We Create What We Hate

I had a great first evening of class with my students. We discussed many ethical topics. It was during one particular exercise that a student revealed how she was socially anxious over how people perceived her. I remarked that it was a shame that we have created a society in which she felt that way.

And it is true. We have engineered a society that bolsters shaming, finger pointing, ostracism, ridicule, and so many other hurtful behaviors against people, causing them to withdraw and not participate in the social traffic that would benefit them, and us.

We all have done it in our own way, despite our grandstanding that we are so moral and ethical, and we would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings, or make them feel invalidated, or ashamed. After all, we are completely altruistic, of course.

Well, SOMEBODY’S DOING IT. Which is something else we are good at; pointing out others who are engaging in this kind of behavior. Once again, it’s the Phil Donahue syndrome as I pointed out in the previous post.

I do not know if this egregiousness has grown exponentially worse because of social media, but certainly there is much more access to it, and because millions of people are plugged in, there is that significant faction that engages in such destructive practices.

We know how rampant cyberbullying is, and it will take time for our culture to shift to where that is not only unacceptable, but we will police social cyberspace much more effectively. In the meantime, reputations are being tarnished, characters are being assassinated, and there is a significant level of collateral damage.

That is what we have done as citizens, notwithstanding the good we do accomplish both in the public square and in social media, with the various causes, campaigns, strings of positive messages, and thoughtful quotes. I would like to think we have done more good than harm.

So as our mouths and our devices are tools used for both good and harm, and as we as individuals are the sum of our choices, so is the mechanisms of our society. Thus, we create what we hate, as we create what we love. It is our charge to change this woeful dynamic, as human and flawed, and prone to massive failure as we are.

As I have articulated in previous posts, we created Trump. He did not come out of a vacuum. He is the monster Frankenstein created, which was his father. Many like Trump are products of their environment, and of course, they can either develop twisted and dysfunctional, or rise above it and become healthy and giving, or variations in between.

We created the polarized sociopolitical climate in which we function. Though government, corporate, and religious institutions have a monumental controlling interest and influence on the populous, we the people still have the agency to shift the dynamic to our favor, to create community out of conflict, and to create harmony out of hostility. We can make small, incremental, transformative changes in our neighborhoods and communities against the tide of acrimony that pounds us daily.

I will incessantly hammer away until I am heard. This can happen every day: being kind, giving someone a smile and a hug, being decent to one another, doing the clichéd random acts of kindness. Most of all, making the choice to give someone a compliment instead of pointing out something we believe is a flaw in or on them. We can not only be the change we want to see the world, we can be the world that changes.

It is one thing for someone to be socially anxious because of internal forces, but if it is because of what we as a society have done, then we are the ones who should be ashamed; for hurt children become hurt adults who hurt people, and the cycle continues until we stop it.

 

Ron Kipling Williams