It is hard to shake the feeling that our little blue planet is entering a turbulent phase.
Hate speech and discrimination is being spat out like it is nothing. It is not like this is a new thing, but it is becoming a more common thing. Nations are engaging in what appears to be an all-too-familiar Arms Race to the point that a former Soviet leader is convinced the world is heading for conflict. Our moral and ethical compasses are being questioned with every new story that crops up. We are being made to feel distrust towards the media. Yet we wait in suspense to see whether the mainstream brands an attack as terrorism, a mental health decline, or who knows what else before we decide if we can be angry.
For anyone who has even a bare understanding of history, it seems as though some lessons have not been learned. Perhaps it is because our generation has not had to learn these lessons first hand. Reading from a textbook or watching a YouTube documentary on the harrows of war does not have carry the same gravity as living it. Without experiencing the true consequences of fear mongering perhaps we cannot grapple with the seriousness of what it leads to. No matter what the complex and intermingled reasons are for our behaviour as a society today, the echo of age-old depravity remains.
We cannot pretend that all of this is simple and recoverable. We cannot put blinkers on and continue life as normal. We cannot pretend to change the world without first changing ourselves.
The standard you walk by is the standard you accept.
Resist hate by opening your own mind. Fear mongering is ineffective when it falls on the ears of the open-minded. Have experiences that challenge your understanding. See things from more than one perspective and be critical of your sphere of reality. Just because you are from a certain country, race, gender, or any other definable group, it does not mean you have to accept the views of the mob. Being born within a border does not force you to believe the messages of the few in charge. It is possible to resist an Orwellian dystopia before it becomes reality.
Hating will not keep you safe. Blind patriotism does not make a country strong. Commenting that ‘you choose to live in country X so you must unquestioningly support it’ does not a democracy make. Regardless of political views, we are all human and we all live on this one planet. We will not always get along or having a unified ideology, but what we can have is mutual respect.
So what can we as young people do? How can we open our minds? How can we live the message that love trumps hate?
Let’s start with a quotation from Good Will Hunting. It may seem out of place but bear with it.
“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.” – Good Will Hunting
So what on earth does Good Will Hunting have to do with travel, modern day politics and loving your fellow humans? Quite a lot. It encompasses the idea that in order to begin understanding something, it must be experienced. To understand the Sistine Chapel, it is best to feel its effect on you in the flesh. To understand one another, we must actually meet and speak with one another. To understand how different cultures can interact peacefully, we must actually interact with other cultures.
And this is where travel becomes so important.
It does not need to be far. Exploring does not have to be around the other side of the world but can be within your own country, your own suburb or even your own street. Meeting, greeting and engaging with people and cultures different to your own does not have to be difficult. Ask simple questions and lend open ears. Learn of struggles different to your own and gain insight into the intricacies of our planet. Experience the lives of others.
Get out and show each other that we will not be held back by fear. We do not have to separate ourselves into packs and nations and geopolitical boundaries. We can still be free to build our own ties and relationships with whoever we want from anywhere in the world. We can still choose open mindedness. Even on the smallest level this can make the biggest change.
You may be left, you may be right, or you may have no idea at all. It does not really matter. History has had extremes from all political and religious spectrums. Whether you live your life with certain beliefs may not dictate how history looks upon you. We all have our different ideas and that is what makes us diverse and intriguing. But whether you have respect for your fellow men, women and children, no matter what their beliefs or culture, does dictate your place in the memory of mankind.
Countries may build walls around physical borders, and politics may build walls around groups of people, but only you can build a wall around your own mind.