Often fundamentalists are regarded as other people, not me. Fundamentalism is not people, it’s an attitude. There is no copyright on the tendency to be close-minded, shutting off reason and empathy, and it can unfold within the mind, in anyone. The causes are many, a hodgepodge of circumstances including educational culture at home, in school and in the media, combined with the social and economical climate, national or ethnic traumas, and so much more.The resulting arrogance, and the aggressive and abusive behavior that the fundamentalist attitude breeds, can be changed. A practical way is to begin with noticing the pain it causes and the limited kindness, intelligence and creativity it allows. Then on to loosening it up from inside, and there are many ways to do this.
The time we live in, it is often proudly proclaimed, is one of sound reason and good-hearted human values. We call it being civilized. These values are so important for peaceful coexistence on this planet. The danger has been and still is when the best in us gets hijacked by fear and ignorance. It is fear that appears in the form of the fundamentalist attitude, but it is based on ignorance. The fear that letting human beings be humane results in chaos. It is also the fear of ending up back in the jungle, among savage animals. Control over others become justified, by a self-selected elite, be it financial, social or religious. Control needs rules that must be enforced to be effective through a strict system of punishment, both psychological and corporeal. Or it can be through bringing the majority of a population to within sight of disaster, that the threat of ending up in the street is never far away. Now that is savage.
Open-mindedness that is intelligent and combined with genuine human kindness is the direct antidote for fundamentalism. They can’t coexist in the same mind, at the same time. We see proof of this in our common planetary history, how the shared conscience in the form of writers, artists, thinkers and spiritual people have to flee a repressive regime or face its persecution. We also see it reflected into the political process when tolerance and rationality are labelled treacherous threats to national interests.
We need to direct the light that shines from our basic goodness so it illuminates the blind spot in the fundamentalist attitude, and that means each time it unfolds, each time our mind capitulates our ability to see and think clearly to a political or religious bully who tries to tell us what to think and what to do. And each time our heart becomes numbed to the pains of all peoples on our planet, and frightened into being nationally selfish.
Wouldn’t it be better to live as a content global community, working together to solve common problems and be free in the pursuit of happiness, not at the cost of others, but for the welfare, physical and spiritual, of everyone.Photo by Brian Neises, England.
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