We wrote this in 2014, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.
Recently I saw an article online by a British journalist who defended Israel in the conflict with Hamas, while at the same time many of my friends are protesting about what’s happening in Gaza right now, often choosing the side of the Palestinians. I thought long and hard about which side I would choose –I usually have a preference for defending the weak and the unpopular- and came to the conclusion that I don’t want to choose sides in armed conflicts anymore. War is war, violence is violence and nobody should harm other people on purpose, let alone kill them. That’s the simple truth.
Borders are artificial and I never understood why people are so proud of their country, village, religion, political party, football club, brand of car or even their sexual orientation or their race. These feelings, taken to the extreme, are all things that separate people from other people, that make them think they’re better than others and that way of thinking can lead to war and killings in the end. What people need to realise is that they have much more in common with other humans than things that separate them and that this is what we should focus on, as it will result in people feeling they belong and are accepted as they are.
Thinking a bit further, people, organisations or companies who have an interest in dividing people and putting them up against each other, do so most of the time because of financial reasons (for instance by selling weapons or oil, or reconstruction work after a war), gaining more power, more food/drinks/drugs/potential lovers than they would otherwise get… Even some marketing works on that principle: promising people that if they buy certain products, they’ll belong to a better & more beautiful group. Dividing people into ‘happy few’ and ‘not a clue’ groups.
In other words, it’s hardly ever about an unselfish ideology, because deep in their hearts most people of course realise that they are not better –or worse- than anybody else. They make people hate each other because they want to make money or get other personal gains out of that hate. And we shouldn’t fall for that anymore- this is the basis of Beauty without Irony.
To give an example: I live in Antwerp, a beautiful, multicultural city which has a lot to offer and also has its problems, just like any other large city, especially in this economic climate. Nothing major and in general people here have a lot more to be happy with than to complain about. Dog poo and children playing outside at 10 PM on summer nights are not always nice, but they’re not huge dramas either. And yes, we do have robberies, again just like any other larger city. But to put groups of people of different cultures up against each other, blowing events out of proportion, making people scared of one another, just to win votes..? It’s just not on. We can see the reasoning behind it: anxious people believe in ‘easy’ solutions (Put a police man on every corner! Give youngsters a fine when they hang out on the street together!) and the politicians who believe in this ‘divide and conquer’ approach gain more power. But it also makes for a much harder society, a loss of community feeling, people who mistrust each other -and in the end it leads to even more complaining and unhappiness. People who are content and happy, who know they don’t live in a perfect world but in a world that’s good enough for them, people who have compassion for those who are less well off than themselves (instead of calling the authorities ‘anonymously’ to report anything they don’t like), those people are less easy to manipulate and they won’t vote for extreme parties, be they on the left or the right hand side of the political scale. If people realise that their life is good most of the time and that there’s still a lot of beauty around them, they will be building a more humane society, not destroying it. Because what good would that do any of us? The goal of Beauty without Irony is to show that beauty, to celebrate life, to build bridges between people and cultures and to work towards a future where there’s a place for everybody. Because all of us deserve such a place.
Don’t let yourself get manipulated by political parties, religious leaders or others into believing that some other groups of people are evil, to be hated or feared. A few people are indeed evil (and can become dangerous when they reach a position of power), but most people are good and just want to love and be loved, have a few friends, a job they don’t hate too much, a bit of beautiful nature around them, a roof above their heads and enough to eat. Just like you and me in fact. Imperfect humans, stuck together on this imperfect planet. Let’s make the best of it together.
Don’t divide, unite.
Ninette Murk, July 12, 2014.