“Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation or creed.” Bertrand Russell.
This is not the column I originally wrote for this space, but my editor thought it was a little too harsh on some people. So I offer this instead, although it does indirectly touch on the subject matter I originally addressed.
That subject matter is hatred. Almost everywhere one looks these days, someone hates someone else. It used to be that we hated certain hockey teams or people that cut us off in traffic, but such hatreds were not necessarily deep-seated and didn’t consume us.
How times have changed! And I lay the blame squarely at the feet of social media platforms. Before these came along, anyone with vitriol to spew first had to find someone to listen to them, let alone agree with what they had to say. Either that or write a letter to the editor and hope the editor would publish it. However, with social media, anyone with two thumbs can merrily post their hatred online, unedited, unchecked and be almost sure that somewhere out there is someone who will agree with their screed.
About 40 years ago, I attended a writing seminar, and something the instructor said at that time has remained with me ever since. He said that, as writers, it is possible we will never know it, but something we write could significantly affect or change someone else’s life. So it is with social media posts. A diatribe aimed at someone or some organization could just possibly trigger someone else into taking it as a go-ahead to do something regrettable.
Take the latest mass shooting in Buffalo as an example. It appears the young man responsible had been looking at hateful conspiracy theory rhetoric online and been drawn in by it. As a result, he went out and killed 10 people simply because they were of a different colour. In the not-too-distant past, conspiracy theorists used social media to spread the lie that Democrats were running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlour. Normal-thinking people would laugh at such nonsense, but one individual actually believed it and showed up at said pizza parlour with a rifle. Imagine what could have happened.
Another danger is that posting hateful diatribes encourages others to join in and before long it seems (but isn’t necessarily true) that there are a whole lot of people who think the same way. And one of those people might just turn out to be unstable enough to take the rhetoric to the next level.
Unfortunately, Uxbridge is not immune to such hatred, although I admit it hasn’t reached the levels we see elsewhere. A number of times, on local social media platforms, I have seen hurtful comments levelled at someone because they have a different point of view and others gleefully jump on board and feed off each other.
The hatred I see around me these days is staggering. Politicians used to bicker and fight but, for the most part, respected each other. Now, Conservatives consider Liberals as their arch enemies and vice versa and people even base their friendships on another’s political leanings. The hatred aimed at the LGBTQ community has always been there, sometimes with fatal results, as experienced a few years ago by one Uxbridge family. And the question is: Why?
Why can it possibly matter to anyone else if I have a relationship with a one-legged Episcopalian kangaroo, to quote The Goodbye Girl? Why can it possibly matter to anyone where I was born or what kind of clothes I wear? As long as I am not agitating for everyone to find an Episcopalian kangaroo or wear the same clothes that I do, who am I hurting?
But apparently such things do matter to some people. Women wearing the hijab are constantly harassed, BIPOC people face discrimination and abuse on an almost daily basis, and people who wear masks because of COVID-19 are regularly harangued. And who does these things? The haters.
Are their lives so devoid of purpose and fulfillment that they can only find it by attacking others who are “different?” Are they so intellectually stunted that they cannot see the flaws in their thinking?
It seems to me that social media platforms need to do a better job of moderating the comments. You know: if you can’t say something nice . . .
Tell me, am I wrong?
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