in a ditch – followup

Fear and hatred of the other is the language of demagogues and their dupes. Many people are not persuaded by obvious lies and are not suspicious of their neighbors and have an aversion to hatred. So the demagogue stokes the fears of the gullible and the anger of the bigoted,  identifies targets for those looking for scapegoats and so forms a bloc to stand against the reasonable population.

It is not possible to hate someone we respect, so the targeted other must be cast as unworthy of respect. The demagogue and his mob impugn the values of the other, his language or race or culture and certainly, his aims. The demeaned “them” is then held to be morally inferior to the idealized “us.” The other then becomes less human than we are and unworthy of respect. We can then be persuaded that we are morally freed – or even obliged – to harm the other.

Leverage must have been one of the first great discoveries of humankind. Humans discovered that the effects of effort could be multiplied. The demagogue leverages fear and hatred. Fear of the other that begins insubstantially with no basis in fact can cascade up through the system until there becomes real reason to fear, because now the other has real reason to fear and so takes steps against us. Of course, the process is often mutual, not unilateral. The lust for power over others is a steady feature of human history.

Some years ago I attended a talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Boston. His thesis was that there can be no peace between those who fear and mistrust each other.

“in a ditch” portrays the ends of mutually reinforcing fear and hatred. But there is a thread of redeeming sanity also present in the piece. I am still tempted to call the poem Resurrection.

~

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4 responses to “in a ditch – followup

  1. I’m grateful for the follow up to ‘In a Ditch’. The majority of Americans still believe the illusion. It’s urgent to have conversations and speak straight, bear witness to the hatred that we’ve sowed in this world. And naturally, it’s coming back to haunt us. Oh how I am sickened, utterly devastated by the consequences for and suffering of the most innocent victims, the children. Keep speaking Barak, so nice to hear from you again. It has been a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am grateful for this follow on–it adds so much as I go back and sit again with “In the Ditch”. I echo Skylark. Please keep writing my dear brother

    Liked by 1 person

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