It seems too much, the anger and the hatred broiling over and it seems that all us of have been turned into hapless by-standards. We live in a social and political climate that seems to value harsh rhetoric and fire-laced rants. What is lost in the process is the very thing that makes us human; with each successive day it seems animosity and antagonism keep begetting yet more and more animosity and antagonism. Encouraged by demagogues and political rabble rousers on all sides, we keep picking up blowtorches to fight fire and then wonder in astonishment why the world is engulfed in the inferno of war and rancor.
There was a time not too long ago where I was reading Thoreau’s Walden Pond. From the very first page, I was instantly drawn to Thoreau’s words. Though the book was written in the late 1800’s, Thoreau’s criticism of the industrial age could be applied directly to the information age we now live in. The connective tissue between the era of Thoreau and the era we now live is the way that materialism and consumerism was gnashing and tearing asunder the very essence of community and culture. Thoreau became so disenchanted with the excesses of the industrial age, he moved to a remote part of Massachusetts near Concord to disconnect from society. In the process, he wrote one of the most concise and prescient criticism of rank consumerism and foretold of its ugly consequences. The time we live in now is nothing more than a cancerous outgrowth of the age that Thoreau was condemning.
However, after reading the half of the book I had to force myself to stop. I could sense a level of despondency building up in my spirits, navel gazing at what is wrong with society can have a way of injecting sorrow in the spirit. What is true about me I am sure is true of everyone else; watching the news and reading of the ills of the world to an excess can imbue in our hearts a sense of ennui. Anger and hatred has an osmotic affect; by transference, the more time we spend being enveloped by pessimism and gloom, the more we will become gloomy and pessimistic. We are the sum of the energy around us; if we choose to focus on positive energy we will be positive in our thinking. The same way, negative energy only attracts more negativity in our lives.
I’m not saying to be oblivious to the issues of the day and to pretend like all is going swimmingly. We have every right to be alarmed as it seems the negativity of the world is growing stronger by the day. But I know this one thing to be true, you can’t fight hatred with hatred nor can darkness drive out darkness. Approaching justice through partisan goggles and feeding into the “us versus them” paradigm is only feeding fuel to the fire. Protesting against “republicans” or marching against “liberals” is counterproductive at best, at its worse it is lending to the same loathing and hostility these protests are supposed to be demonstrating against. Our society is ruptured in half, two hands thus pointing fingers at each other instead of coming together to fix the very iniquities that both sides are mad about.
It is the height of folly to paint all Trump supporters as racists and the same height of inanity to depict all Black Lives Matter protesters as “moochers”. Both sides are upset at the same things if they only stop and listened to one another instead of yelling invective at each other. The same could be said of countless groups that keep popping up as our society keeps getting sliced and diced into endless classes. Sadly, as these classes and subgroups keep protesting and projecting outrage, they don’t see that they are feeding into the master plan of defeating all of us through the tactic of divide and conquer. Five fingers wagging and waging war at each other refusing to come together to form a fist—each finger gets broken one by one because they refuse to unite. Collective struggle is quaint notion, everyone is seeking individual redress and end up getting only further grievance.
Here is a modest idea, maybe the way to solve the hatred all around us is to just be kind. Be kind to one another and reach out a hand of friendship to the person who you think is your enemy. Let us reserve our condemnation for those at the top who prosper through our misfortune but when it comes to fellow victims of this economic warfare that has been unleashed on all of us give grace. Give grace and kindness for the masses in Chicago are suffering and struggling in abject hardship the same way the masses are suffering in the Appalachians. It is easy to dehumanize “the others” but the others bleed and cry just like us. Take away the endless labels we append to ourselves and the ceaseless identities we keep holding on to and you will see that we all share the same pains and joys and the hope for a better tomorrow. The world can be a blessing like the purrs of kittens and the innocence of children or we can keep marching to the beat of wolves and ogres—the choice is ours to give kindness or redouble hatred.
It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, my happiness does not have to come at the cost of another man’s joy. The only way to approach justice is through inclusion, all else is worthless and a counterproductive reactionary form of intellectual self-pleasure and nothing more. Stop making things political and make it about humanity. Above all, seek love and be love for all the protests and angry marches in the world will only beget more outrage. Hashtag laced demonstrations might feed into our frustrations but in the end it does nothing to solve the core of the policies which we are rightly raging over. Going to a march to speak and be amid the masses who share your ideology and your politics is not courage, courage is speaking to someone who does not share your same views and might even be your political foe. Injustice is lessened though when we talk to those who hate us and change their hearts through dialogue and discourse. As long as we are fractured into islands of separable grievances, all we will ever do is resist injustice. Only when we unite beyond the barriers and borders erected to keep us apart will go from the resistance to overcomers. Think on that for a moment.
Like Thoreau once said “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of injustice for every one that is hacking at its root”. Let us stop hacking at the branches of hatred that is consuming the world and instead just be kind to one another. That is how we change the world get at the root of injustice, not through reactive marches and protests but by just being kind to someone who is not like us and changing their hearts in the process. Be kind and be love and in time the reservoir from which injustice gets its power will be drained. Stop worshiping the rich and powerful who oppress you and instead be blessed by being kind to your fellow strugglers. If you want the 99% to take on the 1% who bleed us, the 99% will first have to stop splintering themselves and come together instead. Let kindness be the glue that binds us, let love be the way forward.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”~ Henry David Thoreau
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.