I’ve thought about it and thought about it and I’m still not even really sure where I want to start with this. I feel the need to say something. To, in some small way, address the violence and hate that is poisoning our world. My little voice alone may not make even a hint of a difference but if enough little voices speak out maybe, just maybe, we can stop the world from caving in.
In the wake of the tragedies in France there has been a lot of talk about freedom of speech. About it being attacked. About protecting it. Except I don’t really feel that many people (certainly not visible people) are talking about it properly.
Freedom of speech is incredibly important. I strongly believe it is something everyone should have a right to and I am very aware that it is not. People all over the world are persecuted and targeted and hunted like animals for their beliefs, for expressing themselves. I believe that is very wrong.
I believe we have a right to speak our minds, even if it offends people. I also believe that we have the right to be offended by what others say/do. HOWEVER (and this is the key) I feel just as strongly that, as with every right, we have responsibilities that go hand in hand.
If I have the right to freedom of speech I believe I also have a responsibility to recognise that I share this world with other human beings who think and believe differently to me; that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and that I should avoid intentionally offending anyone. Likewise if I have the right to be offended I believe I also have a responsibility to recognise that I share this world with other human beings who think and believe differently to me; that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and that I should not behave unreasonably as a result of my offence.
Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Unfortunately, I do not believe the opening sentence of Article One to be true at this moment in time. All human beings are not born free and equal. They should be, but they are not; circumstances perpetuated by whoever it is that holds all the power (and/or money). This is shameful and we collectively, as the human race, should be doing something about it. That something should NOT involve violence or hatred.
Because I absolutely believe the second sentence to be true.
As human beings we ARE endowed with reason and we ARE endowed with conscience and we ABSOLUTELY SHOULD behave towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood (or sisterhood or personhood).
I am very aware that it is easy for me to type this from my privileged, white, western perspective. That any injustice I have faced has been tiny in comparison to that faced by others. That for many, taking up arms seems like the only option. Something needs to be done to make sure this is not the case.
This week I read this article, showing a perspective that many won’t want to hear. Towards the end the writer, Asghar Bukhari, calls for world leaders to have the courage to say ‘Everyone chill out, put the guns down and lets talk’. I want to add to that. I would want them to say not just ‘let’s talk’ but also ‘let’s listen’. One won’t work without the other, it has to come from all sides and in actual fact it needs to be more than just the world leaders and political elite finding the courage to say it. It needs to be all of us. It needs to be the citizens of the world and the ever present and powerful media.
We need to decide that we do not want to leave a legacy of hatred and violence.
We need to talk.
We need to listen.
We need to remember that violence leads nowhere but back to itself. We need to remember that violence can come through words as well as physical means.
I find it devastating that people bring darkness and hatred into the lives of others. I find it even more devastating when people respond in kind. I have no idea what the answer is, believe me I wish I did, but my heart, my soul, my entire being screams that there must be a better way.
These words have never rung truer for me:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I feel so much love for those people who calmly proclaim peace and love, and condemn the violence of others, even as they themselves are targeted. They show us what it means to be human.
This is not just about the tragedies in France. This is about the tragedies happening around the world every day. The ones reported and the ones ignored. This is about the devastating waste of life and resources and the appalling lack of humanity demonstrated by people of any and all religions, nationalities and political leanings around the world.
We need more love. We need more respect. We need more peace.
So please, for the love of humanity, find a way to spread love instead of hate.
Image from here.