Watching news of the horrific events of the last few days on my various screens, I could feel myself being battered into despair. But then I remembered something that happened many years ago when I was in a band.
We are Occupational Therapy!
At that time there were seven of us, including a DJ. What I did was like singing only different. Our favourite place to play was a home for mentally disabled people run by a friend of mine. It was one of the few times we weren't guaranteed to clear the room by the end of the second number. I'd like to think this had something to do with our funkee music but I suspect it was more to do with the fact that we looked like we'd been dressed by someone else. Our audience thought we were them.
Our given name was The Moneyshots but I always thought we should have been called Occupational Therapy.
One year we were asked to play at the home's Christmas Disco. We turned up to find my friend helping a blank-faced young man wearing bottle-bottom glasses into his car. One of the man's wrists was wrapped in a towel soaked with blood. We found out later he had some sort of condition that caused him to do things that generated anger and hate. He'd rammed his fist through a window hoping that he could stop the disco from happening.
My friend prevented this by refusing to rise to the young man's provocation. Remembering what he did has helped me find a more positive angle on all the mass shootings, stabbings, burnings, streetfights and political grotesqueries playing out on my screens.
Blinded by hatred
The older I get the more I accept that Karl Marx was fundamentally right about how capitalism only works if we believe we are separate from each other. If I'm convinced you're different from me, it's easier for me to feel threatened by you. I don't feel so bad about shitting on you from a great height and I define myself as superior to you through what I consume. If capitalism can get me to hate you, by any means necessary, I'm far more likely to embrace the 'freedom' it offers.
Today, when governments are wrapped in the tentacles of pathological corporations, capitalism is doing an excellent job of making us hate each other. Because if we're consumed by hatred, we're blind to the constant erosion of our freedom, legitimised by capitalism's venal political shills.
(I'm not entirely sure where ISIS sits in all of this, to be honest. It, and other nauseatingly barbaric fundamentalist movements, seem to be motivated purely by the desire to exercise control. But does the money ISIS makes from oil and extortion go purely to fund terrorism? I would imagine its leaders are doing very nicely out of all of the bloodshed.)
We're also blinded to the other side of our nature.
Dog feed dog
Around the time that the principle of the survival of the fittest became the mantra of capitalism, a Russian named Peter Kropotkin argued that mutual aid was actually at least as important. If we don't cooperate with each other - dog feed dog - we may thrive as individuals but our species as a whole is in trouble.
The multi-bulti-trillionaire might believe he's safe from the teeming hoards on his private island but if the whole world is still going to choke to death on fumes and plastic he's wasted his money.
Looking at the reaction to the killing of British Labour MP Jo Cox or the mass murder in Orlando, it's not difficult to believe Kropotkin was right, and that can only bring hope. That is, if our response is to be more than just knee jerk.
To really change things we have to limit the powers of pathological global corporations. We have to elect more politicians who are not in the pocket of the corporations. We have to raise our eyes from our screens more often and remember that people in the world we really live in are for the most part decent, like us. They may been infected by a different idea virus than we have but we need to remember their humanity.
Most of all, I have to remember that hatred breeds hatred breeds hatred breeds hatred. And that, in the words of that towering moral philosopher Razzy Bailey, 'we got to have love'.