It's the biggest irony.
In these times where diversity is being embraced in the more enlightened parts of the world and where the rights of others to be different is not only tolerated but celebrated, finally we humans are realising that the biggest threat to each of us is not the person on to whom we project our fears but actually ourselves. Now that we are starting to accept the uniqueness of others around us we are beginning to free ourselves from the straightjacket of fear that we have been wearing for so long.
As we begin to explore this new world, so we make new discoveries.... it turns out that the gay couple who live across the road are actually quite nice when you bother to talk with them, the Indian family up the street are quiet and respectful members of the local community and that 'strange' old man who lives in the dilapidated house around the corner is actually not strange - but just very lonely.
Nobody has it easy. Everyone is just trying to survive. And finally society – or at least the civilised sections of society – are beginning to accept the differences that make each and every one of us unique. And so a glimmer of hope emerges that maybe, just maybe, we can learn to live together peacefully and in cooperation with one another.
For certain there are vast ignorant swathes of the population, indeed sometimes entire countries, which are bigoted and downright prejudiced but the rest of us are part of a massive wave of tolerance that has been building for decades and that has been making progress in changing perspectives and eroding away all kinds of outdated discrimination. This wave is gathering pace as more governments sweep away old ideas and preconceptions, legalising gay marriage, celebrating diversity and encouraging inter-cultural cooperation. It's a strong force for good that relies on the participation and courage of minorities to stand up and be counted. And they are doing just that in ever increasing numbers.
And I'm not talking about those people who are all good words but no action or those who use sound-bites backed by little knowledge. I was one of them in my youth, I wore a badge that proclaimed 'I'm an unashamed idealist'. Sweet perhaps but innocently naïve and actually just words without any meaning. I knew that the world had problems and I thought that I could change everything. It seemed so simple. All rainbows and bubbles. Now of course I view it all through a pair of cynically tinted spectacles. But I am encouraged by the growing tide of change. And I, after I'd learnt a few lessons along the way, was in my own small way a part of that tide of change, a small voice in a sea of noise.
There are setbacks of course, the ignorant majority are still the loudest but they are being shouted down more and more by the voices of tolerance, intellect and most importantly of all, kindness.
Contrary to a popular belief, true tolerance does not lead to a breakdown in morals or an increase in extremists and terror but is generally combined with a sense of balance and common sense. You can be kind hearted and generous and open your mind and heart to others but that does not mean you are so naïve and silly that you would leave the door open to danger. Being tolerant does not make you stupid. Being stupid makes you stupid and that is the domain of the ignorant.
So the irony? Well, as we begin to conquer our fears about others and start to contemplate, or at least imagine, a world in which peace might one day be possible, we are destroying that very same world, this amazing planet, that we all inhabit, and we're doing so with alarming speed. It's as though we have just shifted across from one method of self destruction to another. From social to environmental annihilation. But it's self destruction nevertheless.
It's an odd thing, a conundrum: 'Yay!' we might be learning to live together so....naturally we'd better destroy the planet just in case that world of love and equality actually begins to become a reality.
But even this environmental crisis is not hopeless. Just a few days ago I visited a nature reserve where huge efforts to preserve the landscape and wildlife is paying off, an abundance of flora and fauna are thriving there and they are protected from immediate danger. And this is just one of countless projects both here in the UK and around the world where humans have finally realised that our own survival is directly dependant on the preservation of the natural world around us.
But it is a fragile and delicate operation.
We may have only a few chances left to turn it all around but at the rate we are pounding the planet into submission it seems less and less likely that there will be a world in which to love one another after all.
And just when some of us were beginning to get along.....
Ironic isn't it?
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