I’ve been struggling for the past few days to process all the images, emotions and words that flood the media after the events of last week.
My initial reaction, when I woke up Saturday morning to the news of attacks in Paris, was one of horror and grief. I lit a candle for the souls of the victims and their loved ones. A deep sense of despair took hold of me. Ever since I was old enough to think for myself, I have longed for the moment that all humankind would be at peace with one another and with the world around them. These days a world at peace seems further away than ever.
My despair gradually turned to anger when I realized that Paris had been preceded by savage attacks in Baghdad and Beirut… and no one had kicked up a fuss about those. Why are we only outraged when European or American targets are hit?
In the meantime, fear-mongers were picking up as many bits of information as possible to prove that the Syrian refugee groups are infiltrated by jihadists. Totally ignoring the fact that these Syrians are fleeing from the same terrorism. And, even if it were true, building a climate of fear and paranoia is not going to make anyone safer. It will only exacerbate the situation.
I’m not a huge fan of the commentator Russel Brand, his style isn’t mine. But his recent commentary hit the nail on the head, as far as I’m concerned.
“there are violent people to both sides of this ideology and they are exacerbating, and we, the people in the middle, we’ve got to stop supporting them.”
Is this “war” about greed? Possibly. Is it about desire for vengeance? Hit them back before they hit us again? All very human emotions. What strikes me the most about it is this exaggerated concept of We and They. We are always right and our actions are always justified. They are always wrong and must be overthrown, converted, or destroyed.
In Joseph Campbell’s extensive research into world mythologies, Masks of God, he points out that there are two approaches to monotheism (the belief in one god). One is an open, all-inclusive approach: There are many names for the One and many ways to worship. The other is a closed, exclusive approach: Our Way is the only way. All others are false (and therefore must be converted or destroyed).
Believe me, not only the jihadists belong to that second group! You can find examples of this approach throughout the world, within most of the major religions and in the secular world. And the echoes of this approach reverberate back through history.
Man is not only motivated by fear, anger, and grief. Man is also motivated by compassion, joy, and love. We need to move through our paralysis, outrage, and despair and focus on acts of kindness and compassion. Bring our focus to the things that really matter. The quote (attributed to Gandhi), “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, may be overused these days but it hasn’t lost its relevance.