Reflection must be my favourite pastime because I seem to be doing a lot of it.
But, I don’t think I’m the only one thinking and rethinking these days. This year has been quite a bit to take in – especially the last few weeks. We’ve all been witnessing what seems to be a deep awakening in the collective consciousness.
This awakening is not so much becoming aware of the solution to the problems that plague us, but rather a realisation of what the problems are. We’re polarised. On every issue. The climate is political. A microscope bug that makes people sick is political. Prejudice and violence against human beings is political.
And that brings me to the topic of judgement. In this instance, by judgement I mean the judgement we place on an event or idea – if we think it is good, bad or neutral.
I’m actually of the belief that there are things, as human beings, that we inherently know are wrong and unethical (that’s why people experience what is known as cognitive dissonance). Again, in this instance, I mean specifically with regards to prejudice and violence. There are, let’s say, some universal laws that we all can agree on.
Except that we don’t. When something happens in the world, for the sake of this argument let’s call it ‘thing’, people tend to reserve judgement. We won’t judge a thing with blindfolds on, with only our core values are our judgement criteria anymore. That seems to be a thing of the past (I wonder sometimes if it ever did exist at all.)
We first need to know who did the thing, and secondly, we need to know who or what said thing was done to. And then we need to asses which of the two is more like us. Then and only then will we pass judgement. But, what does that say about us as people?
I see examples of this everyday. George Floyd was executed in cold blood. But there were those who would seek to learn about his history before passing judgement. Malala Yousefzai, who recently graduated from Oxford, is a global cultural icon for women in education. She was shot by the Taliban. Would she be a cultural icon and Nobel Prize winner had she been injured by a U.S drone? I’d argue not. In fact, I do wonder how many women have perished in the Middle East and the subcontinent at the hands of the U.S military.
Similarly, you might acknowledge that a genocide was committed against the Muslims of Bosnia, but the genocide committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire/Young Turks may be a harder pill to swallow. You might even be the owner of prestigious local Lebanese TV channel, who occasionally showcases Lebanese excellence in the diaspora, provided that none of the individuals on show are Muslim.You might have wanted the revolution in Yemen, but not Syria (or vice versa). And, my personal favourite, you might criticise other for loving Iran, as you slobber over Erdogan.
I never understood this. When a thing happens, I don’t necessary have to side with the Sunni Muslims. If I admit the mistakes of people of the same religion or nationality as me, I don’t feel culpable, just consistent with my values. Sometimes, especially in the realm of Lebanese politics, this can produce sticky feelings, but I’d rather that than be one of those people that frowns at the faults of other groups while simultaneously cheering on their own group (that is doing the same thing).
I don’t know when we stopped pausing and looking at ideas and events objectively and transitioned to passing judgement as per the players involved, but it is a hindrance to progress, to say the least. It puts our values, our belief systems, our capacity to empathise in question. It’s the stuff that can make you spiral into an existential crisis and wonder what the creation of humanity is all for if there is no right and wrong, only us and them. This is what leads to a ‘clash of civilisation’. It’s what leads to the end of us.