Monday, February 29, 2016

This is The Renaissance of Hate

A friend in Des Moines, Iowa, just reported that persons unknown had dumped thumbtacks all over a section of bike trail, causing the sort of damage and inconvenience you would expect.

This trail is a segregated venue. These riders are not interfering with the holy motor vehicle traffic so beloved by Americans. Spiking their trail is an act of pure malice, singling out bike riders purely for being bike riders.

We live in a time when we are actively encouraged to give way to our prejudices and express them without reservation. Close borders. Harass, intimidate, beat up, and even kill "undesirables."

Talk radio hosts have been exposed numerous times suggesting that bike riders make perfectly legitimate targets for violent slapstick comedy. They never suggest that riders should get some hazard pay and a share of the residual income from any video coverage of these actions. It goes along with every other form of entertaining contempt peddled fiercely and continuously by people who have soapboxes large and small. The comment thread on any article about bicycling in the mainstream media devolves almost immediately into a collection of traded insults. It's just one aspect of a culture of intolerance that has been growing steadily since the backlash against "hippies" in the late 1970s and early '80s. It is blossoming now with creative expression of destructive tendencies.

We're in the Renaissance of Hate, when divisions mean more to people than coexistence. A large segment of humanity inclines toward duking things out and settling them now, rather than trying to bump along, accommodating each other as best we can. Another segment does try to keep building toward a universally tolerant society, but there are many details to iron out. The human propensity for simple mindedness and quick fixes throws land mines in front of any peace march to try to shut the gentle people up and let the men of action have their way.

I use the term men of action purposely. The culture of hate is sexist. It attracts many followers who are women, but they either think they can fight it out or they buy into the classic gender roles in which men make the big moves and women support them. In general, movements of intolerance try to keep people in their rigidly defined places. Amazing how totalitarian ideas can march in under a banner of freedom. They have specific, worthy recipients in mind when they talk about freedom.

Some things are deplorable and need to be opposed. Sometimes, forcefully delivered rhetoric is not wrong. That complicates analysis for the concerned citizen. But if someone is suggesting that it's okay to target anyone for unkind treatment, that's bad advice. "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is a shorthand way to remind yourself that a broad brush and a machine gun are ham fisted solutions.

At the start of every riding season, and at intervals during it, I wonder whether hatred or negligence will strike me or someone I hold dear. It's one more thing in the back of the mind when gearing up to take a simple bike ride.


mike w. said...

Well said. Sometimes i feel like i ought to ride up to the border just to check to see what country i'm really living in...

Anonymous said...

Yes, well said indeed. The culture of division, polarization and hate has taken over the US and it is no longer recognizable as the same country. It has become a frightening place. When I was in collage in the early 60's, there was one place (a large public central library) where a lot of students worked part time. We had a lunch hour debating society. We sat around a a table and debated religion. There were two Southern Baptists, a Roman Catholic, a Mormon, a moderate, tolerant atheist (me) and a rather militant atheist. We could talk, disagree, and still work together after lunch, greet each other outside of work. I don't think this scenario would be possible today.

Within a few years, the divisions were of a different quality, then came a series of assassinations. I was shot at once. I left. I went to the other side of the world, learned a foreign language and redefined myself in a other culture. It was a long haul. Well worth it from my perspective now. Don't just joke about leaving. Consider it.

Steve A said...

IMO, I suspect you've been watching too much cable news about politics lately. MOST people, just as MOST motorists (not that the two are different species), are good. In both cases, the jerks catch our attention dis-proportionally. Of course, haters are kind of like "aw s##$s" - it only takes one to wipe out a thousand "attaboys."

cafiend said...

I watch no cable news, but I did just lose a brother in law who spent his last couple of years on the Internet, sharing depressing information and opinions about our need to be armed at all times. That combined with plenty of news items about exchanges of unkind behavior proliferating globally can lead to the conclusions I expressed in this piece. It's not about the bike. The bike-related incident seemed to exemplify the mind set that it's not only okay, it is TIME, to take up arms against that which offends you. Refuse to take it anymore! Stand up to the (insert target here). It's a human problem.

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