I know someone who is a right wing sympathiser. She raves about our godly prime minister, about how evil the non-Hindus are and why we need to set them right. She believes that violence is sometimes necessary. Her calling in life is to “awaken” Hindus. Fake forwards and trumped up videos are a part of her arsenel.
I know another person, with diametrically opposing views. She believes that our prime minister is bad and our country is in a terrible state. She also believes that violence is sometimes necessary.
I am not talking of naxalites or the communists or right wing politicians but of ordinary people. If well-to-do, educated people have such beliefs I shudder to think how vulnerable groups feel.
While one of the reasons why people cling to extreme idealogies is because they feel outraged and insecure because of the problems they face on a daily basis, the fundamental reason is that feel protected within their own clan, their own tribe.
Outsiders become threats. If you go back to the basics, when human beings first evolved, this is how it was. People from other tribes were enemies. Ideologies reigned supreme. So, hating the “other” is almost instinctive human behaviour.
In modern societies, most people don’t develop extremist beliefs because of ideological reasons. It often starts with people they know and like, the groups they move in. They want to connect with other people or find a sense of purpose. It brings a feeling of security and provides psychological support.
The problem is that this feeling of belonging to a particular group or tribe can be taken to an extreme. People start to feel threatened by other ways of life and “other” people. Political and religious parties fan this paranoia.
Today, most violence takes place because there is a mistaken belief in the minds of extremists that they will have a better life if they annhilate or destroy or “fix” the “other.”
If dictators are in power in so many parts of the world – Philippines, Russia, United States, Turkey, China and now Brazil – then it is because the politicians have managed to feed on people’s insecurities. This will not lead to peace.
And what happens if we humans all become the “same”? We will still keep searching for differences and the hating will restart. It is a vicious circle without end…unless we give up this idea of belonging to our own “type” of group.
The only way out is be open to different viewpoints, mix with different kinds of people and develop kindness and compassion because extremism has no place in a modern, peaceful world.
This hatred of the “other” made sense in ancient times, because it was necessary for survival. It was often a matter of life and death.
Today, we need not stick to our tribes to survive. In fact sticking to our “tribe” will likely reinforce narrow ideologies and make us a prey of bad politics.
The American philosopher Terence McKenna has this to say:
…very few ideologies last very long without going sour or becoming toxic.