Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Face of Anger

Sometimes the hardest part about writing is finding your starting point. You may have the whole story, or article, mapped out in your head, but still have no clue as to how to begin. Other times when you catch the starting point, the rest of the piece just follows in its wake.

This is one of those latter type pieces.

Earlier this evening, literally less than half an hour ago, I was in a study group looking at the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Book of Certitude. We read a number of paragraphs, all of which I had recently read in the past few weeks, and this time two sentences jumped out at me.

The first is from paragraph 175:
And the people also, utterly ignoring God and taking them for their masters, have placed themselves unreservedly under the authority of these pompous and hypocritical leaders, for they have no sight, no hearing, no heart, of their own to distinguish truth from falsehood.
The "them", by the way, are those leaders who ignore the counsels in the Writings due to their lust for leadership and want of discernment.

The second quote is from paragraph 187:
Thus the peoples of the world are judged by their countenance. By it, their misbelief, their faith, and even their iniquity are all made manifest.
Ok. That last one was actually two sentences. Sorry.

But still, I found an interesting train of thought following upon those few sentences.

First, given the plethora of news stories about "fake news", that first quote struck me as very timely. More and more today we are seeing people who will unquestioningly believe whatever the leader of their particular political party or group may say. And this isn't limited to one party or another, but seems to span across the board Ok. So that's just a minor observation. A sad one, to be sure, but still fairly minor. Nothing new.

Then I thought about the second quote. The people, during this time of judgment, will not be questioned about their doings, for their very faces will speak of what is in their hearts.

Then I thought about both of those quotes together. And I thought some more. And then I recalled seeing various pictures on the internet, which I will not share here for a few reasons. First, I am sure there are copyright issues that I don't want to get involved with. Second, I would feel bad about putting an actual face of a real person here when just describing it will do, and thus keep it anonymous.

So, here goes.

I remember seeing a saddeningly large number of pictures floating around the net of Trump supporters at various gatherings with their faces filled with anger as they kicked an African American citizen out of their midst, saying they were not welcome there. And I've seen a saddeningly large number of similar photographs floating around out there of the anger on people's faces at various rallies protesting the loss of women's rights, the "travel ban" in the US, or any number of protests by those who are against Trump and his policies.

And when I just looked at their faces, I was stuck by the similar nature displayed on both.

It doesn't matter whether I agree with the ideology of one side or the other, for the faces all display anger and hatred in their hearts.

We are living in a time where disunity is becoming more and more evident, resulting in a social mix in which people are becoming less and less likely to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with them on one point or another. And really, it doesn't matter which side is "right", if the result is anger and discontent. This can do nothing but lead to more violence.

So what is the solution? Do we just ignore what is going on around us?

Not at all. But protest, I truly believe, is not the solution. When you protest something, your primary purpose is to tear it down. Get rid of it. And this, dear Reader, just leaves a lack, an emptiness, a void. The real question is what should go in its place. What are we building?

"Humanity's crying need will not be met by a struggle among competing ambitions or by protest against one or another of the countless wrongs afflicting a desperate age," said a message of the Universal House of Justice back in 2001. "It calls, rather, for a fundamental change of consciousness, for a wholehearted embrace of Baha'u'llah's teaching that the time has come when each human being on earth must learn to accept responsibility for the welfare of the entire human family."

That's a huge statement. A change of consciousness? Accept responsibility for the welfare of the entire human race?

Yes.

Quite simply, yes.

The rhetoric that has been so popular is exemplified by that slogan in the US: America first.

But it's not just in America. This mindset has been popular in many countries, to varying degrees. And we can see where it naturally leads.

It's not pretty.

It has led to some fairly disastrous situations, and will no doubt lead to more.

Baha'u'llah has said, in unequivocal terms, "It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."

We need to learn to not only look after our own interests, which we are, admittedly, fairly good at, but to do so as long as it is not at the expense of others.

Saving a few dollars on a new shirt should not be worth it to me if it means that a child somewhere else in the world is starving. I don't need to protest about it. I should just buy my clothes somewhere else. And that's what I do. I try to raise the awareness. Everything else will just sort itself out. As awareness is raised, the business trends will shift.

If I tell people not to shop at one particular store, then I am actually doing two things. First, I am advertising the store I want to protest. I am bringing it to people's awareness. I am getting them to think about it. When they say that no press is bad press, they are calling on a fundamental idea in psychology. We will remember the name far longer than we will remember why we heard the name in the first place. Secondly, I am not necessarily telling the person where else they can shop. Suppose I really need a particular item, and I know of one store that has it. If someone tells me that I shouldn't go to that store, fine. But where else can I go? I need another option. It seems far more effective to me to say to the person that they can get this item at another store where they, say, treat their employees better. Now I will recall the other store more readily.

In the end, it is ok to disagree. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, it is through the clash of differing opinions that the spark of truth arises. But if it means that there is anger in your heart, then the change that you are seeking can never be worth it.

2 comments:

  1. Well done as always. We all need to hear this.

    One point on not buying things made with child labor or other unseemly labor practices, and on suggesting to others to do the same... The intention behind this is highly commendable, but you should know that this type of social action can have unintended, and sometimes negative, impacts on the wellbeing of those in developing countries. I will not get into the details here but I would encourage you to Google some of the research on this. If we really care about our brothers and sisters in poorer countries, it *may* actually be better rather than worse to buy products that are made in these countries, even if they are made with wages or working conditions that we find unacceptable by our own rich country standards. The point is that it's a trickier issue than most assume it to be. That's all.

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