“. . .the narrow ridge is the meeting place of the we”
Jimeone Roberts, an alleged known neo Nazi recently had his beer spat in at an Irish pub because he was sporting a black sun tattoo. The Sonnenrad, or “sun wheel”, is a symbol that was used by the Nazis in Germany. It is also the same symbol used by the Azov Battalion in Ukraine, which many support. The tattoo can be offensive to some, it might even be distasteful and ugly to those who actually know its history, but what kind of society have we become when spitting in people’s beer is acceptable simply because we disagree with their politics. Distasteful as Jimeone‘s politics may be to many, there is no justification for spitting in ones beer. If the young bar tender thought himself far above Jimeone, by spitting in his beer, he put himself at the same level.
There are many examples of this kind of behavior, both online and off. People have become intolerant. The world has become one huge, divisive, ugly, schoolyard. Egging politicians, stickering hateful propaganda, the attacking of alternative news media and mainstream journalists. There are countless more examples. Not to mention trolls and fake accounts online, confidently spew out hatred, causing division and angst with memes, photoshopped pics and doxxing. Such ugly behaviour exists on all sides and has contributed to anger and fear, causing many to flee for safety in echo chambers.
Echo chambers are where political discourse goes to die. Safe spaces wherein individuals discuss political ideas, stroke each other’s egos and pat each other’s backs. Congratulatory, emphatic agreements of mutual hatred towards the enemy litter these platforms. Socio-political and cultural views can never be challenged, tested or proven, leaving individuals emotionally and intellectually immature. Boring, uninspiring, and zombifying, echo chambers are to be avoided at all costs.
Maturity is borne when people can discuss ideas, no matter how distasteful, civilly and respectfully. The dichotomous left/right narrative is designed to encourage genuine, robust discussions. It is why our parliamentary process exists. Parliament House was designed for discussion and debate. It takes courageous people, strong personalities and fearless free thinkers to make great societies. It might get ugly, fiery and contentious, but people are sharpening each other’s minds, gleaning the best of all sides to create what we have come to know as free, liberal democracies.
When discussing political or philosophical ideas, we can all learn from Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. We can all exist on the narrow ridge he speaks of. It is the place where opposing views can meet, where the I-thou or us vs them dichotomy can duel. Often this requires a coming together, mutual consent to listen, understand and respect each other’s minds. Setting aside biases and prejudices for a moment to perhaps get a glimpse of the other side. Sometimes concluding with agreement, concession or conciliation, and more often agreeing to disagree. Sadly, this almost never happens.
The world would be a better place if everyone strived to see things from others’ perspectives or try to understand another’s point of view. The civil thing for that bar tender to do would have been to pour the beer and enter into polite discourse with Jimeone. Not everyone will agree on everything, but we can still be loving and compassionate throughout the process. We need only look to Christ for an example. Christ stands at the centre of the narrow ridge with His arms outstretched, beckoning to all that might listen. It is why He sat with the wine bibbers, and tax collectors, sinners in the eyes of self righteous religious leaders who enjoyed their echo chambers. More people need to be more like Christ.
“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
Matthew 9:11-13 NKJV