Tag Archives: Dalai Lama

Why rights and bigots do not belong in the same sentence.

20 Jul


talking arse


When Attorney-General George Brandis declared that everyone has the right to be a bigot, he was, strangely for him, speaking out of his arse.

A bigot is irrationally prejudiced against and intolerant towards individuals and/or groups, without requiring any factual evidence to support her or his bigotry. This excellent Guardian piece by Susan Carland spells out the proposition. My only quibble with Dr Carland is that she writes “facts no longer matter” whereas I would argue that for bigots, facts have never mattered, and never will.

Brandis’s declaration conflates human rights with ignorance, intolerance and irrational prejudice, surely the very characteristics those rights are designed to contest, how odd he doesn’t know that.

When the country’s Attorney-General invites the indulgence and expression of bigotry it’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves entering a period of deep prejudice, expressed by the likes of convicted racist Andrew Bolt, echoed by the likes of television celebrity mother Sonia Kruger (#all mothers are celebrities, I can see that hash tag coming) and Pauline Hanson is enabled to replatform herself in government.

This time around, the bigots are singling out Muslims. It has in the past been the turn of Aborigines, Jews, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, single mothers of all nationalities, dole bludgers, those of Middle Eastern appearance, boat people, women… must I go on? Bigots aren’t choosy: they need to hate somebody, it doesn’t much matter who. You have the “right” to do this, says the most senior legal figure in the land. It’s freedom of speech. So knock yourselves out.

Unfortunately, the exercise of free speech does not have as a prerequisite informed and intelligent utterance. If it did there would be a strangled silence from the government benches and all early morning television shows would cease to be.

As this happy fantasy is not likely to eventuate, what are we to do in the face of the ignorant, prejudiced drivel increasingly issuing forth from public microphones? Fight back?  March in protest? Invite consultation? Sit down with the haters over  tea and scones? Ignore them?

I’d argue that there’s no single solution to contesting bigotry, and that all of the above suggestions might be useful in specific situations. When the citizens of a democracy vote bigots into government it’s a tough challenge fighting them from the top down, and we have to get creative. Psychologically speaking, bigots are generally insecure personalities with low self-esteem: they make themselves feel better by denigrating somebody else: I am not that, therefore I am OK. Those of us opposing bigotry may risk falling into the same trap…it’s complicated.

Ignorance is in ascendence, globally. It’s going to be turbulent. As I think the Dalai Llama [sic] once said, you don’t get peace by hating war. Fasten your seat belts.





You don’t get peace by hating war: the theory of emotions

25 Apr

Some years ago I recall the Dalai Lama observing that hating war isn’t the way to find peace.

From this I took it that he meant personally entering into the territory of hatred and fear, the same emotions that fuel war, is not the most useful way to change a paradigm. I liked the Dalai Lama’s theory: that in order to effect wider change one must first start with the self. Every time we manage to overcome a negative emotion, he said, and allow it to dissipate without acting on it, we have achieved a miracle.

There’s nothing exclusive about the idea. There was a rich Greco-Roman tradition of shaping the self through commitment to self-improvement that involved, among other things, a theory of emotions and the necessity to understand them for the betterment of the self and the community. The Stoic philosopher and writer, Seneca, was an advocate of this culture of the self, later interpreted by Foucault as technologies of the self, designed to shape the subject through a set of practices that position one in critical relationship to oneself, with the goal of improvement not just for the self, but for society.

Currently, I am deep in Martha Nussbaum’s “Upheavals of Thought: the intelligence of emotions.” Nussbaum makes a powerful argument that there can be no adequate ethical theory without an adequate theory of the emotions. Emotions, far from being messy, sticky and yes, let’s not pretend otherwise, characteristically female hindrances to clear thinking, are suffused with intelligence and discernment. They are a powerful source of information, awareness and understanding.

On ANZAC Day, I feel sorrow for those who are sent to die by the State, and for those who lose the ones they love. I also feel a profound contempt for the State that slaughters its young, and the young of its enemies. I wish that what we were encouraged to remember on ANZAC Day, as well as those who died, is the vileness of war, and the tremendous responsibility we have to refrain from engagement, except in the most dire of circumstances.

However, hard as it is, I will attempt not to hate war, in the hope that any individual who manages, even for a short time, to refuse to enter the energy of hate, makes her own tiny contribution to changing the world.

Join me, anyone?

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