For some time now, we as a species have been at our worst behaviour. We have discriminated amongst ourselves, put some on a pedestal and thrown others to the wolves, designed around us a society that is fundamentally flawed, twisted, unjust, crooked, self-centred and hollow. The pandemic engulfing us should be the last straw. If we do not come together now, we will be forever divided and forever weakened.
Our countries are being ruled by bigots. The media is biased to a fault. Hatred is celebrated, both secretly and publicly. Violence is legitimised by those wielding the reins and intolerance is becoming the lifeblood of people’s enthusiasm. There is nothing in today’s world that will hold any such negativity to account; there is nothing that steers us towards positivity and goodwill. People refuse to act until the threat is at their doorstep, and then too they only look after themselves.
Symbolism is good, symbolism can bring people together. But symbolism should never play second fiddle to practical solutions. Symbolism that is empty is merely a distraction from reality. Symbolism can step dangerously close to the complete denial that a problem even exists.
Technology has enabled us today to twist reality in forms we had never dreamt of before. Ideas can be planted and sourness cultivated from a distance. The film Inception is far removed from reality in that one need not go through so much trouble to plant an idea. A realistic text, an old video introduced in a new context, a deepfake is more than enough to convince someone beyond the point of no return that something is just so, that some people are just so, that an individual ought to do something, or that a country is better of without someone. Everything we have used our tools for, rather characteristically, is destructive.
The way forward is through goodwill, unity and acceptance. Our current trajectory will only drive us to the ground. All through history if humanity has ever come out of a situation in one piece it has been because of the work of a diverse set of people who managed to bring everyone together. We approached problems with solutions in mind and if that meant we had to work with our worst enemies, accept sexual orientations different from our own or hold back on criticising beliefs we did not like, we did just that.
But we have now gone a step back where we had to go two steps forward. We should not be tolerating other’s sexual identity, we should be accepting it and getting on with our day. We should not be tolerating other’s race, religion or colour, we should accept them and leave them no room in our decisions or laws or concerns. We should simply be human. And that means not making blanket statements, not calling people out when it is baseless but convenient to us, respecting one another at any cost, even when we differ in our sentiments, beliefs and identities.
A lot of our world is shaped by the media. The incredible availability of information and its consequent overconsumption have saturated our sympathies. Nothing feels real anymore and nothing feels as impactful. We have been desensitised to things that should have bothered us deeply and sensitised to things that are sensational simply because sensationalism sells. The world is dancing to the tunes of capitalism: everything comes at a cost, everything is measured with a common yardstick. An idea that seems so ignorant when put in other contexts (think of measuring your weight with a metre rule) makes perfect sense when the yardstick for everything is money and marketing. News that sells is reported regardless of what is virtuous; industries that sell are funded, regardless of their impact on our environment; people who can sell are elected, regardless of how twisted their moral compass is. This is all clear insanity; what we need is something that is obviously sane, something that does not amount to self-harm.
As we dig our own graves it will pay to look around us and wonder—perhaps even pause digging for a while. Where are we headed? What signs are we ignoring? That is not to say the answer is absolute: the answer is probably neither absolutely free healthcare nor absolutely free guns. Nor, perhaps, is the answer centrist even if centrism seems right. The answer is probably a mixture of ideas that no longer fit into the right/centre/left mould. The answer is a little bit of all our beliefs. And we will hear the answer only if we stop digging and listen, understand, accept and help one another climb out of the holes we are in today and start rebuilding with a ferocity driven by kindness.