Hate and self-interest are trending. Internet and the social media have provided the nasties with the means to find each other and create outlets for their bigotry.
Since they are truly nasty, in a way that this old lady doesn’t care to be, they do not hesitate to use these tools aggressively and successfully.
Aggressive tends to win over conciliatory, at least short-term. Positive is so bland compared to negative. Nasty sells better than nice. Besides, nice people don’t want to get involved in nasty fights.
So we end up with Brexit and a Britain full of bigotry, with Trump and the Chief Bigot himself, Bannon, in the White House, and with fear and prejudice on the rise in the Western world countries. The ones that used to be forerunners in liberty, equality and fraternity, to quote the French; that used to hold dear the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to quote the Americans.
Today these rights seem to come with more and more qualifications. They are not for everyone anymore. If you are a Muslim or a Jew, gay or a woman, Mexican or Polish, or of any foreign origin whatsoever, or just different in some way, you are much more likely to experience open bigotry and prejudice than a few years back.
Note the word open. All this hate cannot have erupted overnight. It must have been simmering in the living rooms, bars and other local haunts of many a town, in order to reach such heights so quickly.
The liberal Western cultures are ripe for the picking. They don’t know how to fight dirty, as the bigots do, and they don’t even want to learn. Will “love, not hate” survive the onslaught?
I would say yes, if I felt that nothing has changed fundamentally. That basic human decency still flourishes, and homes and schools still teach ethics. But things have changed. I will try to analyse how.
If you have ever been in the position to have to decide on lay offs, you know that it is easier to lay off a group of people working in a country you seldom visited than a few of you nearest and dearest colleagues. Knowing the person you have to fire, and having to fire them face to face, makes it personal, instead of just facts on a spreadsheet. The need for the lay offs may be the same in both cases, but the decision is more difficult in the latter.
The Internet has the same effect. It is easier to hate and be hateful, when you don’t have to get to know the objects of your hate. Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder. In the case of people you don’t know, it has the opposite effect.
Bigotry, prejudice and cliqueing are all forms of separating yourself from others. It is only the level of hate that varies. All of us are prejudiced in some way or another, but for most of us our prejudices do not involve hate, as they do in the case of bigots.
The social media is comparable to high school cafeterias at their worst. Narrow-mindedness flourishes, as people interact in their like-minded silos. Bigots join bigots, hating from afar becomes all too easy.
Before the Internet, most of us had to get along with the neighbours because they were close by and easiest to befriend. There was no Information highway to take you to friends farther away. So we ended up befriending people just because they lived nearby, or went to the same school, or worked in the same workplace. To have someone to play with, we had to learn to get along with the neighbourhood kids, even if they had different preferences, genders, or skin colours.
Life moved more slowly, there was even time for family discussions on right and wrong. Many grew up in a bubble of innocence.
I am not saying that face to face friendships and innocence are impossible today, but the Internet has brought a lot of negativity closer to home. In addition, all too many people can, and do, spend a big part of their day on social media, or gaming at their computers, befriending only those who think alike.
How fundamentally does this change us? How does the de-personalised Internet world affect our view of our fellow humans? It seems that both hate and self-interest are trending strongly.
There used to be a collective story as far as countries were concerned. For Finland it was the story of a small country fighting valiantly and successfully for its independence, and paying all its war loans. A country that wanted to stand on its own feet and proudly create a better future for its increasingly well-educated, hardworking, honest people. A country that made itself a Nordic welfare state.
For America it was the story of a giant melting pot of cultures, of a land of endless opportunities, where the pursuit of happiness with hard work was amply rewarded. A country that learned to respect and value its ethnic and cultural diversity, and build on it.
Now the Nordic welfare state is backfiring, and the American dream is becoming a nightmare for many who have lived in the country for centuries.
It is all about the jobs, or rather the absence of them – and about alienation.
When there is economic growth to share freely, no one notices the alienation. When the growth stops, and difficult decisions have to be made, the alienation comes to the foreground.
There is no one Finland or one Unites States of America anymore. Just a group of silos, all fighting for their own rights, demanding that their rights remain undiminished irrespective of what happens to the person next door, who sits in a different silo.
I look at Trump’s America; the goings on resemble nothing as much as a useless dogfight. Everybody is on their worst behaviour. I look at Finland; nobody is ready to give an inch as far as their welfare is concerned. Everyone is blaming everyone.
It is too easy to be liberal, if you don’t give a thought to the cost and the execution. Whoever said vision without execution is just hallucination, had it right.
It is also too easy to just hate those that are different; to safeguard your own interests at the cost of anyone who gets in your way.
No one travels the middle road anymore. It’s not politically rewarding. The silos make sure of that.
There is a need to cut spending in many places, but funds end up being slashed only in the areas that fit the agendas of the ruling political parties. Which leads to a healthy distrust regarding all spending cuts.
So the vicious circle continues. In Europe and in the US. More debt is incurred. Soon something will have to give, or we will end up like the dinosaurs. Maybe not extinct physically, but unrecognisable as countries and cultures.
A story to be told in future museums – the rise and fall of once cherished ideals.
Life moves on. For better or for worse. To me it looks like worse, but that is in the eye of the beholder, as avid Brexit and Trump supporters have proved.