I’m constantly amazed at the amount of negativity, ignorant suspicion and hatred that we are still faced with in the world today. Sometimes it feels like we are still living in the dark ages, instead of the supposedly advanced 21st century. I find this juxtaposition especially stark when I compare it to the technology news that I trawl through on a daily basis. From a tech perspective, this is undoubtedly THE most exciting period in human history. Never before have we made this much progress in this short a space of time. We have gone from the rotary phone to smart phones with more computing power than the Apollo 11 that took humans to the Moon, in just one generation.
But as we shrink the world more and more with every new technological advance, we seem to be moving backwards when it comes to our humanity. In the last decade alone, we have seen politicians in developed countries like Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, America and lately Italy courting surprisingly massive support for their divisive rhetoric. It has been labelled nationalism, far right politics and Fascism, but the truth is, it is anti-human. Ironically in an era when social media promised we would become more social, it seems like our fancy devices have made us smarter, while robbing us of our empathy.
Not only are we allowing fellow human beings to die unnecessarily by the thousands on a daily basis, but we are also allowing prejudice to flourish on an unprecedented scale. And most of us appreciate that entrenched bias like that is almost certainly a fate worse than death. In the block buster movie Black Panther, the villain makes a valuable statement that is part of the reason this film is so socially and historically significant. He says “I would rather have death than bondage.” I didn’t think that this philosophy would still exist in a future that looked so promising when I was a kid. But considering that Africans still die by their dozens as they cross the Mediterranean in rickety vessels in search of a better life in Europe, it’s a comment that rings more true today, than ever before.
Considering that we live in what is probably THE most enlightened era of human history, with more cross-cultural contact than ever before and in a world where information is literally at our finger tips, how is this thinking still flourishing? I think the answer lies in the old adage that evil will flourish when good people do nothing. It is not statistically possible for me to interact with so many good people on a daily basis, while at the same time there’s still so much apparent hatred in the world. The only logical explanation is that the good loving people have become complacent, believing that our work is done.
We see and read about wonderful acts of humanity and we think the tide is turning, so we can relax our efforts. But there will always be power-hungry people willing to exploit the gullible few to further their own agendas. These people thrive in the chaos that follows, when humans feel conflicted about their heart’s desire to do good versus their age-old fears of that which they don’t understand. In a world supposed run on logic, all that’s needed is a passionate speaker with a following of hateful individuals, to turn a weak-willed person into a champion of prejudice.
So yes I am saying that we are partially to blame for the social regression that we are living in. But fortunately it’s not something that we have to sit back and accept. It’s easy enough to fight the good fight and to change hearts. It can be something as grand as fronting a movement for change, or something as small as extracting a smile from an angry antagonist by showing them sincere love and understanding. We are going to have to turn the tide on what’s happening and South Africa is in a perfect position to again lead this battle. There was a time when the world admired our determination to entrench love and peace into the hearts of a hostile, angry, hurt and ignorant citizenry. Our diversity is not only our strength. It is also the tool we can use to help the world jump over this challenge. The Smile Good News Network is our small contribution towards this lofty objective. Because we cannot have come this far, only to surrender the one thing that binds us all together – love!