I was studying Political Science a couple of days ago when I read a paragraph about Democracy vs. Non-Democracy which stated that the majority of States on a global level are non-democratic regimes, and that they frequently include the highest population rates around the world. This was not exactly news for me but, sometimes, reading a certain known fact on a book or an article makes it suddenly and disturbingly clear for you. It is as if you had seen the same information before behind a frosted glass or a dirty window and, all of a sudden, you’re seeing it through the cleanest glass or water surface. And it hits you with massive strength.
There are no airbags when it counts to realising that we live in a world where the majority of States does not recognise its citizens their basic, fundamental human rights. It is so easy for us to imagine a simple, carefree life in a safe, free society – that comfort and liberty have been there since the date of our birth. We have never been stopped from saying or writing what we think, we have never been stopped from having driving lessons because we are women, we have never been stopped from going to school because our Government does not want us to have an education. It is hard to step out of one’s shoes and imagine life “on the other side” – but I see it as a big box divided by a central glass window. It is not any glass window; it is a one-way mirror, like those you find in interrogation rooms. A one-way mirror is partially reflective and partially transparent; when you light one side and keep the other in the dark, it allows viewing from the darkened side but not from the other side. And so I picture all these people that live on one side of the box, a chock-full of men and women and children who are looking at the other half through the one-way mirror, watching individuals on the other side living their lives freely and carelessly. On their side, however, things do not work the same way – and the people who live in the first half, the so-called better half, simply do not see them.
This is bull**** of course, if you feel like swearing a little. Everyday we see and hear news on TV about how someone else has been blown up by a bomb somewhere in the Middle East, or how war is going on in Syria, or how a fatal disease is once again making its way through Sub-Saharan Africa, or how an ethnic minority is once again being slaughtered in Burma. We see and hear and, yet, it is as if we are blind and deaf. We carry on eating supper and living our free, careless lives. So, in a way, it is as if there is a one-way mirror separating the North from the South. But it is worse than that, because this mirror is imaginary: it is in all our heads; in each of us.
Nevertheless, being immune to any effect these news might have on us – there is still a breach in our blidness and deafness. That is the trivializing of violence. Hannah Arendt spoke of the “banality of evil”, and coining the term from my own personal perspective, I can only say that this is probably a good definition of the society we live in. We have become so used to violence that we are no longer shocked by watching children on TV being trained by ISIL to become future assassins. There are numerous theories on why this happens: violent videogames, violent TV series, violent books, violent wars, violent attacks, too much talk about terrorism and death and violence. Truth is, we are being pumped violence and death and bloody images and sceneries from a very young age. We grow up hearing about it, we grow up seeing it, in a way that, by the time we should actually be motivated to do something to fight it, we are simply insensitive to its gory effects.
This is a tendency we must fight. The moment we stop feeling shocked with the sight of children being given AK-47s and taught how to kill, is the moment we cease to be deeply, spiritually motivated to act – in such a way that we will no longer have the urgent, unavoidable need to do something to stop it. If you look at these children on TV and do not feel your stomach clench or your guts wrap in a sudden nausea; if you do not feel tears coming to your eyes or if you simply do not have this nuclear, instinctive red flag that tells you there is something wrong with that picture… then you have banalized evil inside you. And there is nothing more dangerous than that. “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”. Or like Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
It is time to de-banalize evil, to turn it back into the monster it is. We all love the Joker, but villains in real life are not in any way lovable. They are not actors performing behind a TV screen; evil must not be seen as a temporary distraction, it mustn’t be seen as entertainment. Let’s make it a monster again, let us feel shocked and scared and sad and uncomfortable about it. It is the only way to ensure that, when we see news like this, when we darken the other side of the mirror and finally watch what is happening on “the other side”, we will finally realise that one part of the box cannot live in a dream while the other part is living in a nightmare.
Let us destroy the wall that divides us. And let us face the monster as it is: evil, as a force to be reckoned with, as a fight to be fought, as a challenge to be overcome. Only light can drive out darkness. Let’s destroy the one-way mirror.