11 Oct 2010

Hate crimes. Or: where I fail to understand.

I came across this article via a blog I'm following and it made me angry. Not the article, obviously, but the crime it described in gruesome detail.

Over fifteen years ago, a professor of American literature I was lucky to study with as an exchange student in Southern Germany, called me "too relativistic". I understood why: I had the habit of looking at everything from so many angles, that I was unable to pick just one point of view and treat it as 'the right one'.

Since then, I've learnt to manage it better, but the need to look for the underlying whys and hows of ... well, everything, is still there. In most sufficiently complicated situations, I can't decide what's right or wrong, I see mainly different points of view: developed, taught and learnt in differing circumstances. Some of them cause pain to some, joy or comfort to others. But they all have underlying reasons, that are there to be looked for and - sometimes - found.

I guess this relativism is such an intrinsic part of being an ENFP, that I'll be that way until I depart from these realms. And I'm happy about that, because this characteristic has been a driving force for me to keep adapting and learning, and every time I was at risk for taking things too much for granted, it's given me a good kick in the butt.

However, I've discovered there are limits to my attempts - and ability - to understand.
The things that tick me off most are unfairness and abuse of power, in all their forms, and especially when they're pointless, unprovoked and directed at creatures who stand no chance in that situation. And most hate crimes tick all of those boxes.

Yes, I do understand that our inner animal wants to pick a fight when it feels threatened, and that many of us would be capable of resorting to violence in order to protect something or someone that we consider ours, part of our family or tribe.
But can someone tell me what's so threatening about the freckled redhead in the playground, or about women, ethnic minorities or the gay couple next door?

Or are more and more people feeling so powerless in this modern and estranged world, that those bottled up emotions grow into hate that needs to find a way out and gets aimed at anyone who happens to be close by, a bit more different or more colourful and vulnerable enough not to hit back?

And more importantly: how will this end?

Will this continue until only a few are left standing, only to discover that the diversity of species was a prerequisite for survival? Or do we - on the other side of the spectrum - decide to protect our minorities and most vulnerable creatures by making them hide under layers of plain cloth or standardised behaviour, which would make our beautiful planet so much less colourful and interesting?

How can we match our needs as individuals with those of the many tribes we are part of: our families, our social circles, our communities, neighbourhoods, villages and cities, our countries, continents and the entire planet?

So far I have only questions. Because I'm still trying to understand. NOT to justify and NOT to rationalise, but to understand.

Until we do, I fear we have no solutions. Until we do, I'll use my outrage as fuel to keep looking for answers, grateful as I am for the many colourful people in the tribes I'm part of.
Ignoring this anger would be bad, for their sakes as well as mine. Chances are it'd bottle up and turn into hate. And we don't need any more of that, do we?
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