Friday, 25 April 2008


The other day I was reading the blog of a 17 year old goth on Myspace. She had an excellent vocabulary for a 17 year old (though I got the impression she felt the need to prove this at least three times in each sentence) and she certainly had her own opinions. It was refreshing to see that young people still think for themselves, against all odds, given the banal offerings dished out by the media.

I suppose there was a certain subcultural conventionality about what she was saying ('Alistair Crowley and Charles Manson were geniuses', 'I hate humanity', etc) but I got the impression she was a goth because she felt this way, rather than the other way around.

I was amazed at how many comments she had received - many of them from young people seeing her as some kind of visionary hero. Anyway, I got to thinking about the whole 'I hate humanity' thing. I guess this was partly to do with the fact that, at around her age, I felt pretty much the same, and even now the tendency to lump humanity together and dislike 'them' is strong in me - despite almost 15 years of attempting to cultivate compassion for all beings!

The thing about hating humanity is it's easy. I mean just look at them. Especially when you are 17, stuck in a cultural desert somewhere in suburbia, surrounded by brutal schoolchildren and adults who seem to have completely emersed themselves in the grindings and clankings of the Machine. I would imagine she sees 'humanity' as being made up of largely of these people. And perhaps also some terrorists from abroad. Humanity, it appears, is lacking in humanity.

The headstate goes something like this...

People who aren't part of the humanity that you hate: You. The musicians and writers who make you feel that somewhere there are people who are alive and who know where you are coming from. The select few in your neighbourhood who you count as your friends. You don't hate them. It's humanity that you hate. You know. The Others.

And this is how hatred works. And how oppression and genocide can happen. First you have to mentally de-humanise the others. Even calling them 'humanity' can be enough to do it. It helps also to focus on a small, generalised aspect of the others, that you find abhorrent, and magnify it in your mind.

You hate them because they are stupid, or greedy, or commit violent acts against the innocent (oh yes, the Innocent aren't part of humanity either - it's the other humanity you hate). You hate them because the news is filled with proof that they deserve your hatred. You hate them because the school kids that surround you are brutal and unthinking. The next generation of suburban clones waiting to take their place in society. You hate them because the world that you know does not feel like home.

But does the humanity you hate include small babies? What about the old and frail? What about people who have been raped or tortured? What about people who are sad because they have to work in jobs that mean nothing to them, for people who don't care? What about the people who risk their lives to help others? What about the people who send themselves half-mad trying to create something beautiful - like the music and books that changed your life? And what about the people who started out as perfect, innocent children, but were then bashed around by life in various ways and have become bitter or cruel, or hungry for power or wealth. The ones who are lost and haven't even realised it yet? But maybe in 20 years they will have gone through a process of healing and they'll actually become pretty fun to hang out with and will look back on their previous behaviour with sadness in the hearts?

It is so easy to hate 'humanity' (NB you can substitute that word for just about any group label you like - Jews, Palestinians, Islamic fundamentalists, criminals, chavs, posh people, Americans). It is loving humanity that takes creativity, imagination, and above all practice.

A guide to loving all beings:

First of all, develop a healthy love and affection for yourself. You are worthy of it, right now, even before you have made all those improvements to your character that are on your spiritual 'to do' list. Then think of your friends and develop love and appreciation for them. This bit usually isn't so hard. Then think of strangers and do the same. With a little imagination it is easy to see that they too have friends and family who love them. They have entire lives filled with drama, though they only pass you in the street for a moment, and are gone from your mind. Then think of your enemies and develop love for them. You don't have to accept or tolerate the behaviour that made them your enemy. But underneath that behaviour is a human being, with hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, reasons they turned out as they did, and yes, strange though it may seem, somebody probably loves them and sees them as fundamentally ok. Finally, extend this feeling of affection out until it encompasses everyone in your street, your town, your country, the world. All animal and plant life, all life imaginable, anywhere in the universe.

Over months and years of this practice, you start to see that the 'humanity' that you hate is just a figment of your imagination. You simply made it up. True 'humanity' is not like that at all. It is a weight off the shoulders to consider oneself surrounded by a different kind of humanity. It's a more joyful ride this way.

So thank you, young goth writer lady. It's been a while since I have thought about these things. I hope and trust that you will move through this period of your life and come out the other end smiling (but hopefully still wearing the far out clothes and make up).

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


I can understand why people are criticising the activists who have tried to grab the Olympic torch, extinguish it and so on. I mean it is a bit impolite isn’t it.

But then it has successfully attracted the attention of the world’s media at the human rights abuses going on right now in Tibet. Torture and murder. The use of force to prevent people from speaking about the conditions under which they are living. Arrests taking place for carrying a photograph of the Dalai lama. The disappearance of the true Panchen Lama and the installation of a puppet of the Chinese Government in his place. This kind of thing has been going on for fifty years now, but right now, and only for a while, the world is paying attention.

Those of us around the world who support the idea that one should be able to live one’s life free from fear of murder, torture, imprisonment for one’s views, forced sterilisation of women, forced abortion, and the cynical and calculated stamping out of a people’s culture by the authorities, just for a while we have a voice. The Chinese authorities are trying to keep a grip on the situation, but really I think their time is limited. They must change their approach or lose. And if a few people have to be a wee bit impolite in order to help this come about, I think that’s ok.

The Chinese government, and the Olympic committee, are emphasising the fact that the torch is a symbol of harmony and unity. Well I’m all for harmony and unity, but in order for people to unite and live harmoniously, they must be free. Until that is the case in Tibet, and in China as a whole, these words are nothing more than propaganda. They say the Olympics should not be used for political purposes. Why is Beijing so interested in hosting them I wonder? Any thoughts???

It is only possible to maintain control through use of force for a limited period of time. It takes an incredible amount of effort, and it demands a closed system. A closed system is not possible to maintain when you are seeking to play a key role in a world which does not accept your approach, and where the internet means that stories get out. Even when the world’s journalists are expelled from where the stories (and by ’stories’ I mean killings) are happening. The Chinese regime’s time is coming to an end. It must chill the fuck out, or be replaced.

I respect different cultures, and I certainly don’t think that the so-called democracy of the west and the global capitalist system is without flaws and should be installed in all countries around the world. But I do think that, on balance, it is better than a system that oppresses its people to such an extent that they are afraid to say what they think, even to their neighbours. I think that oppressive regimes, in all cultures and at all times, are wrong and should change or be changed (in as peaceful a way as possible, since violence breeds violence). But I do not call snatching a symbolic torch out of someone’s hand violence. It is just a different kind of symbolic act.

I hope these kinds of acts continue, and thus continue to draw the attention of the world’s media to the plight of the people in Tibet as the torch makes its way around the world. And I hope the governments of the west, who have been ignoring China’s behaviour for so many years (since it has been in their interest to do so, unlike, say, in Iraq, where Saddam’s human rights abuses seem to have got them really quite upset) realise that the electorate on whom they depend for their power, feel that the time has come for them to push for genuine autonomy for Tibet. Hong Kong and Taiwan run on different systems under the umbrella of Chinese rule. It is time for Tibet to join them.