Othering, and the devastation of division and hatred

Hate is a word I try not to use too much. It’s a word that describes the worst of human emotions. It is an intense feeling.

As the news of what happened last night in Manchester comes out, hate is not the first feeling that comes to me. Melancholy. I feel an intense sadness that people can do this to others, particularly children, who are guilty of nothing. Just enjoying life.

I question what it is that could drive a man to blow himself up, in a concert hall full of kids. Some not much older than my own. And where I feel sorrow at the results of the evil act, I can only imagine that the Manchester-born young man hated intensely. He hated himself, otherwise how could he have ended his own life intentionally? He must have hated humanity, or how could he have murder children and young people so indiscriminately?

When a child smiles or laughs, when you watch them enjoying themselves, I can’t imagine the soul of a man that would use the death of these lights of the world for political ends. What did humanity do to him that was so bad for him to want to destroy its future?

But when I think about it a bit more, I realise, it wasn’t necessarily humanity he hated. He hated us. And we’ve been here before. There has been no shortage of mass murder and genocide in human history. When they occur, I believe there is a common event preceding it: painting some group as “the Other”. It is this Othering that allows people to do some of the most heinous acts.

During war, armies kill the enemy, not just because it is their duty and they know it is a “kill or be killed” situation, but because they are the “Other”.

During republican and communist revolutions, nobles were executed as “Others”; “they’re not like us”.

During the well-documented Holocaust, there was the systematic “Othering” of the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and that facilitated their extermination.

I look upon our world today and see a lot of divisive hatred. Aside from the cultural conflict of Islamist extremism, there is Right Vs Left; Leave Vs Remain; Internationalist Vs Nationalist; Working Class Vs “Metropolitan Elite”. And through all of this Othering, perpetuated by much of the media and politicians, they have got us all hating each other. But not hating each other because of our actions, but for what we believe.

I’m sure there was a time when a conservative and progressive could have a good, reasoned discussion. But when our own politicians, during debate, descend to school yard antics, it doesn’t set a good example for the rest of us. They’re supposed to be the most educated. The most informed. Yet they don’t seem to be interested in winning the discussions based on the strength of the ideas, but by weakening the credibility of the person delivering the opposing idea.

Humanity has faced a great many conflicts. Many millions have suffered because of this Othering. If we don’t find common ground — if we don’t seek compromise — how can we proceed as a species? Right and Left, Religious and Areligious, Christian/Muslim/Sikh/Jew, Remainers and Leavers, we all need to find the points we agree on, then look at those we don’t and try to meet in the middle — the centre ground. If we can achieve that, maybe we can avoid the level of hatred in the future that will lead to our own mutual destruction.

The worst of our capabilities as a species was seen yesterday night. But in the aftermath, we also saw the best. How the whole city pulled together, united by a common grief. Taxi drivers offering free rides home, restaurants giving free food, local residents offering their sofas and beds for those stranded. People were kind, considerate, giving.

I know that is who we truly are as a culture and species. I guess I always had, but recently I’d forgotten or become  disheartened. Let’s try and remember that, and not allow those that hate to divide us.

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