"And now tell me, why is it that you use the words "good people" all the time? Do you call everyone that?
(- А теперь скажи мне, что это ты все время употребляешь слова добрые
люди"? Ты всех, что ли, так называешь?
In Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, Pontius Pilate is questioning Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Aramaic for Jesus of Nazareth) when he is told that no one is evil. In “The Meno”, Plato has Socrates sway Meno with the same idea – “Then if not, nobody desires what is bad, for what else is unhappiness but desiring bad things and getting them?”
This idea has been present throughout history, in one form or another - from Rosseau (the idea that man is naturally good) to the ferry scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ (where a prisoner throws a detonator out the window and refuses to save his boat to avoid murder). Most people desire what they think is best, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Whether we are Republican or Democratic, Conservative or Progressive, whatever gender or race we happen to be, most all of us want the best for the entire world.
Problems arise when we do not agree on what that is or how to get there. Many Republican may believe limiting regulations on business is the best way to create jobs and elevate the economy. Many Democrats believe that only by partially regulating business can we ensure reasonable incomes and workplace safety. Libertarians may desire little to no taxes while Progressives may want to use taxation as a means towards economic equity. But whether we are Libertarians, Progressives, Republicans or Democrat, we all want happiness for our children. We all want all people to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, some type of job, and at least a modicum of freedom.
And this is what we too often forget. We forget our commonality and the shared human experience in our echo-chamber-groups. We become emblazoned by the camaraderie and the constant confirmation. It’s never been easier to self-segregate, whether by ideals, perceptions, or preconceived notions. And it’s natural. It’s human to want to feel vindicated, agreed with and, above all, right. We all want to be right - it’s something we all share. And in pursuing what we all share, we forget what we all share. The one thing we want is to be loved. It’s what we are secretly looking for when we make a denigrating post – espousing our superiority and greater worth, saying “look how smart I am compared to this”. And this is exactly when we fail to see the flipside - “look how mean I am for writing this . . .“.
Perhaps the one thing that we should all reject is the urge to disregard each other without consideration. We should reject disregarding the humanity of anyone or any group. We should do this not simply for moral reasons, but also because it works against our own happiness. Anger, besides being unpleasant, is generally unhealthy. Intolerance of others will eventually lead others to be intolerant of us. Pastor Martin Neimoller reminded us how dangerous a lack of empathy for the maligned can be:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I hear the pundits speak about how divided the world is. This may be true, but we are all human beings who want to live in peace, have a good job, feel loved, sleep in a soft bed, be held and have our miseries comforted. We all share more than we admit, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic, Athiest or somethinig else. We all have and need love more now than ever before.
I challenge you to be kind. Nothing is stronger, easier and harder than kindness.