It Starts With Fear, It Must End With Peace

Posted on 03 March 2017

White Doves at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif. 2011 March 21 Peretz Partensky from San Francisco, USA. Modifications by Katherine Phelps 2017 March 03. CC BY SA 2.0 Generic
This society has two gnawing doubts we have allowed to destroy ourselves and this planet:

Life is harsh.
There isn’t enough for everyone.

“Enough of what?” You may ask. Enough of almost anything you could place on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: physiological needs such as food and shelter, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, self-actualisation needs.

We manipulate and bully one another and the rest of the planet as a way to satisfy these needs, because we haven’t examined our fears closely enough and realised that alternatives exist. We know that we can mitigate the harshness of life, but with no faith in sufficiency, we are more likely to hoard than to share. In order to achieve this we have to take from others, then keep them from taking things from us. This is a prison dynamic for all people. To justify the harsh treatment we are doling out to others, we have to switch off our capacity for empathy and active caring.

Some people manage this within themselves, perverting their own in-born capacity for pro-social behaviour. Some feed themselves stories that justify their poor treatment of others, coming to believe that the vulnerable deserve their mistreatment (and they deserve their privilege). Still others just keep themselves cut off and separate from those whose lives they are destroying through a selfish lifestyle. They don’t know, so they feel they can’t be culpable and have no reason to care. Then there are those who use all the fear and all the manipulations to set themselves up in a secure position.

We are all guilty of letting these basic fears take over, left and right. Here’s what it can look like:

I am not being harmed by Climate Change: so, I don’t have to care about Climate Change.
I am not being harmed by homelessness: so, I don’t have to care about those people who are homeless.
I’m not gay: so, I don’t have to care about what is happening to the gay population.
I’m not being harrassed for my ethnic or religious background: so, why are these people complaining?
I’m not female, but we’re both human: so, the problems women talk about must be in their heads.
I don’t feel any pain when someone is smashing your hand with a mallet: so, you must be making it up.

 
Those with these beliefs and those countering them will present each other with rationalisations. The fact of the matter is no reasons or rationalisations are going to work because we haven’t gotten to the core problem: these people don’t want to care because it seems to be safer that way.

We have to give people reason to believe they are safe. With that safety they are more likely to open up and consider others problems. No amount of stuff and admiration will make them feel safe, so long as they are aware that they are at the top of a dog eat dog world and some day they will get eaten. We are only as safe as those we treat worst. That’s the imprisoning fear. The answer is to start treating everyone better. The answer is finding the courage to share. The answer is to stop relying on punishment as a way to keep the world in place.

This is why I talk about why we have to change attitudes, values, and priorities if we want to genuinely change the world. We want an attitude of peace, because we value peace, and our priority is to create a peaceful world.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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