The government ignores you, your vote is meaningless, your voice unheard. Your job pays too little and life is hard yet there’s no recourse to improve this. Illness can potentially mean financial ruin – your body suddenly your enemy. There is no room for spirituality and creativity while trapped in the cycle of poverty and minimum wage. We are creatures who crave meaning, driven into lives of profound meaninglessness. Using a human being to put wrappers on cupcakes for 8 hours a day till they die is like using the Mona Lisa to cover a damp-patch in an unused garden shed.
Worse. The ‘solutions’ provided are often just more harm. Religions that simply take your money, self-help books that are about enriching authors, not our lives. Fad diets, body-image dictates, dreams of fame and riches, sugary foods, repetitive and often murderous computer games, a million ‘roads to happiness’ that either just numb us or makes us hurt even more.
How do we overcome the powerlessness and feelings of victimhood when facing this huge wall of anonymous pain?
We build a smaller enemy.
If migrants cause low wages, that’s a battle we can understand. If the black man is guilty we can do something about that. If the Trans woman is causing our moral decline we can defeat her. So the people who are winning – the rich and powerful – tell us either directly or through clever implication – who our enemy is – and like good little victims we seek out anyone less powerful than ourselves to blame and persecute.
Hating migrants is just another form of racism. Racism, like all prejudice, lives in a very primitive, infant part of the brain. It is not affected by argument. Tell it that it is wrong and it will dig its heels in and just grow ever more determined.
Being racist is not a failure of understanding. It’s not a real belief that black people are inferior. Racism is a mechanism that gives power back to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, meaning to the lost. It is a power to do harm, and eventually a power that defeats the one who wields it – but it feels like power and people grab it.
If we ever do defeat racism, we will only have pushed that ‘power grab’ somewhere else. Because the cycle of being trapped and blaming a minority is written into our societies DNA. It’s part of the fabric of how our ‘civilised’ world was built.
Often this cruelty is blamed on human nature. We are territorial, defenders of our property, selfish animals in suits. Despite there being no evidence for this, it is such a long-standing view that most people take it for granted. In fact, all the evidence points the other way. We band together in a crisis, we share what we have with the less fortunate, help our neighbours. But there is a crucial factor.
Once we are in the machinery of capitalism we stop doing this.
Natural disasters and extreme tragedies break us out of our trance. Covid has done exactly this, and we can see the stark difference. Momentarily snapped out of capitalisms grip – 90 year old men do sponsored walks, teenagers deliver care-packages, food-banks redouble efforts, nurses risk their lives. All those on the edge of the machine act with greater kindness, respond with love and care. Meanwhile, at the heart of the machine, our government gives billions to tax-dodgers and party friends, using the crisis as an opportunity to pull off fraud on a massive scale.
Humanity is not dog-eat-dog, or survival of the fittest. Humanity is a beautiful and kind thing that will care for its community without need of any reward. It is capitalism, money and politics that is cruel – and corrodes the decency from inside us.
The reason we hate migrants is because we are told to be racist.
Yet racism is not the problem – it is a symptom. Even if we are blessed enough to eradicate racism, it will only mean the rise of another form of prejudice. And in any case, we will never eradicate racism without fundamentally changing our systems of capital and politics. They are the real problem.
We need to learn to stop fighting among ourselves. We waste huge amounts of effort trying to ‘re-educate’ racists, raise awareness of Trans issues, humanise migrants… when in truth none of it matters. If our general disposition was to be nice to each other, none of these issues would exist. Calling ‘Him’ ‘Her’ by mistake wouldn’t matter. Saying ‘African American’ when they prefer ‘Black’ wouldn’t matter. Because underneath would be a general acceptance, which includes accepting difference and human error. It simply isn’t possible for one person to know how every single person on the planet prefers to be addressed. But is is possible to assume kindness.
The real enemy has no face. It is the system we built. It isn’t even the people in the system. Of course they come to enjoy having power, but they are kindness corrupted – not ‘born evil’. Remove the system and people are free to be nice again.
We live in a hate machine, and until we focus all our efforts on tearing it down we will always find new ways to hate each other.
But hate is not ‘human nature’, we are not cruel by default. Don’t believe the narrative. We are beautiful and capable of unending goodness. We just need a change of machinery.