Be Kind.

I woke up to the news of the attacks in Paris. It’s so hard to get any kind of perspective on this sort of tragedy, especially since these sorts of tragedies seem to happen all the time. Just a few days ago, Beirut was also rocked by suicide bombings, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.

Nobody close to me is affected by these tragedies, so I have the luxury of a more detached, general sadness, rather than the acute grief at losing someone I love. I know that this is the case for many people–there is no direct link with the attacks, and yet, the sense of loss and our empathy for others caught up in all this is overwhelming. In light of that, it’s hard to know how to cope with all that information. How does one process such terrible scenes? As I pondered that, while doing the washing up, I came up with some thoughts:

  1. Do the washing up. Sweep the floor. Make the beds. Do something mindless which gives you a sense of achievement and makes your immediate environment more pleasant.
  2. Donate to the Red Cross, or to Médecins Sans Frontières, or to the WorldWide Fund for Nature, or to the Malala Fund, or to 350.org. These organisations are working to help people and the natural environment which is being affected by every kind of harm.
  3. Ring a friend/parent/child/relative. Or write an email/Skype/send a text. Connect with people you love. Talk about things which are important to both of you. Listen to each other.
  4. Turn off the news. Unless the attacks are taking place near you, you don’t need all that information. Come back to it in an hour. Or a day.
  5. Plant a flower, a tree, a vegetable seedling and take care of it.
  6. Cook a really good meal, or help someone else do it, if you’re not a fan of cooking.
  7. Be kind.

Be kind.

There is so much anger. Those people who blow themselves up, or who go on shooting rampages, or who hit out with weapons or fists: they’re so angry. And you know, some of the time, this anger is justified. Just think back over even the last 100 years. There has been such a lot of wrongdoing, from so many sides. People have been massacred, their rights completely abused, families have been torn apart. Those coordinating any of these attacks, whether it’s a well-organised terrorist group or an individual with a grudge, or just some person who’s had too much to drink… they probably have a right to be angry. Everyone does, don’t they? If we feel slighted, we have a right to be upset about it.

We don’t have a right to kill or hurt other people for it. That’s not OK.

This general sense of being able to get nasty when you’re offended is not limited to terrorists, though. All you have to do is look at what happens when someone says ‘the wrong thing’ on Facebook or Twitter, and how nasty the internet can be. What righteous indignation, what ridicule at the utter ignorance/rudeness/racism/whatever else! How justified we feel, at taking someone to task for their idiocy! Most of the time, this doesn’t result in violence, but the sentiment is the same.

I’m right, you’re wrong.

You’re stupid. I’m superior. 

So this is what I take away from all of this tragedy: those people who are perpetrating such violence, they have a right to be angry, to be offended. They don’t have a right to kill or injure people. But what can I do, personally, about what’s happening in so many other parts of the world? I think of it all as a ripple effect. I can’t change the anger of someone in an ISIS camp who’s preparing to kill as many people as possible, or someone who’s stockpiling weapons to carry out a mass shooting, or someone who’s brewing over a feud and wants to go out and hit anyone they meet. I can’t stop domestic violence; I can’t prevent pub brawls; I can’t curtail gang warfare.

But I can be kind. I can be kind to those around me, regardless of what they look like or how they speak. I can be welcoming. I can be charitable. I can listen. I can be fair. And it won’t stop that mass shooting or that suicide bombing. Not this time, not next time either. The tiny ripples of kindness from me might take forever to do anything, but they will have have an effect. Whether it’s big enough to make a difference, I just don’t know. But I have to try, because the alternative is despair, and that won’t do anybody any good.

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8 thoughts on “Be Kind.

  1. I would add, stay calm to your list, Rebecca. The chaos is not over, and there are already lots of emotions on the social media which I believe adds to the chaos. As you alluded, there are limits or boundaries for acceptable behaviors in expressing anger. While the law enforcement are dealing with the situation, we need to be mindful that such attack could happen anywhere.

    • Agreed–social media is great for the immediacy of information, with people being able to pass on what is happening, as it happens. But rumours start so easily as well, and it can become quite hysterical. Earlier I saw a tweet stating that apparently Francois Hollande had had a stroke, which was completely untrue, as he was quoted giving a speech only minutes later. I mean, really. What’s the point in disseminating information like that, when you’re not sure of the truth?

  2. Pingback: Be Kind. | ugiridharaprasad

  3. I cooked a really good meal last night, which I’d been planning ever since I saw the main ingredient in the store where i work: golden trout. They looked absolutely unreal when i saw them on ice, and yet they weren’t terrifically expensive, they were healthy for us, and so on. It’s funny, now that I think of it, one of my favorite food writers says, I’ll paraphrase here, “If you [cook a meal badly], you let the terrorists win”. To me, that’s the point of this. To allow fear or sadness to curb your enjoyment of life, is to allow the baddies to win.
    I was careful not to expose myself to too much information, because I know I’d have a hard time processing it.
    I loved seeing, on the other hand, bits about #porteouverte and such, because any time I see people helping each other, especially in the face of something like this, it lifts my spirits.
    Oh, I started planting a fairy garden indoors today, which I’d been planning for months. It, too, felt like confirmation of belief.
    Hugs to you.

    • Hugs right back (and sorry it has taken me so long to respond!) I was careful not to overdose on the information, too. It’s hard to look away, but so necessary for good mental health. And all of the other stuff, the good food, the gardening, it’s all important to ensure we can go on and don’t get overwhelmed by the terrible stuff which goes on. One of the things which bothers me most is how this might have upset the climate talks–it didn’t, but I was worried that it would, and that would make it even worse. I mean, what good is your caliphate going to be if you don’t have any water and everyone’s dying from extreme weather? Boo to them.

  4. And whatever you do, don’t read the comments.

    I don’t mean these comments, but the ones on news sites, which have brought out more hateful, hurtful, blind stupidity than anything I have seen in recent years.

    I tried leaving one- suggesting that the Sunday afternoon trawl of xenophobia might be inconsistent with going to church on Sunday morning and following the Son of God who told you to love your enemies and welcome the stranger. I was trolled with some of the basest, most vitrolic references to my intelligence and even sexuality than I have ever gotten anywhere.

    Congratulations, Daesh. (I’m calling them that rather than their preferred I-Acronym). You’ve likely ensured a world of Tony Abbotts and Donald Trumps in charge, who will bomb you (and drag us) back to the fucking fifth century.

    • Ugh, I know. The comments have been ridiculous. And no ‘side’ is free of them. Both left and right and everywhere in between, it’s been awful. I’m trying to focus on the good stuff, but people really do try to make it worse, don’t they?

      I wasn’t sure what you meant about ‘Daesh’ but then I saw an article about it, and totally agree. Much better name for them. A fight is exactly what they’re after, and they’re likely getting it, which makes none of us safer. So ridiculous.

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