"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Trial by Trolls - is there hope for our world?

Isn't it time that each and every one of us started bearing our own share of responsibility in the shaping of our world?

I know that it's 23 years since His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1989, but what he said has as much relevance today as then. He emphasized that responsibility doesn't only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. The next day in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture he elaborated on the theme:

"The realisation that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood;
a warm feeling of love and compassion for others.
This, in turn, is essential if we are to survive in this ever shrinking world we live in. For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves. This fact has become very clear during the course of this century. We know that to wage a nuclear war today, for example, would be a form of suicide; or that by polluting the air or the oceans, in order to achieve some short-term benefit, we are destroying the very basis for our survival. As interdependents, therefore, we have no other choice than to develop what I call a sense of universal responsibility."

Where are we 23 years later? Not in a very good place from where I'm sitting.

I read a piece in yesterday's Sunday Times about "The Torment of Trial by Trolls." For the uninitiated a "troll" is technically someone who deliberately disrupts online commentary with assaults on other contributors or by repeatedly taking threads away from the topic. But as the article points out it has become shorthand for all kinds of internet abuse. First we had road rage. Now it seems that many people are prepared to be abusive, obscene, insulting, mocking, bullying, and so on towards other people when they can hide behind the anonymity and distance of Twitter and Facebook and other social media. What is going on here? Why do we abuse strangers so freely?
Have all these people really nothing better to do with their time than abuse strangers? It seems that some of these trolls are perfectly decent people when met face to face.

Where is that " warm feeling of love and compassion for others" within this kind of beahviour? Is there hope for our world? What about empathy for our fellow beings? And what about the Golden Rule? Treating our neighbors as ourselves?
And not only should we confine the scope of our responsibilities to our own home patch. It is a matter of global justice that we have equal concern for the conditions in which our brothers and sisters live in poor parts of the world.
In December 2001 a Statement was issued by 110 Nobel Laureates on the one-hundredth anniversary of the launch of the Nobel Prize. It included a plea for us all to reassess our global obligations to one another. Again it's eleven years ago but it seems we don't learn anything with the passage of time. This is what those Laureates said:
"The most profound danger to world peace in the coming years will stem not from the irrational acts of states or individuals but from the legitimate demands of the world's dispossessed. Of these poor and disenfranchised the majority live a marginal existence in equatorial climates. Global warming, not of their making but originating with the wealthy few, will affect their fragile ecologies most. Their situation will be desperate, and manifestly unjust. It cannot be expected, therefore, that in all cases they will be content to await the beneficence of the rich. If, then, we permit the devastating power of modern weaponry to spread through this combustible human landscape, we invite a conflagration that can engulf both rich and poor."

Eleven years later has much changed? It is a fact that we have the technology and productive resources to eliminate worldwide misery, poverty and injustice. Consider the power of the internet in the Arab Spring, in mobilizing the Occupy Movement.

And it seems that all many of us can do is waste precious moments, hours, days, weeks of our lives in abusive behaviour against our fellow brethren whilst hiding behind the anonymity of that same technology!

Sometimes I feel real despair, ashamed to be a part of the same human race.
Can anyone offer any words of hope?

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