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Ebony and Ivory

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What a vitriolic society we have become! Like Mt. Vesuvius, the explosive eruptions of caustic words, biased viewpoints and unrelenting acrimony has been the mainstay of many issues, and have shaken us to the core. Moral destruction and shattered values seem to be the order of the day.

In 1982, the team of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder wrote a song that made a plea for racial tolerance in societies. Ebony and Ivory. Black and white. Difference. The haves and the have-nots. They knew that ‘there is good and bad in everyone, but we learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive’. This was a plea for harmony, a working together, reinforcing and strengthening each other even as times get more perilous and weaken our faith. Why can’t we get along, these two songwriters had asked more than 35 years ago. Nowadays, we seem to hate and disrespect each other more than ever and blame everyone else for our troubles, but ourselves. Let’s pull out all our supposed grievances – the immigrants, the clergy, religion, politics, the economy, the refugees. You name it. We blame it!

What is the real fear that drives our anger and our vitriol? Fear of the mentally ill (Shoot them on sight!); xenophobia (no refugees or immigrants in this country!); sexism (increases in domestic violence cases); gay bashing; hate speeches (our political party is better); racism (seeking political asylum), all never-ending in its onslaught to deride and derail. This constant negativity is a challenge for those persons who try to remain motivated and positive amidst the toxic insecurities of our politicians, trade union leaders and gender-based perpetrators. Fear ignites the throbbing pulse of the hatred and frustrations of our society as we view our present economy with its limited resources for many, convincing ourselves that the few are having it easy without a possible care for others who are less fortunate.

How can we deal with those persons who continuously express dissatisfaction and intolerance against those circumstances that they perceive as annoying and disadvantageous; those who seek validation for their emotional and at times, contemptuous outbursts against everyone and every situation? Unfortunately, those persons with negative attitudes truly believe that the reasons for their intolerance are based on rational thinking, instead of long-held prejudices and stereotyping of groups and individuals. This ‘dehumanization’ of others has its root causes in our country’s history. When will it end? When will we realise that intolerance of others is akin to treating others as ‘subhuman’ and as outcasts? Such attitudes cannot be mentally healthy, as we seek to intimidate and manipulate others by our remarks, our attitudes and our behaviours.

Let us learn to listen carefully to others, to ask questions that would lead us to better and healthier conclusions about others, not having walked in their shoes. We must envision a society where the common goal is one paved with good intentions. Our good and honourable actions can be interventions that can mitigate against our present toxic environment. Let us not be just narrow-minded people, living on narrow-minded streets.

Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor


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