Saturday, 18 February 2017

On Compassion & Tolerance

     One step forward, ten steps back? That's how the world has been looking to me lately. Over the years, we as a society have made plenty of advances in our treatment of each other - women have the vote, slavery was abolished, homosexual marriage is legalised in more and more countries. And yet somehow, I still feel deeply, deeply unsettled and disturbed by the state of our world, and by the way in which some humans insist on treating others. This rise of white nationalism and facist "alt-right" behaviours is nothing short of appalling to witness, and big events like the spike in hate crimes after Brexit, and Trump's Muslim ban show the scale that this has now reached.

Uchtdorf quote on compassion
(source)

     But why? Why do we insist on judging each other, and viewing some people as "better" than others? Why does the colour of someone's skin or the religion they believe in or the gender they identify as or the person they choose to love mean they should be treated in a different way? I cannot fathom the psychological state of people who genuinely believe that they have some sort of privilege over others, largely due to circumstances out of their control - we cannot choose who we are born as, be it race, gender or sexual orientation. It's so disheartening to see that, despite the advances made to help these marginalised groups over the years, they continue to be just that - marginalised. The world is becoming a more dangerous place for so many of its inhabitants. When will the world's population finally treat everyone as equals?

    I feel I'm writing from an outside perspective on this though - as heterosexual, cisgender, and white my problems are far less than many others. As a woman, and from a working class background, I'm not free from disadvantage entirely, and have experienced my fair share of problems - both those faced by working class women, and those faced by all people, regardless of their race, gender or whatever. But I've still been able to get a university education, travel extensively, and live a fairly safe life, so my life has been far easier than so many others. And that's something I feel guilty about, as it's purely circumstantial that I was born as I was. So many people will have faced the same problems as me, but with a multitude of others on top of that. And I will never truly understand all the issues faced by these people. It's all very well saying "put yourself in the other's shoes", and we should still try to do this to be as sympathetic as possible. But unfortunately, I cannot truly empathise with something I never have, and likely never will experience for myself, and so I'm not going to try to say I understand it fully.

    What I can do though, what we can all do, is try. They may not be problems that you or I are facing personally, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to help, by whatever means we can. Be aware of what's happening in the world, if you aren't already. Get informed and realise that these problems aren't just going to go away by themselves. Remember that changes have been made to our society in the past, and they can and must continue to be made now and in the future. Be tolerant of others, because really, are they causing you any harm, just because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs? Learn about other people and perhaps gain a little more knowledge and insight about those different to yourself. And also, look at people as people, who are defined by more than just one trait or aspect of themselves; remember that while someone's race, class, sexual orientation or gender may cause them to face more disadvantages than others, but that they are not just their race, class, sexual orientation or gender, and could be facing the exact same struggles as anyone else too.

Maya Angelou quote on hate
(source)

      And be compassionate. Be kind and accepting. Look at your own behaviours, your actions, your thoughts, and think about what consequences they might be having. We're all guilty of stereotyping sometimes, or of forgetting about problems because they are not our own. Think more carefully about what you do, and the opinions you may hold, because they could affect others more than you realise. Open your arms, your home, your heart to everyone, whoever they may be. Listen to their stories, learn about their histories. If you can help, help. If there is nothing you can do, do your best to be understanding, and spread the word. We need knowledge and awareness, and then compassion and tolerance and acceptance. And action. Most of all, action is what will result in change, so if there is something you can do, do it. Don't wait for someone else to do it.

     We all live on the same planet. We are all members of the human race. We are all entitled to the same rights and treatment as each other. We all face problems in our lives, but some face far worse than others. As a society, as a world, we need to be less selfish. To those of us in more "privileged" positions, we need to show kindness, offer help, understand as much as we can, and implement the changes necessary for others. None of us are better than or entitled to more than anyone else is, so why do some continue to insist they are? And to those who do feel marginalised, or even afraid, be brave and be strong. Please know that there are still people out there who want to help you, who want everyone to have equal rights and fair treatment, and who want your struggles to end. And most of all, to everybody, do not give up hope of a better world, otherwise there's no chance that it will get better. We must hold on to hope, so that we can keep pushing forwards and create the very world we hope for.

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