve actually made the problem worse. By denying people a voice, we make them more dangerous. We harm the cause we claim to care about.