“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”Abraham Lincoln
Republicans and Democrats. White people and black people. America and China. Humanity seems to be in a constant struggle of us versus them. If one were to look at the current situation from that point of view, it would seem people are less kind than ever. People argue and bicker over every little thing. They are so caught up in their feelings that they do not wish to learn from the other side. Most simply wish to be right no matter the cost to their own advancement. One simply cannot research anymore. They cannot agree to disagree. Man’s hatred for one another is consistently encouraged by media and no one is happier as a result. Everyone is trapped in their ego, so they never get better at anything.
Many are quick to jump on the notion that this generation is the worst ever. They will lament the present and compare it to the past often romanticizing generations they never lived through. It is probably a far more accurate assessment that humans have always behaved in a tribal mindset pitting their tribe against all others. Is civil disagreement without the requirement of violence possible today? Will the United States ever see a world where one can love thy neighbor despite disagreement? These questions and more will be discussed by examining philosophy of the past, the present situation, and any possibility answers for the future. If this topic will be explored any further, it must begin with exploring the concept of practicing kindness towards the unkind through the lens of philosophy and religion in humanity’s past.
Kindness Towards One’s Enemies in the Past
Our enemies provide us with a precious opportunity to practice patience and love. We should have gratitude toward them.Dalai Lama
When contemplating kindness in the past, almost all religion speaks of some form of kindness towards the enemy or those who are unkind to others. Why has this concept seemed almost universal despite vast differences in culture and beliefs? Is there something deeper within human consciousness that compelled early humans to explore diplomacy, tolerance, and forgiveness?
Eastern religions and philosophical practices such as Taoism or Buddhism, for example, explored the ideas of tolerance, diplomacy, and forgiveness in great detail. In Taoism, the regard for kindness towards one’s enemy stems from the universalist concept that one’s enemy is also a brother in this universe. The idea of one humanity is nothing new, but it does explore the idea of being able to tolerate one another and work together despite differences in race, gender, and culture. People should have the capability of disagreeing politely since all humans are born and die through the same methods in the same world. The understanding was that consistent war and death didn’t create any winners, therefore men should strive to live in peace with one another in accordance to nature’s flow and harmony.
In Buddhism, the goal is to end suffering and death by ending the cycle of reincarnation that is believed to persist life after life to achieve Nirvana. One of the ways to get closer to the path of Nirvana is to extend your kindness towards everyone including your enemies and those who may disagree with you. The method in which to achieve enlightenment was to end mortal desire within one’s soul. Wanting to wish harm upon those you disagree with is a desire that can lead to great harm for both the individual who harbors the hate and the person they seek to destroy. Striving for peace between all men is considered a noble virtue in Buddhism because despite differences, they wish to help everyone reach the same goal towards ending their suffering.
“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. … I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
In Western philosophies such as Stoicism, forgiveness and the ability to see one’s enemies as human was seen as practical. Harboring consistent hatred towards someone was believed to give one no time to improve their own life. The stoics believed that if one were to hold a grudge, they would lose the ability to judge their own actions and lay blame on others for every mistake or error in judgement they made. Harboring hatred can impair one’s judgement to not see truth in another’s words simply because they are different. Retaining the grudge that doesn’t allow one to see his enemy or rival as a fellow human being can keep a person from keeping their own ego in check much like in the present situation which will be explored next.
Kindness Towards One’s Enemies in the Present & Future
“His enemies are not demons,Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching. Ch. 31
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?”
Politically, the United States has become so divided that it resembles gang culture more than it does a difference in political opinion. People have been assaulted in the street, killed, fired, or exiled from civilian life due to the division and it is killing the unity that made America the superpower that it once was. Tolerance is now simply a buzzword used by the Left to garner sympathy for their opinions yet they never display tolerance for the other side. The fabric of the country is imploding.
Today’s politics don’t revolve around selling your ideas anymore. Maybe they never did. If one wants to convince voters who are on the fence that their candidate is better, they should act as a salesman and convince the undecided voter how it benefits them. If someone were to sell a customer a new video game for example, would the threat of ostracization or violence work better than perhaps convincing the customer their game was the better product? Even if the customer bought the product, once they left, the game would easily go in the trash and a terrible review of the store would probably be in the salesman’s future. Bullying builds resentment. Resentment creates enemies out of potential allies.
Forgiveness seems to be impossible thanks to a cancel culture that will remove an individual from employment due to an opinion they present in any social media website if it doesn’t conform to the cultural norm despite America supposedly having the freedom of speech. If one is to live in a world where forgiveness is impossible, then there is no room for improvement. This is by far the worst way to exist. The only way to never fail is to never have the freedom to fail at all. That is where this leads. If people cannot peacefully disagree with one another, there will be no culture to live in. Life will simply be a state of perpetual warfare over every little difference one has with the man next to him. Basically, American culture will become prison culture.
One problem is that modern culture presents kindness as weakness. Media and entertainment present bad attitudes as a cultural norm in music, movies, and even in politics. Whenever one attempts kindness, they are seen as a pushover. The truth, however, is that the pushovers are not kind. They are simply weak. They have no choice but to polite. Kindness is a virtue of the strong. Selflessness can only come from someone in a position of strength. Someone who has the advantage. When a homeless person asks someone for money and the person gives it to them, the homeless person is asking froma position of weakness. If the person willingly gives them money, they do so from a position of strength. Handing a bully lunch money under the threat of violence isn’t kindness. It is cowardice. If one ius to extend any kindness for their fellow man, it must be from a position of strength so that people will not perceive the giver as weak. Extending kindness from a position of strength will offer reward as opposed to a loss of respect.
If the world is to be able to settle differences peacefully without consistent violence or nasty attitudes, there must be consequences for bad behavior. The pop culture rewards bad behavior. If the general community ignores the mainstream media and looks out for its own, then perhaps they can settle their differences peacefully. Media outlets simply wish to segregate the general population based on their differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, and every other difference possible. The truth is people are people and people wish to get along with one another to live in unity as a species. That must be encouraged instead of the harsh divisions that separate humans. This is the only way this nation will remain the United States of America.