It is getting harder and harder to have a conversation these days. The harsh insults and acrimonious dialogues that are prevalent on social media is bleeding into the public discourse. It’s as though our minds are being rewired to lead with ad hominem; instead of talking to each other, we talk right past each other as we unleash blowtorches upon one another in passing. Antipathy has become the new normal; we are regressing to the meanness and letting unkindness be our moral compass in the process.
I don’t know why it feels so good to return hate with yet more hatred. There is no profit to be had by wading into the pool of enmity and antagonism. Alas, the ego is a bedeviling companion; loath to let someone else get the last word and feel diminished by the rancor of others, it is all together too easy to punch back instead of being prudent. The wise thing is to walk away when someone comes at us with ill will, but who has time for wisdom when our pride is at stake. Writing about this in reflection makes the whole notion of “clapping back” seem petulant. But in the heat of the moment, sagacity gives way to cynicism as we engage in childish behaviors in order to make an example of people who approach us with infantile slurs.The social media tail is waging the dog of society at large. Algorithms shepherd us to people who think just like us as news feeds and suggested articles, predicated by our consumption habits, serve to reinforce what we already know—group think and herd mentality has become our default mode. We get gratified by amens from the choir who hum the same tunes as us and feel validated when the congregation of like minded thinkers press likes and retweets on our posts. It’s all about the ego; we would rather sooth our psyche than seek out others who think differently. In this paradigm, it gets harder and harder to have a civil dialogue. Sadly, too often, divergent opinions are met with bazookas as disagreements lead to contempt and scorn.
As if disagreements being treated as a casus belli for civil wars was not bad enough, we are now entering into an era where thought policing and threats of being threatened with scarlet labels is silencing speech and divergent opinions. To proffer an original thought or say something that runs against the grain of public opinion is to risk being marginalized, losing jobs and facing financial insolvency. It has become all too frequent to hear of people getting fired because they dared to post something on social media or expressed themselves in ways that offended somebody. It seems so enticing to jump on the wagon and demand someone be silenced for saying something controversial until the table is turned and we end up on the firing line for expressing a thought that offended someone else. A society of vengeance and revenge eventually consumes itself.
Is it any wonder then that we have a man in the White House who has the pomposity of Joseph Stalin and the maturity of a fetus? Donald Trump is not an outlier, he is just a reflection of the society we have become. It’s sad when you think about it; people who are suffering the same economic anxieties and life uncertainties are resorting to otherizing and self-nullification by way of infighting instead of uniting to work for a collective redemption. Politics, sports, pop culture; almost every aspect of public conversations leads eventually to the cul-de-sacs of incivility and petty reactions. We live in an age where snark is seen as a virtue and tolerance is understood as a weakness. [read They Call You What They Are].
I don’t mean to be preachy on this topic. God knows that I too am guilty of the very things I outline in this article. There was a time not too long ago where I took pride in laying the figurative hammer on anyone who responded to my opinions with hostility or tried to shine at my expense. I used to brag about leveling trolls. But in the end, I became the troll by derivative. Reverting to hate to attack hate makes one a hater too. It was this conniption of mine to get the last word that played a large part in my two year journey of hardship and indigence. I learned through the fire the uselessness of returning animus with bitterness. Yet even with a wisdom earned by misfortune, the ego remains. Try hard as I might to let patience and love guide my reactions, at times I still fall and insist on getting the last word. If we want change to happen in this world, we must first change our hearts. We can ask for all the legislation in the world and demand every law we can imagine to deliver equality, but in the end no edict can mend the soul. Each one of us must make the decision to let kindness and empathy be our North Stars. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”. We can add more log onto the fire of anger that is burning the ground at our feet or we can hold on to the candle of love and let kindness be the light that changes the world. #ChooseLove
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Check out the latest Ghion Cast where I discuss how politics and partisan ideologies prevent us from seeing the bigger picture of injustices that take place and impact all of us regardless of labels and our differences.
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discussed how “otherizing” is preventing us from working towards inclusive justice.
If you are in the DC Metro area, come out tomorrow (Saturday, December 16th) to Sidamo Coffee and Tea as I host an event to launch my first book Serendipity’s Trace and then take part in a community discussion about Race and Identity in America. Click HERE or on the picture below to RSVP or just walk in and be a part of my first event in Washington DC.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij 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. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.