We are still in a time of great division. Some of it is the fault of algorithms that sort us into tribes, like a Hogwarts hat gone awry. Some of it is the fault of those plutocrats and politicos who have manipulated us through fear and envy to prop their power. And some of it is our own fault, for not realizing the degree to which we have outsourced our belonging.
The cure isn’t external. Each of us must save ourselves — checking our hearts for the barnacles of malice; checking our eyes that we can see the work of those who would press our buttons; and recognizing the true nature of our differences.
What we need is a little less finger-wagging and a little more patience.
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
If only Master Yoda had given us an antidote. Oh wait. He did.
You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
This, the need for patience. The quality that allows us to see rage-bait before it preys on our fears. It’s also the quality that allows us to recognize the humanity in those we don’t understand.
Most of the intensely partisan people we clash with are lashing out for survival. Because they fear the future, they fear for their prospects, they fear for a loss of their way of life.
Wait — that’s not exactly true. They fear for the loss of a life they think they enjoy, but don’t. They fear a change they can’t articulate, because they aren’t even correct about where they are right now. And why are they not correct?
We fear the unknown. We fear the unknowable. It’s wired into us. It’s an impulse we work to overcome by expanding the boundaries of what we know. We grow with experience. We grow to understand and appreciate.
Are there truly evil people in the world? Yes, there are. But there are an awful lot of people who are not awful people on purpose — but they do awful things because they are reacting from fear.
Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand.
They don’t need to be destroyed. They don’t need to be rebuked.
They don’t need to be neutralized.
They need to experience more of the world outside their bubble. If only to understand that you aren’t the boogeyman they believe you to be. Just like they aren’t a source of evil for you.
Nearly two out of three Americans do not have a passport. One out of ten Americans have never left the state of their birth. And you can bet that a much larger number haven’t gone much further than a neighbor or two.
Some choose not to venture far. Some don’t make it a priority. But most of them don’t have the resources to see more of the world you take for granted. (And some have all the resources, yet would never deign to visit one of “those” hellholes where “those” people live.)
What we do have is a generational transformation, as an information pipeline brings us a world we don’t have firsthand experience with. People and places and traditions and cultures. That’s all good.
That same pipeline brings us threats, that “outsiders” are going to tear down our way of life, disrupt everything we know. And there are powerful people behind the scenes who are deliberately driving those messages, because if you can make people afraid, you can secure their votes.
This is really the essence of the culture war. A dash of ignorance, a distinct lack of understanding, and a heaping helping of fear. All of which brews and ferments because the chefs profit by stirring the mix.
Take it slow, we will be just fine. All we need is just a little patience.
That’s my hope for you, and for us all, in 2020 and beyond.
(My sincerest apologies to Yoda, Neil and Axl)