I awakened at 2:30 this morning fully alert and very troubled. I had planned to sleep in much later, but my mind must have been processing the series of five videos I had watched an hour before bedtime, last night. http://youtu.be/AZ_aSl3ktjg
“Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia” was something that should have come up earlier in the day in the “suggested” list, and I should have probably postponed watching it until later, but I couldn’t resist it. Civil liberties and human rights are a major driving force in my life. I’m magnetically drawn to civil rights movements of all sorts.
The global campaigns against LGBT people are astonishing in their depth of evil, hatred, and cruelty. In trumpeting the buzzword “morality”, great immorality is engaged. The oppressive, fascistic perpetrators play the word game of calling their victims fascists.
The Sochi Olympics brought worldwide focus on the culture of scapegoating and moralism that has infected the Republic of Russia. But I have a feeling that the fleeting attention levels of the public are moving along to the next human rights violation de jour. After all, there are so many minorities to oppress and so many distractions to help us escape from man’s inhumanity to man.
If a person takes the time to quietly study the problem of our propensity towards cruelty, certain patterns show up. One of the major aspects of institutionalized cruelty is the act of justifying violence and marginalizing the victims. There might be the pseudo scientific practice of Eugenics as was practiced during World War Two in Europe. The primary validations of this activity included pseudo-religious teachings, patriotism, pandering to prejudice, and scapegoating. These are not the causes of cruelty and hate, these aspects are only used as excuses to engage.There is a cruel streak that runs through people. It seems to me that it manifests at different levels in the population.
Many people are more kind hearted, compassionate, and accepting. Other people are inherently mean spirited, ruthless, and dogmatic. At one level, these qualities appear inbred. At another level they are a part of the socialization and instruction of the population.
During past centuries, persecution and pogroms were instigated and fueled by misinformation and pandering to fears of the “other”. The flames of hatred and cruelty were fanned by charismatic secular and religious speakers. In contemporary terminology, we call this communication propaganda. The desire to control information is why the Republic of Russia has outlawed so-called “gay propaganda”. The victims must never be allowed any sort of defence in the court of public opinion. The propaganda war enables the kangaroo court of prejudice and violence.
There is, however, the deeper problem of cruelty. That racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, and other attitudes and actions are only symptoms of the much more sinister and destructive urge towards cruelty.
I’m basically skeptical about overarching concepts and accepted assumed attitudes and ideals. I’ve long not believed there are such things as forces of good and forces of evil. Life is too subjective for such concrete categories. I do see animal and human patterns of behavior, though.
There is certainly the laudable good about charitible behavior towards our fellow humans, regardless of who they are. I’ve written often about the positive qualities of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. There is also the dynamic emotion or quality we call love.
On the flip side, we find the horrifying, dehumanizing behaviors of hatred and violence. Humans are succeptible to believing that expressions of hatred are somehow actions of love and religiosity. We are easily stirred up to harm and kill other people. This usually stems from attitudes of intolerance.
None of this is new. People have pondered over good and evil for millenia. The need to stop violence and murder has been evident within every generation of humankind. Our species has been terribly crippled by nationalism, tribalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other beliefs for centuries. I’m not the first person to understand that cruelty stems from the lack of empathy.
Wisdom teachers and philosophers have studied and written hundreds of essays about how the lack of empathy lies at the root of cruelty and hatreds. This lack of empathy makes it seem natural and good to fall into the abyss of cruel thought and behavior. Cruelty, itself, enflames the mind and is easily spread to other people. Epidemics of persecution, oppression, and genocide quickly engulf a society or a nation, leaving human misery and death in their wakes. Cruelty is then twisted around and seen, by some, as a good thing.
Throughout the years, and today, some secular and religious leaders actively encourage the erosion of empathy in order to leverage social action to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of “outcast” peoples. You might think of empathy as a riverbank. When the trees and plants are cut and removed, the riverbank erodes away with each storm and flood. The trees of empathy along with the grasses of sympathy and love are removed to enable the erosion that is cruelty. In that tolerance has been denigrated, we witness cruel behavior.
Many scholars have noted that cruelty can stem from borderline personality disorders like narcissism and psychopathy. Extreme self-centeredness, and extreme selfishness or focusing mainly on oneself lead to the mental dehumanization of other people. Mindsets of this sort make it easy to think of scapegoated individuals as non-human pests. From dehumanization, cruel behavior is only a small step away. It is easy to justify the tormenting and elimination of pests.
This process has been imported into areas of Africa, into Russia, France, and parts of the Americas. Right now, this empathy disorder is on the upswing, so it’s difficult to see its ultimate cure. It’s this upsurge in evil cruelty that awakened me and kept me from going back to sleep, early this morning.
The Blue Jay of Happiness knows that positive, empathetic people, working together, need to join together to bring our world to a better place, soon.