I’m finding that sometimes it helps to write these things down. I suppose I could get the same benefit writing it down in a private paper journal and not publishing it. But that feels pointless. I highlighted “feels” because in the end the same number of people will read it. I’m okay with that.
1 – How does everyone believe so strongly that they are in the right?
We often over simplify people in to two sides. Examples:
- Trump vs. Hillary
- Democrat vs. Republican
- Conservative vs. Liberal
- Christian vs. Muslim
- Abortion vs. Pro-Life
- Hitlers vs. Non-Hitlers
Doing so can make sense at a macro level, but it often doesn’t make sense at an individual level. Yet I see so many attacks at an individual level using blanket labels. I often wonder if it’s somehow due to some facet of human nature that requires argument and confrontation.
More importantly though, how is it so many people are so confident in their position? I often think about Nazi Germany ahead of WWII. These days we consider Hitler as if he was evil incarnate, and rightfully so. But Hitler did not steal power in Germany. The people elected him. And though maybe controversial to say, I believe many of the political messages Hitler was spewing would resonate well in today’s America. And so back to the simplified decision of “Hitler vs. Anyone Else”, many, many people chose Hitler. I believe they were unaware to what extent he intended to act on some of his beliefs, but regardless, they chose Hitler vehemently. To the extent that they bullied others that had reservations about that choice. How is it that people can be so confident in their stances that they forget history, and that the world is almost never black-and-white?
2 – Too Gentle to Live Among the Wolves
I bought a book of poems a long time ago when I was ~20 years old:
There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among the Wolves
by James Kavanaugh
I really liked it, though a bit sappy in parts and sad in others. However, the title and signature poem always stuck with me, and bothers me even to this day.
I am generally considered quiet. I’ll avoid confrontation unless there’s good reason to do otherwise. I am not a type A personality. I’m sure the vast majority of people meeting me would put me in with the sheep. But I am not a sheep, and I refuse to be a sheep. I’ve seen the world, and the wolves are in control.
Does that make me a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I feel like an ass saying it, but if it ever comes to it, then the answer is yes.
3 – Christians and Muslims
This has been discussed ad nauseum, but this is my outlet, so I’ll write my thoughts anyways.
These two religions share more in common than they do not. If we admitted the conflict was usually because of resources (land/oil/money/fear/etc), then I would understand it. But such major conflict because of subtle religious belief differences? It makes no sense.
I suspect one reason people are spouting religious intolerance is because we’re rarely precise in terminology. Some facts:
- Islam is not an intolerant religion. Only some of the minority fringe denominations are intolerant.
- Radical Muslims should be called terrorists, and they are in the minority. They represent a fraction of a percent of all Muslims.
- Saying these fringes represent the core of Islam is like saying ISIS represents all Muslims like the Church of Scientology represents all Christians.
I suspect another reason, and perhaps the stronger one, is that America (and many other world powers) are shifting back towards isolationism and protectionism. It’s not going to work, but for now, “make USA great, and only USA” is the prevailing sentiment of the people in control. In terms of race/religion/background, it the same as saying “make people like us great, and only people like us”. We live in a global world now, more so than ever before in history, especially in terms of macro economics. Perhaps we could go backwards on that for a while. But unless we destroy ourselves in the meantime, I believe an eventual shift back to globalization is inevitable.
Many of same people spouting a fear of Muslims seem to believe America should be a Christian nation, and are unaware of the many important reasons for separating church and state, regardless of religious beliefs. I can only guess that they’ve never had to deal with a government that changes its religious leanings to something they disagree with. Either have I, fortunately, but I have read history books.
Another reason I’ve heard is that it’s for security: No muslims, no terrorists. The statistics don’t support the logic of that argument, but it hones in on a fear for many. Especially those with minimal exposure to people of different ethnicity and religious backgrounds. These are often the same people that pulled themselves up in life, are fiercely independent, and believe in the need to protect themselves and their families. All valid and commendable. Except for the part whereby they don’t understand that the vast majority of people anywhere in the world want the same thing they do. Fear is a strong motivator. Maybe the strongest. And it doesn’t matter if it’s unfounded.
I have some friends in the military that are coming out strongly in support of the blocking of refugees and immigration from certain parts of the world. If the only Arabs I ever saw were trying to kill me, I’d probably be biased too. It still doesn’t make it right.
I don’t put much stock in popular religious figures, or manuscripts written thousands of years ago that have been rewritten numerous times to fit current prevailing views, but I do find this excerpt from Muhammad’s last sermon to be relevant:
Hurt no one else so that no one else may hurt you.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by taqwa and good action.
To be clear though, I’m not a pacifist. There are times when war and violence is required. But not often, not without serious consideration, and not because of petty religious or cultural differences. As has been demonstrated through human history and at every level of society, violence begets violence. In the current case, people didn’t wake up one day and decide to be terrorists, no matter how convenient that might be if it were true. Two of my favorite quotes regarding war:
“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” – John Adams
“Life is simply shades of grey. War is the greyest conceivable shade.” -Iian (online comment)
4 – Religion Customization
I find it interesting that many people will customize their religion to fit with their own personal beliefs. I’ve noticed this since I was a kid. A great modern example is the current Catholic pope. Many conservative Catholics do not like him, and so they pick and chose which of his teachings to follow and fully support. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I just find it interesting.
A much darker, and more extreme, example is ISIS.
5 – Infinite Greed
This is a thought that I haven’t been able to fully work out even for myself yet. It’s the idea that greed is subtlety driving many beliefs and motivations. I’m starting to think it’s almost at the same level as fear.
It’s a recurring thought I have while looking at Trump’s cabinet picks. I have a special interest in observing the actions of Andrew Puzder (Labor Secretary pick). I’ve been told by someone close to him that he’s a good man, a humble man, and I believe that was told to me with real sincerity. But his public views sound like self preservation to me, and at best, he seems out of touch with most people’s reality. The only thing I can see his proposed policies doing is to help the rich get richer, and poor poorer. I strongly believe that free market capitalism has limits in its ability to support a stable society and we’re close to reaching them. I don’t get the sense that Puzder would agree with me.
So on a more relevant level, I’ve been wondering how greed and fear are driving some of my closest friends. And perhaps, even myself.