Protection against bitterness

Levinas writes a lot about love & hate. Hate is destructive and dehumanizing. Love, on the other hand, means to create space, according to Levinas, it's a very strong positive power, a desire / need but not to obtain power or possession. It's a choice which isn't made - you don't make a rational mental list of 5 nice people and then you choose which one is the best to give your love to, you fall in love before you even realise what is happening.

I think that hate is the primary source of prejudices, discrimination and xenofobia / racism. And love is the primary solution against it. This sounds very much as a cliché but you can see that it works like this in practice. At a personal level I try to look for these signs, signs of hate and of love. It is possible for me personally to try to keep the door shut for hate and to open it wide for love.

Some time ago I wrote about bitterness/indifference. Here is what I wrote at Orkut:

(Picture: Veronika playing at night and a schizofrenic watching her)

I read "Veronika decides to die" from Paolo Coelho and it is exactly about what I had been thinking about the last weeks. Veronika decides to die because everything in her life is the same and she feels useless. From a kind of laziness she arranged her life in a boring and easy way, she didn't become a piano player as she actually wanted, but choose a boring simple job in a library. She doesn't feel any passion / desire / emotions, every day is the same and she expects it to become worse in the rest of her life (she is only 24 years old). She survives the suicide attempt and ends up in a mental hospital. The doctors tell her that she has got only one week left to live, her heart is damaged because of all the pills she took. In the institute her desire to live comes back. In the outside world she lived her life the way it was expected from her surroundings, she did everything to meet the expectations of her family and society in general. In the mental hospital it didn't matter how she behaved, she was supposed to be crazy anyway.

In the book Doctor Igor explains about a new 'disease' he discovered: bitterness. People who feel threatened by the unknown, create their own world in which they adapt completely to what's expected from them by their surroundings.
In the end they don't feel anything anymore, they don't have any desires and they don't care about their inner world, their lives are being lived completely as a routine. But for society and their surroundings it is usually no problem, the disease doesn't need to be cured since it is considered to be normal to live like that.

I can see the bitterness clearly around me and I can feel it when it tries to enter my soul. But I am learning better how I can put it to a halt. In the past I used to have many restrictive convictions, they are irrational thoughts that result from fear and a feeling of incertainty. They are thoughts like: "I always do everything wrong, I am hopeless, I am good for nothing." These thoughts are the result of being afraid to make mistakes, a lack of self-confidence, and they are the result of frustrations about things that went wrong in the past. If I drown myself in my fear, frustrations and sadness, everything I do will indeed go wrong, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I can ask myself: Is this really true? Did everything I did in the past go wrong, am I really good for nothing? Why do I think so negatively about myself, I exagerate this a lot. If I would be somebody else, an outsider, describing Esther, it wouldn't be that negative. So let's be fair to myself and stop exagerating.

With prejudices it works in the same way, but then towards other people. I am afraid and I am frustrated, and I blame the foreigners for that. It is all their fault and they are good for nothing. If I drown myself in my frustrated feelings for them I will in the end really believe my prejudices and I will behave to them like that, as a racist. But I can ask myself: Are all foreigners really the same? Is it such a black-white world of good and bad people? Are all of them really good for nothing? In fact I exagerate, I can't say this about the whole group, in fact I don't know them really, I just invented this. They are humans just like me, there are good people and bad people among them, like everywhere.

It works well, to ask myself this kind of questions: is it really like this or do I exagerate? The bitterness is like a sour poison that infiltrates in the skin and that makes everything sour that it finds on his way, if I don't resist my whole soul will be sour in the end. I should put on a special raincoat to protect my soul, so that the sourness cannot get any grip on my raincoat and so that it cannot reach my soul. This means that each time that somebody else says to me: "you are good for nothing", or that I almost start to think that myself, that I take my raincoat for protection so that I don't allow that thought to come in. I immediately start to wonder if it's really true and if not then I replace it by a realistic thought like: this time I made a mistake but this is an exception, the next time it will go well again.

Victims of xenofobia can use the same raincoat protection. If somebody says: "you Paki's are sick people" (as it was said today in my community, where a total fight between India and Pakistan arose), a Pakistani can reply: "no we are not, we are humans like you, we aren't sick". Maybe you don't even have to say it because it speaks for itself, but at least you must make sure that you are never going to think about yourself as a nation / race of sick people.

If you recognize hate and replace it by realistic thoughts, it is really a strong way to stop it. It is already very good if you can put a halt to growing bitterness in yourself. That's important because you can keep your dignity then, and you are not so vulnerable towards the hatred from others. And you can even make people who hate a little bit more conscious of that, and show that hate is a bad and destructive power. Because when you ask that to people, do you literally mean that all Pakistani are sick, and what kind of disease is it then? Then there aren't many people who don't admit - although a long discussion will be needed first probably - that it's not literally true what they said.

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