Prejudice and Ignorance

I’ve been listening with a mixture of outrage and dismay to the comments around anti-semitism.  I’m not certain if it’s a more dangerous world if we suppress difference of opinion or if we stiffen the penalties for expressing differences.  I do know the kind of society we live in will be different as a consequence of our collective choices.
Prejudice has always been with us.  Our capacity to hear the breadth and variety of individuals/groups is faster than ever.  I wonder whether that is having a massive impact on anxiety levels.  Not to mention styles of terrorism/freedom fighter activity which encourage unilateral martyrdom for a cause.
We appear to live in much more fearful times because so many of us access information so quickly and follow the incident as it unfolds.  Could it be we are parlously close to believing we know too much – or more than enough to make a personal judgement in a way that impacts on how we react to, and therefore treat other people?  
I wonder.  Genuinely I fear that we are creating a society where we have little capacity to critically evaluate information we are exposed to.  We have a vague general notion that we must ‘play nice’; that people become upset when their world view is challenged; but we’ve lost or are losing our willingness to debate openly difficult subjects.
I don’t know if Ken Livingston’s comments are historically accurate or not.  I do know that he speaks from a generation whose parents were directly affected by the oppressive demands of war; believing that they were destroying a particularly repulsive form of extremism, whilst protecting what was ‘ours’. 
I can empathise with a synagogue, teaching their children evacuation routes if there’s an emergency during Sunday School.  I can hear the pain of an individual fearful that society is turning against them entirely based on ignorance and fear.
But mostly I worry that we are all sitting back and lapping these stories up as though we are the audience at a play; as though it only needs to affect us if we want it to.  Life’s not that simple.  The rights we fail to defend now, will be the ones we most need when we are a member of a misunderstood or undervalued minority. 

 

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