Every generation has attempted to project that their generation was better than the present. Although this has never been validated, one can find some explanation in the fact that human perceptions change in time, and so do the assessment of people about the past events. Regardless of what we might say about the past, it must be acknowledged that the world and the times we live in today, are fundamentally altered, from what it was 30-40 years ago, not only about what we think and do, but much more about how we do it.
When the computer invaded our peaceful world in the last quarter of the 19th century and became a household name, its perception changed from that of awe to something without which we cannot survive. The mobile phone, from the nuisance that it was, because its power to disturb our schedule, became the unavoidable, indispensable, reliable, welcome companion. Not only our perceptions, but our needs changed, our life style although in far greater control, no longer rendered us free, to do and behave as we wanted to be. We became by choice, slaves of devices and habits which we hated as much as we loved.
Communication at all times, from anywhere to anywhere is available on demand, right from where we are, almost face to face, and what Michael Crichton portrayed in his novels has become reality. Travel at unimaginable speeds and efficiency make the earth flat, and the social media that ride with us, freely, even without consent, have made our mental and social horizons, confused, complex, blurred and worse, toxic. Between our little planet earth that is becoming more toxic each day due to our greedy overuse and misuse, and our social media that spew venom and hate and spread prejudice, and have made it part of our social structure, it is difficult to predict which is worse and whose toxicity will destroy us first. Obscurity has apparently become more real than clarity and impending havoc is a quasi predictable predicament.
All catastrophic conflagrations that overtook mankind both of physical or social nature have mercifully ended with a situation that brought hope. Perhaps the only visible reason that enabled such an ending, in each case, appears to be, the societal tabus, or what one might call the ‘raison general’, the belief that mankind is made to be sane and survive as such. That state of affairs appears to have radically changed. History tells us of wars that lasted for several years, and in our contemporary world, our students of history find it difficult to imagine how it had all happened – how could so many people stay involved, in constant active warfare for so long, because such a scenario defied our sense of sanity. Look what is happening in Ukraine, and even what is happening in Manipur – does any one of them comply with our idea of a sane world? And yet it is happening with no end in sight, and life goes on for people who otherwise should have been concerned with the insensitivity of the situation. It appears that our perceptions have made peace with the inevitable.
Something in our social and human psyche is gradually changing, we are being immunized against what is inhuman, unacceptable and contrary to our understanding of ourselves as human kind. Perceptions have changed, throughout history, and the biggest example is what was once considered moral behavior and what was deviant behavior. Both ends of the spectrum have made peace, and that is perhaps understandable. But collective human cruelty, sustained unopposed oppression of fellow humans was abhorrent and it is no longer. Apartheid and slavery that were prevalent in bygone times, are officially non existent and even collectively condemned as undesirable and contrary to being human. History credits the slogan of the French revolutionaries ‘ egalite, liberte, fraternite’ as the three words that forever would change the course of history. As the result of that overawing triple idea, every single known instrument of collective wisdom that we normally call ‘ Constitutions’ or the ‘The Basic Law of a Land’ has asserted the allegiance of humanity to it.
But prejudice and hate have assumed such huge proportions that have somehow corrupted the very psyche of humanity and more and more public fora are slightly watching the cancer grow, because we are either tired or have grown fatally insensitive. Hateful actions have always been considered alien to human behavior, but no longer. Today hate against those who are considered ‘the other’, ‘diverse’, ‘of other faiths’, is nurtured and promoted as something justified. Spreading prejudice in official for a, casual lynching, and other such individual and collective actions such the use of bulldozer as a social punitive actions have gained official approval. There seems to be a difference between the ‘waves’ of hate that happened during the colonial occupations, or foreign invasions, or even the nazi holocaust, of the Pol Pot phenomenon, the Tutsi and Hutu massacres, etc and other such cruel and heinous happenings, as aberrations. But a systematic xenophobia, slow, steady, silent or open indoctrination has a far more radically dehumanizing effect on the human mind. It kills the human spirit, because hate although always born, as non agnostic, becomes agnostic once the immediate objective is achieved. In other words, in order to arouse hate, one needs an object, but after that objective is achieved, hate becomes endemic and seeks more objects and it is a passion that always seeks victims.
The only remedy is the ‘advocacy of hope’. The course of human kind in history has found meaning because it is universally believed to be projecting to the future, to the beyond. The shape and contours of that ‘beyond’ may not be clear, but the ‘beyond’ itself is universally accepted and desired. The element that feeds that yearning is ‘hope’. Hope is the only superseding force that exists as a solitary weapon of neutralizing ‘hate’, not as a counter to ‘hate’ but as a force that can be cultivated and nurtured in human minds, so that one does not fall victim to ‘hate’. The desire to remain ‘human’ and to strive that flame active at all costs could perhaps be the only antidote against a humanity that is slowly denying its fundamental core – being human, being sensitive, behind kind, having courage to forgive the past and overcoming prejudice.
Our world needs that redemption, the advocacy of hope, where there is hate, prejudice and insensitivity to other fellows’ pain and suffering.
Fr. Jose Alarico Carvalho