Saturday, March 23, 2013

Imagining a world without hate

This is probably my most pessimistic post ever. Your mileage may vary.

The above video is from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and asks people to imagine a world in which some of the best-known people who were murdered because of hatred were still alive. It asks further for people to imagine a world without hate.

Is that even possible?

I’m not sure I believe that it’s possible for humanity to end hatred for one simple reason: We don’t want to. We humans seem to need to hate other people—the person who has different religious beliefs, who has different skin colour, who was born in another country, who loves someone of the same gender—someone who is not like us, in other words. All human societies are built on a long history of hating “the other”, whoever is not of our clan, our village, our nation—whatever we think is acceptable at the moment.

Even if we wanted to overcome millennia of hatred, the people in power don’t want us to. If they keep us afraid of others, if they keep us hating other people, we won’t notice what they’re doing to us, and then they can do pretty much whatever they want. To keep ourselves and our family “safe”, we will accept terrible restrictions on our freedoms that we would otherwise fight to prevent. We also accept acts against the “enemy” that we would never tolerate in our homeland. Until we do.

Organised religion also has a vested interest in keeping hatred alive. If there’s only “one true religion,” then by definition all others are enemies of one’s god(s). This is the mindset used to justify wars, pogroms, inquisitions and ordinary political oppression. No religion has yet demonstrated a willingness—or capacity—to abandon that mindset; I don’t expect that to change.

The song used in the background for this video, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” begins by asking people to imagine there’s no heaven or hell—central tenets of the world’s dominant religions—“Imagine all the people living for today”. Then he also asks,
Imagine there’s no countries
Isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace.
I don’t think people can imagine that, not really. The point of the song, like the video above, is for people to imagine such a world. But because I don’t think we humans are truly capable of doing that, I certainly don’t think we’re capable of taking the next step: Making a world free from hatred, oppression, violence and war.

All the voting and politicking in the free world won’t change that, nor will the collected prayers of the people who believe in such things. The imagining will happen only when humanity is ready for it, and to date we’ve given precious little evidence that we’re ready.

Still, I can imagine a day when we might be ready. Imagine it, yes, but only just.

What say you?


Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, but most of us don't really want to see our icons age-progressed.

rogerogreen said...

I wrote about ML King not long ago. I think the frozen-in-time King, Shepard, Milk ended up having the sad but ironic effect of propelling the movements.