With all the carnage going on throughout the world from wars and mass shootings, as well as the rampant spread of hatred, power struggles and greed, it’s hard not to feel despair and frustration at times. I can empathize with the fictional anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film, “Network,” and his famous on-air tirade: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
That was nearly 50 years ago, and nothing has changed. Gotten worse, really. But what can any one of us do about it? What should we do about it?
I don’t portend to have the answers; but I think about it a lot because it saddens me. And I want to share my thoughts and hopefully spark more dialogue among us as a society about how to break these negative patterns and downward spirals.
There are a lot of underlying, complex issues at the heart of violence and hate in the world. When you think about it, it’s despair and frustration that actually fuel violence and hate in the first place. Real or perceived, it’s people feeling harmed, mistreated, threatened and/or disrespected by other people. It’s looking to blame someone for their unhappiness. Or wanting someone to suffer to avenge their suffering.
Of course, if you’re not directly caught up in the painful emotions of the situation, it’s clear to see that it’s an exercise in futility. Where does it ultimately get you? It’s just more violence, more hate and more suffering.
I think the least we can do, on an individual level, is to continue to help remind each other of, and reflect on, fundamental human values — especially at those times when we start to feel despair and frustration ourselves. I see people share these values a lot on social media, and I appreciate the reminders. So I’ll share a bit here, too.
One was a quote about war that’s often attributed to the late newscaster Walter Cronkite, even though no one can seem to prove where he actually ever said or wrote it. For many years, Cronkite was looked to as the “most trusted man in America” because of his journalistic integrity and calm, confident demeanor, so I guess it sounded like something he would have said. Still, whoever actually said it, I like it.
“War itself is, of course, a form of madness,” the quote goes. “It’s hardly a civilized pursuit. It’s amazing how we spend so much time inventing devices to kill each other and so little time working on how to achieve peace.”
No argument there. But you don’t have to look at the wars going on now to find behavior that is “hardly a civilized pursuit.” Just look around you and at all the hatred and struggle from our leaders in Washington and all the political bickering, the religious attacks, the racial prejudices and much more that often led to violence — war among ourselves.
Another post pictured a young person with a basket leaning over and sharing something with an older woman sitting with a basket in her lap by a stream. The accompanying, unattributed sentiment reads: “We were all human until religion separated us, politics divided us, wealth classified us and race disconnected us.”
Look at us. I don’t recall ever seeing 18 words that were more accurate or more powerful.
Lastly, I’ll share a very simple observation I came across that gets right to the point. The image is of a gruff-looking, gray-bearded, middle-aged White man wearing sunglasses. “A Muslim, a Jew, a Christian and an Atheist all walk into a coffee shop …” the quote begins, implying that some sort of inappropriate joke is about to follow. “… and they talk, laugh, drink coffee and become good friends. It’s what happens when you’re not an hole.”
The takeaway, for me and that reminds me not to be hole, is that we need to be mindful in our day-to-day interactions — however small and inconsequential they may seem — to communicate with respect and treat each other fairly and with kindness.
If there are conflicts, we need to be willing to hear both sides and work together for an acceptable compromise. We need to consider the greater good, and strive to do the right thing. We shouldn’t condone, let alone reward, the behavior of those who want to divide and conquer. We need to model the behavior we want to see in the world.
Keeping our own actions and feelings and words in check is not always easy, but at the end of the day, it’s the only thing over which we truly have any control and not feel the despair and frustration Howard Beale so realistically portrayed that sadly mirrors much of life today.