Tragedy In Norway Is Proof That Black-And-White Thinking Breeds Violence – Insights from the Wilderness #55

Tragedy in NorwayThank heaven’s you’re not a prejudiced or intolerant person!————are you??

Clinical psychologist Dr. Todd Kashdan says that a lack of curiosity is a breeding ground for stereotyping and discrimination, ignorance, rigid conformity, and dogmatism.

I would agree with Mr. Kashdan, but I would go further and define the problem of stereotyping and intolerance as a lack of curiosity created by the black-and-white beliefs and certainties of our inner-child’s primitive ego.

After all, why be curious when you already possess “the truth”.

The brutal and systematic murder of almost 100 innocent children last week by Mr. Breivik, an anti-Islamic Christian fundamentalist, has stunned the hearts of compassionate people in every county in the world.

The tragedy in Norway is simply one more example of the growing global climate of fear, narcissism, and hatred toward multiculturalism, immigration, homosexuality, and minorities in general.

The black-and-white certainties embedded in our individual and collective primitive ego thinking, are rapidly pushing the cultures of our world backwards into a level of fear in human consciousness not seen since the 1940’s.

In almost every culture today, we are seeing a growing intolerance toward anyone who thinks, looks, or believes differently.

Mr. Breivik is one more example of humanity’s ability to regress into the darkness and violence of a rigid ideology born in the crucible of black-and-white primitive ego thinking.

But we need to resist the temptation to label Mr. Breivik as one of “those” people.

Because it’s simply human nature to label those who are different from us as “them”, you and I too, have the potential to be judgmental and intolerant. And the less we know about others, the more susceptible we are to being frightened by “them”.

It’s too late for Mr. Breivik, but perhaps the rest of us can learn to put our fear of strangers to one side, engage our curiosity, and get to know “them” better.

It’s common knowledge when we invite strangers into our lives and get to know them; it becomes far more difficult for us to withhold our kindness and caring.

Over time, it’s not un-common for some of those strangers to become our friends.

Intolerance tends to label others as “sub-human” and gives us permission to emotionally withhold our compassion and deny them access to their humanity.

And the more our prejudices and intolerance of others is unconscious or hidden from our self-awareness, the greater the potential for judgment and violence.

When our intolerance and our primitive ego fear of strangers is outside of our awareness, we begin to emotionally label them as sub-human—-or as somehow “less-than-human”. We begin to see them as objects, not human beings.

Mistreating or killing an “object” is different and far easier than mis-treating or killing another human being.

Because you and I have unconscious primitive ego prejudices and intolerance toward strangers or those we fear, we are all capable of withholding our kindness and compassion. In other words, we are all capable of looking the other way and ignoring intolerance when that intolerance is directed at those that we also fear or don’t understand.

Accepting that reality may make us uncomfortable, but it also makes us human.

Because intolerant rhetoric, and ideological extremism, both appeal to the unconscious fears of our primitive ego, I believe all of us are capable of becoming intolerant and judgmental toward those we don’t know….those who are different.

Mr. Breivik is not insane. He is simply an intolerant, ideological extremist whose fear and paranoia crossed the line into violence.

Black-and-white thinking is black-and-white thinking. Regardless of where it is found, it always leads to judgmentalism and violence.

We are learning that Mr. Breivik was deeply influenced by the black-and-white intolerance and hate filled anti-Islamic ranting’s of American bloggers and online writers.

Because those ideologically intolerant writers were unable to separate everyday Muslim immigrants from black-and-white, fundamental Islamic militants, they aggressively portrayed all Muslim’s as a global threat and thus reinforced Mr Breivik’s own black-and-white ideologies.

When we see this culture of hate around us, and choose to ignore it, I believe our indifference to this kind of intolerant thinking and aggressive behavior is simply a reflection of our own intolerance……our own fear of people who are different from us.

Our indifference quietly creates a “cultural tolerance” for this kind of primitive, hate filled, regressive thinking and allows it to spiral upward towards greater levels of intolerance and ideological violence.

These are not simple philosophic concepts. They are important realities about the direction in which our world is currently heading. They give us insight into the changes that we need to embrace——individually and culturally.

The lessons of history are clear.

When a large enough number of people in any culture or nation begin to preach intolerance, “or when they choose to ignore the culture of intolerance around them“, the regression into primitive, barbaric, black-and-white ideologies and violence can happen very quickly.

It happened in Nazi Germany. Mr. Breivik has shown it can happen in Norway. The attack on 9/11, the immigrant fences in Arizona, and the acrimonious gridlock in Washington are all proof that it can happen here in America.

In a nation that honors free speech, those who breed a culture of fear and intolerance need to be responded to by the loud and clear voices of those who would have us be a nation and a global culture of love, tolerance, and compassion.

Today, more than ever, we need to keep a cool head, stay curious, learn more about those “strangers” we fear, and become more self-aware of our own potential for intolerance.

And while we are doing this important work, we also need to keep an open heart that offers friendship and caring to those we are getting to know.

As a species, we can chose to regress backward into the fears and consciousness of primitive ego thinking, or we can choose to embrace curiosity and move forward toward a more tolerant, enlightened consciousness based on kindness and compassion.

Our world today feels like it is dangerously balanced on a fence between those two simple but important choices.

Given our human tendency to make assumptions about those who are different from us, the question we have to struggle with is ” do we have the will to make the right choice”?

After all, it could mean becoming friends with “them”.

Dick Rauscher

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