Going back in time, I remember when I was slowly starting to become aware of how some groups of people are treated versus others in our world, it puzzled me, but it also intrigued me. I wanted to know more and to learn more. I had respect for those who I thought had all our best interests at heart. Yes, I was so naive.
I am of the cohort that is fortunate to have had generations of people ahead of us who spearheaded actions toward a more equal society. We are all painfully aware that the job is not done and that even in countries like Canada, where there is more equality than in the past, there are still clear examples of the privilege of some, and some groups over others. We can clearly observe that in our own families and our own communities and one has to be blind to miss this.
Being brought up in Western Europe, I had hopes as a teen and young adult as I saw how the world (my world) was changing and going in the right direction. Of course, I must take into account that with a lack of information, I, like so many others might have seen only what we were shown to base this optimism on.
I believe in education, in unbiased transparent information. I feel that one of the best ways to show respect to others is to be open and honest to them. I strongly believe in challenging others (but not disrespectfully) on their views and having discussions and debates as this will result in more insight in all who partake.
I do believe that we all, and certainly I, have gone in the wrong, simply based on ignorance. Being born in a family with a set of values and traditions is not something anyone has control over. It is the fate that is stowed upon us. Questioning the behaviours of family and community members when old enough to do so, might be acceptable in some families and societies but not in others. But this should not get any us off the hook. When information is available, we, who have a voice and an opportunity also have a responsibility to respond.
Exposure to new information that rattles, shocks, and challenges us, is healthy when we take this into account and seriously consider its merit and meaning. Meeting people with different ideas and opinions is helping us to expand our vision and to become aware of our ethnocentrism.
We cannot blame people who have made mistakes when ignorant about what they did and its impact. Those who have a voice, however, can educate and teach and challenge others and the no-longer-relevant status quo. We certainly can and have a responsibility to make people accountable when they knowingly offend and harm others.
I believe in education. I believe in lifelong learning and in helping people to think, and to implement new information in addition to what they already had. It might be uncomfortable, but it is empowering to struggle with inconsistencies and to grow from this. The process to deal with cognitive dissonance adequately and effectively, is hurdled when placed under threat, as people become defensive when they feel attacked.
Shaming and ridiculing others, no matter how much you disagree with them, as so many “entitled voices” do on social media I believe is not helping anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand anger. When evil is done to people, they get angry and rightly so. Anger is energy and this can be channeled to create a movement of positive change.
In addition to advocacy and peaceful protests, I like programs that aim to challenge each participant to grow and think. E.g. sensitivity programs that are intensive and engage participants in discussions. It helps participants and also the facilitators to identify their own blind spots and when these are exposed in a non-threatening way, you bet these people will change and may become agents of change.
The worst we can do is to create a culture of fear, angst and anger. The fear for retaliation forces people to cover up their feelings and hide their opinions and the hostility will result in actions that are harming others.
This frightens me and for the first time in my life I have less hope…
Afterthought: It is interesting that process of thinking when struggling…
A MH professional like myself has to instill hope. We are used to seeing sweet affirmations posted over peaceful nature pictures with mountains and rainbows and carefully arranged rocks that are associated with families and communities on websites and social media.
This early morning I read about Unilever withdrawing ads from FB and Twitter and the statement included the word “divisiveness” “a tendency to cause disagreement or hostility between people”. That was helpful, as now I know that what frightens me is the hostility and what I can do, and I hope others do with me is to be selective in what we read.