Monday, 25 March 2019


A peek behind intolerance

My novel, OUTRAGE is a work of fiction based on true events. It deals with the effects of extreme action on peoples’ lives. The story is set in Argentina, circa 1970s, when educated, well-to-do middle-class students, fed up with the various dictatorships, unleashed a tsunami of terror in the name of democracy. I hoped never to see such delusion again, but ... extremism rages in the US, the UK, several European countries, and in Canada. My hope is that this old story helps to turn someone’s views around, raise questions in another’s mind, alert someone else that what looks like a ‘good cause’ may not be. 

I read the report by . It is detailed, excellent. I have been following the work of the RCMP for some time, sadly aware that, if we had an organization like this in the 1970s, today there would not be 25,000 dead, injured or maimed for life in Argentina.

Today we think of extremists as muslims, as people from other cultures, but the truth is that the enemy is within. In Argentina the attack came from home. Domestic terror is the enemy today, and we are not ready to deal with it.

In my experience the active ingredient in any form of extremism is hate. That which Che Guevara promoted in the 1960s and which took root so successfully in Latin America’s youth. He wrote in 1967:

 “Hate is a factor in the struggle. Unyielding hatred for the enemy which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, turning him into an effective, violent, selective, cold killing machine. Our soldiers have to be thus. Without hate, people cannot triumph over a brutal enemy."

To help with prevention, here are some views on intolerance, a mild feeling which can develop into hate.

I live with the Rednecks. I grew up thinking they were big and red and nasty, but it turns out the stereotype is wrong. Many rednecks are nice people. They are smart, generous, compassionate, caring. 

And sometimes they are not.

My friend shuns me, but only in public. One-on-One she is brilliant, friendly, fun.

As soon as there is someone else around, she changes. It feels that she must distance herself from me; needs to remind the others that she and I are only acquaintances, and that we were not created equal.

How does she do this? I call it, The Interview. First she shifts in her chair, then says, “OK, OK, let’s see now ...”. She tells me my name, she tells me where I’m from, she lists events in my life, things I have told her in confidence, as though she’d met me ten minutes ago and wasn’t sure who I was. While she hangs me out to dry, her friends balk and mutter in embarrassment.

At times she mocks me. She suggests ever so sweetly that she picked me up somewhere, she’s not sure why. There is regret in the sweetness, as though she wants her friends to know that she has been stuck with me ever since.

I have told her it bothers me, and she laughs. Like a hyena. And she does it again.

What more can I say to her? She would deny any accusation. She would not understand what I’m talking about. She can never admit to it.

I know this woman. I know her family. She is a good person and I can’t but conclude her problem is in the programming. 

While she was being educated, somehow the concept of sub-continents stuck. Sub: under, below, beneath, less than, not quite, at a lower point ... you know what I mean.

I believe she does not accept that part of her education. She refuses to be a racist, so she becomes my good friend. In public, though, the programming is activated, it makes her uncomfortable, and she resents me for it -- so she mocks, rejects, distances herself from me.

It’s a vicious circle. 

That’s how racism works in some people. These are nice folks: educated, wise, generous, compassionate and yet ...

Quepos, Costa Rica - Pino loves napping with Lolly (in green)
I travelled to Latin America with a another friend. She is a sweet, caring person. Yet she could not connect with the locals, only with other tourists. She would not talk to the locals unless through me. Whenever it came time to pay, she would react as though a wolf pack surrounded her. I saw fear, persecution, distrust in her eyes.

Puerto Viejo - Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is beautiful.
I would wager she’d go out, heart thumping, to help a local in need. She’d be scared, but she would force herself to do it simply because it is the right thing.

I believe the problem is in something like a chip with old, useless recordings. Whenever an issue arises, the old recordings are activated, triggering fear and distrust in what I know is a perfectly good person.

Campesinos. A verdant park with waterfalls and  hanging bridges.
For example, she was chatting with a foreign backpacker who said he’d been targeted when he was getting off the ferryboat. He'd noticed a man on the boat talking urgently on the phone and staring at him. When the tourist got off the boat, three men approached and said they had a car, that they could share a ride. It would cost less for everyone, he said. The tourist refused.

My friend immediately agreed that it’s better to say, “No thanks," and take the bus. 

agree. I would feel threatened as well. But I suggested that the man on the boat might be a friend helping the others with their share-a-ride business. What about that idea? 

My friend and the other tourist did not give my suggestion a think. Their minds were made up.

Is it racism? I don’t think so.

I think the problem is in the chip.

What to do? How to update the chip?

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