Belvoir Street season, February, 2018
We are living in a time when for many people the most vulnerable amongst us are objects of scorn. Refugees are labelled criminals for fleeing oppression. They are liars, cheats and opportunists. The homeless, the poor, the disenfranchised, are held in contempt. They are feckless victims of their own inherent weakness, their laziness, their irresponsibility. Victims are to blame for the crimes committed against them.
Not everyone shares these attitudes. But there are enough people who do share them to make them an aspect of our society that we cannot ignore.
What causes these attitudes to emerge? What causes one person to think that another person’s life is of no value, that they have no rights, that they are disposable?
I think that it’s fear. Not of the person who is treated with contempt, but of the realities that have reduced that person to poverty, to homelessness, to a state of fear, that have caused them so much pain.
Sometimes what is happening in the world seems too ugly and frightening to contemplate. It is better to turn away from fearful realities, to deny unpleasant truths, to ignore repeated cruelties. When there seems to be no solution, perhaps it’s best to pretend that there is no problem. There is a comfort in wilful blindness. In that darkness, no war can harm us, no misfortune destroy us, no grief overwhelm us.
Those who are stricken by grief or misfortune or war are aberrations, rips in the darkness that keeps us safe. And we hate them for it. Their reality cannot be ours, it must not be. Our darkness thickens, our cocoon of denial and fear tightens around us.
But there are people outside, in the blazing light.