This Is How It Can Be

It’s easy to forget about the good, kind things that take place in the world, especially on the Internet. I know that sounds rather strange, given everything we see. The news media is full of murder, rape, theft, and multitudinous varieties of indignity. A child shoots another child. School children are massacred. In Massachusetts there is a rash of stabbing murders no one can explain, leaving one broadcaster to despair, ‘Why is this happening! How can we stop this?’

A brilliant young man is denied the honours he has earned in his school because he has a beard. At a time during which our youth are encouraged to explore and express themselves, a young woman is sent home from a school dance because she wore a tuxedo instead of a dress. Beware, little things lead to big things.

Much of this is small, but the smaller indignities are more easily addressed. Some will say, ‘the youths involved have not learnt to function appropriately within the system.’ Others will blame the authorities and call them hypocritical for encouraging individuality until someone actually has the gall to practice it. A beard, a variation in formal attire, are insignificant—they present an opportunity for ‘authorities’ to rebel. They have easy explanations. No one really has a good answer for murder, stabbing, gang-rape, or terrorism which has become so rife it is no longer be explained as national or religious expression, or justified retaliation for wrongs done to a select group.

Venom, rather than the milk of human kindness (rather curdled by now, I expect) circulates. A couple of weeks ago a film clip was distributed showing an online model with acne, who, for three months, posted daily pictures of herself without makeup. The focus of the video was not what she looked like, it was the remarks she received. ‘You are ugly. You are disgusting. You make me want to vomit.’ Even after she put on her makeup and looked perfect, the abuse continued. ‘Now you look even worse. You are so phony. You shouldn’t be allowed online. You’re even more disgusting.’ I may have some of those quotations wrong—I can’t bring myself to watch the video a second time.

People seem unable to do something without receiving acrimonious abuse. A person complains that a posting is illegible, and is called names for it, despite the fact that a large number of people agree. Celebrities doing genuinely good and charitable things deserve respect. In one recent example, a woman who established an active charity in Africa, received pornographic comments which actually were ‘liked’ by other readers. She deserved respect, she was treated like meat.

It’s sad and sickening. It happens on online and in the real world. Darkness is at the gate, and it will not be denied. It seems to be inevitable that Darkness will triumph.

Except there are a few little bits of light.

A few days ago, a writing group to which I belong posted a chart listing characteristics of toxic people. It was meant to be a general template on which writers could base characters. Most people identified immediately, and made remarks like, ‘Sounds like my family, or my ex. Lists like this make you realize the number of toxic people you’ve met in your life. Character development nothing—I live with these people.’ The most helpful comment came from a woman who said, ‘Now that I’ve read the remarks from other members, I don’t feel so alone.’ It wasn’t the intent of the writing group editor, but s/he did the group a great service making it possible for people to get something grave off their chests. It seemed to be a very healing moment.

This morning, a man who belongs to another online group I do, posted information about his son, who is sick, and people are concerned about him and his future. Immediately, other members gathered around to offer prayers, support and consolation. It is unlikely that man will ever feel alone again. They won’t allow it.

Similarly, the young woman I mentioned in my last article, who has been so helpful to so many in raising mental health awareness, announced yesterday that she is going into long term treatment in another state. At the last moment, she mentioned she will be away for eighteen months, and doesn’t expect to be online. The outcry was noticeable, but in each instance, it was dismay over our loss of her. It was, if you like, very loving selfishness. She has touched a lot of lives while hers has been so marred. The outpouring of loving and supportive messages, the promise of daily prayer, was deeply moving.   They continued all night, right up to the time she left.

I can’t help but wonder why this isn’t more common. The power of kindness is just as great as the power of cruelty and people like it better. I can’t help but be curious about what I’ve missed and am missing. You see, I am firmly convinced that this is the way it could be.

What do you say?

Paul TN Chapman
[email protected]


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