Christchurch terror attack: Why hate is the easiest emotion to embrace

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has rejected the message of hate, paving the path for a more accepting society. Can't we all do the same?

 |  5-minute read |   18-03-2019
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Where is all this hate coming from?

The last words of the first victim — 71-year-old Daoud Nabi — of the Christchurch mosque shooting which took place on March 15 and killed 51 people were, “Hello brother.” He said this to the 28-year-old man whom he met at the door of that mosque — who had a semi-automatic rifle filled with bullets in his hands, and murder on his mind.

From where did this 28-year-old foster so much hatred in his heart that he could still shoot the man who greeted him with kindness, without batting an eyelid?

This hate is born out of the information we are constantly fed from our immediate environment, whether it’s the WhatsApp forwards on our mobile phones — which are so absurd sometimes that they seem believable — or our prime-time television screens, or simply our neighbourhood uncle who seemed friendly and gentle all these years, until he watched Uri: The Surgical Strike.

This particular man, who gunned down so many people, without ever meeting them or knowing them in person, believed that Islamic immigrants were destroying his society and hence, he needed to take things into his own hands to send them a message. A 74-page manifesto belonging to the gunman, Brenton Tarrant, has been recovered, and if that and his social media posts are to be believed, he was motivated by the ideology that 'Western civilisation' needed to be saved from a foreign 'invasion.'

inside1_031819010850.jpgHate is an easy emotion to embrace. But let's make room for love, acceptance and kindness. (Source: Reuters)

Brenton is not alone in this — other white supremacists, such as Dylann Roof, Alexandre Bissonnette, Anders Behring Breivik and many, many more, have killed for the same cause, and many are still out there. Even though a simple Google search can reveal that much before Britain formally annexed the islands establishing New Zealand’s first European settlement at Wellington, New Zealand was a land of the Maori people, who originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia and arrived in New Zealand sometime between 1250 and 1300.

But perhaps Brenton Tarrant did not have the opportunity, or even the intention, to learn about his own immigrant roots — he was already being served easily consumable and comfortable data on a silver platter possibly for many years. The simple thought that he and his ilk are better than those who don’t look or talk like them ended up claiming several innocent lives.

That white terrorism is also a thing, the world is only slowly waking up to now.

And this isn’t just a case of whites and non-whites.

World over, misinformation is being spread every second across religions, races and communities to keep them separated, so they continue to collide and destruct. In India, we have already seen multiple state-sponsored pogroms of sorts in the past, and over the last few years, reports of people being lynched openly on the streets, even on the basis of their food habits, have surfaced — ‘WhatsApp rumour’ has now become a legitimate way of dying in our country.

However, one of the simplest ways to heal from such a tragedy is how our leaders respond to them. It is usually advisable that instead of making an insensitive comment, one should just stay mum.

But if you’re the prime minister of a country, sadly you don’t have that privilege.

Many a time, our own PM has been accused of staying silent when atrocities against minorities in the name of ‘gau raksha’ have taken place. This is why New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s words stood out as a significant initiative towards change. She ended her official statement after the tragedy with a most important thought — she strongly condemned the ideology of the people who did this, and said, “You may have chosen us — but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

And Queensland senator Fraser Anning, who responded to the Christchurch attack by blaming 'the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place', must be kept away from any civil discourse hereon.

Truly, hate is an easy emotion to embrace. I’m certain that when Mohammed Akhlaq was being mercilessly beaten to death on 28 September 2015 in Bisara village near Dadri, there were a few onlookers, or even participants, who didn’t reach the place with any intention to bludgeon a man to death. But, when they saw their friends and neighbours in that state of enormous energy and violent frenzy, they gave in.

inside_031819010542.jpgIf there's one thing we most need to protect right now, it is empathy. (Source: Reuters)

Our everyday frustrations, often originating from things like irregular water supplies, inadequate provision of electricity, criminally low pay scales, the inability to stay monogamous in a relationship, and other such things, can end up accumulating in the same corner of our hearts. Hate burns down houses and lives, but it’s fueled by this same corner which we otherwise faithfully cover up with our smiles and superficial decency.

A utopian society is an impossibility, but in its pursuit, we must establish truth as the source of every human endeavour, instead of letting humanity slide further into a Trumpian post-truth world.

And we must choose the right people to be in power to help us get there.

Someone like Ardern has shown the way by rejecting the message of hate and championing a diverse, multicultural, accepting society. If there's one thing about our world we most need to protect right now, it is exactly that and regular empathy.

Also read: After Christchurch: We are talking about Islamophobia today. But humanity itself is at stake

Writer

Sayantan Ghosh Sayantan Ghosh @sayantansunnyg

The writer is an editor and lives in Delhi

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