Yes there are those in the world that seek to terrorize us. Or rob us. Or molest us. Or just assert their power or hide their fears through aggression and sometimes rough us up. Or use their position to ride roughshod over our rights for their gain.
So we build walls. We build overwhelming systems that keep risk out, or put it under CCTV surveillance. We seek hard policing to assure ourselves not one incident can occur. We want harsh laws to deal with crime – we want to set an example. We sow mistrust and see malintentioned people everywhere. We seek to achieve tactical security, safety, crime-free-ness and compliance. We will check and keep an eye on everyone, everything, all the time, so life as usual within our citadels continues with absolutely no risk of any harm or threat to it, irrespective of what goes on outside.
But I fear the outcome may be – and might already have started to be – the opposite of what we seek to achieve. Why?
This is war mode mentality. We’re not looking at society as a bunch of decent people and crime as an aberration. So we must “control” everyone and everything, and in the right context, there is the “other”, the enemy, to be not trusted be default. This is the default state for all. And we reinforce this with constant messages about the overwhelming presence of the threat making it the believable norm than a small probability to practice safeguards against, and to watch out for sensibly, and in the worst case, deal with such that it does not damage the psyche. It’s not about denying the possibility of, or motivation of acts of terror, or abuse of power, or physical invasion of one’s privacy including molestation and rape – those exist and surely must be fought. But every fight need not become an outright, hard-policed, heartless war against a whole section of folks.
But in the war mode, we strangely enough, give them a sort of legitimacy. Once you have sides and camps, you create some sort of a justification for the other side to go for you. And by dealing with large swathes in the same way, by distrust being the default state of existence to avoid a small probability of the incident, we create those camps, declare war through a thousand cuts and insinuations even against those who are innocent, have no evil in their hearts or minds. By assuming that everyone is a potential crook or slime-ball or terrorist, we probably increase the likelihood of creating more, and of justifying their acts against “the other”, however unjustifiable the same might feel to us. I’m sure a lot many in the SS truly believed they were doing the right thing when they were, and later the allies genuinely saw nothing immoral about returning it in kind.
We’ve forgotten to engage, with empathy, by and large. We’ve forgotten to expect and make it cool to have good behaviour, and merely try and enforce it under the camera and the gun – so we’ll need more and more of those. The subliminal message is that without those, if you an get away, you should. This is surely NOT what decent society will be built upon.
Sure, it’s a tough one, in the face of an attack, or a horrible crime. But don’t we give it legitimacy by raising the pitch around the crime and not just reducing it to an individual aberration but the default expectation from a set or group of people unless they’re kept on a leash? Expect someone to be a crook long enough, and you dehumanize them, and them you. Doesn’t help.
For instance, MOST people I meet, across religious affiliations, economic strata, etc, are very decent folks. They have not attempted to bomb, maim, kill, rob, rape, suppress others around them, from what I know. If that’s an experience that’s not too uncommon, why assume the opposite is true?
If we have to make real progress, we must think different on this. We have to think of a healthier prevalent mindset, and make certain ideas socially un/acceptable. This will also need empathy, engagement and dialogue with those different from us, maybe even with a reason to have a grouse against us for some reason or the other. Can we reinvent this ability? Or will we merely try and “control” and police all that and those that are different?
More of the same reactions that we’ve been seeing so far will likely get us only to worse places, as a society and nation.