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Community Addresses Phenomena of Hatred

Driving home on Friday I, like virtually everyone across the world, was shocked to hear the full extent of the tragedy of what had taken place earlier in Christchurch. I was shocked to learn of the extent of the tragedy, but strangely I wasn’t shocked that it happened. There is a part of me that is uneasy that I wasn’t shocked that something like this could happen. Perhaps it is the way the world is operating at the moment that conditioned me to not being shocked.

In making a comment on this tragedy, I will not acknowledge the person responsible by naming him. I feel the world has to literally turn their back on this person – certainly deal with him with the full force of the legal system but ignore his existence otherwise. I suspect that this is part of mass murderers’ modus operandi – gain infamy through a despicable action. Sadly however this will not be the general case. Already the media and social media are giving this person the notoriety he craves and giving his appalling motive airplay as well.

The sad reality is that hatred in all its complexities is behind this incident. Hatred has become a cancer opposing the caring communities we crave. Everyday observations also suggest that hate is so powerful that it does, not just temporarily, but permanently, destroy relations between individuals or groups. In fact , Royzman, McCauley, and Rozin (2005) in their comprehensive review of classic, as well as more contemporary conceptualizations of hatred, described hatred as the most destructive affective phenomenon in the history of human nature. The role the media and social media play in this is significant. By ‘broadcasting’ instances of hatred, hate has become more visceral with the proliferation of social media platforms. With the use of social media, individuals can easily find others who share their feelings, and therefore not feel alone. The ability to find a community that shares one’s feelings provides a sense of security and validates ones fears and feelings of hate.

Sadly the conduct of our politicians I would suggest goes to normalise feelings of hate. Any casual grab of parliament today would lead us to believe that politics is all about ‘hating’ your political opponent. The sporting analogy of playing the ball and not the person goes out the window. No opportunity is missed to put an opponent down, often in the most vocal and hurtful ways. There is no area of society that accepts the low level of behaviour that is constantly displayed by our elected leaders. Everyday citizens would lose their jobs if they behaved like our elected leaders! No colour of politics is immune to this unsatisfactory behaviour. And no, before I hear others champion, the Westminster political system does not command this poor example.

The point of raising these observations is to challenge society and more accurately the role community can play in addressing this phenomena of hatred. Stephen Croucher in The Conversation would say ‘the more contact we have with each other and learn about one another, the less likely we are to fear one another. This may sound trite, but the more we know about other groups, the more likely we are to pass that information onto one another and improve overall social cohesion. In turn, we are better able to identify and challenge those bent on dividing society. It is our collective responsibility as diverse societies to recognise our diversity and to face the psychology of hate that would attack our home and us.’

Nelson Mandela held the view that I suspect is as accurate in our world as it was in his world, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Our world needs to be a place where we see and experience love. The young of our world need to see at all levels of our society the emergence of genuine care and concern for others. They need to see that it is ok to be different, and that we are not all the same. Importantly they need to see and experience that being different does not need to mean people being unequal because of this difference. Equality, and equal safety for all humans, is dependent not only on the law, but also on the empathy everyone in a community has for each other.

The reality is that hatred has to be learned. Psychologist Bernard Golden says: ‘We are all born with the capacity for aggression as well as compassion. Which tendencies we embrace requires mindful choice by individuals, families, communities and our culture in general. The key to overcoming hate is education: at home, in schools, and in the community.’ This point is also made in this Native American anecdote, A grandfather talking to his young grandson tells the boy he has two wolves inside of him, struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other is the wolf of fear, greed and hatred. “Which wolf will win, grandfather?” asks the young boy. “Whichever one you feed” is the reply. So what wolves are we feeding in our lives, in our communities and in our school? Young people as we know have voracious appetites; and it isn’t just for food!!

My hope is that our politicians of all colours paid close attention to the way the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handled this tragedy. As Peter Fitzsimons wrote so well in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘This nation (Australia) needs more leadership, across all levels, in all parties, like that provided by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the wake of Christchurch’s mosque massacres. With steely calm, with inclusive language, seeking to unite rather than divide, she told the world, ‘to the people who did this: you may have chosen us, but we UTTERLY reject and condemn you.’ Ms Ardern is one out of the box, a leader for her times, ideally suited to guide her country through this catastrophe. In Australia we need to make a choice between the politics of hate and division, or inclusiveness and unity.’

And so we pray:

‘Lord, we pray for those who have been devastated by recent tragedies and especially those affected by the Christchurch massacre. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. We hold in our hearts the families forever changed by grief and loss. Bring them consolation and comfort. Surround them with our prayers for strength. Bless those who have survived and heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead. Help us to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of our abilities. Keep our hearts focused on the needs of all the community. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.’

Live Jesus in our Hearts – Forever

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Bullying

Here at ATC we have been intentional in the key values that we believe in. Certainly the dignity of each individual is a clear priority we articulate with our students. This dignity that we talk about is the right for every individual to feel safe and be respected no matter what the perceived difference or diversity. It is ok to be different. It is ok to be yourself.

Like many schools across Australia, last Friday we highlighted the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The school has a very strong position towards bullying and we strongly believe that every boy has a right to feel safe at school and everyone has a role to play in that this fundamental right is lived in our community. In our own College Anti-Bullying Policy, which is accessible to all parents though our SEQTA portal, we define Bullying as “repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person and it occurs when someone or a group of people, upset or create a risk to another person’s health and safety, or their property, reputation or social acceptance.” While this is our official definition as David Farrington describes, in simple terms bullying is repeated intimidation of a person using actions or words.

Our strong stance on bullying is predicated on the basic beliefs that:
• Every individual has value in our community
• Every individual has the right to feel safe from bullying or harassment in all forms
• Every conflict can be resolved. Victims and aggressors both need help to resolve conflict
• Every individual in a community is responsible for the safety of other individuals in our community
• Every individual in our community is responsible for ensuring that other individuals in that community can reach their potential in a supportive and non-threatening environment.

Here at the College we have decided to take on the analogy of bystanders and upstanders in the way we urge everyone to be part of the solution in challenging bullying here at the College. For you as parents to be able to engage your sons in any discussion around bullying I would like to share with you some of the messages your son might hear when we are talking about bullying and in particular the messages about being a bystander and an upstander. Our language conveys that bystanders contribute to the problem whilst upstanders contribute to the solution and work to stop the problem of bullying. Research shows that others speaking out or taking action stops bullying behaviour over half the time within seconds!

Ultimately becoming an upstander takes courage, it requires us to physically do something (to take action!). It requires us to be assertive, it requires us to be compassionate in that we can see the hurt, pain in other people and ultimately it takes leadership. As one of our key pillars, we say that all our students are called to be leaders, and that all students have the capacity to be leaders. This is not about having a badge or a position, it is about understanding the values we as a community aspire to live and seeing when there are examples of behaviour that works in opposition to this. By its nature, bullying very rarely happens when teachers or adults are present, so our success in dealing with any instances of bullying is dependent on the actions of those present to allow us as a community to address it.

Whilst I would hope that the instances of bullying at the College are low, I am realistic to believe that we are not immune to instances of bullying; any school community who claims that bullying doesn’t exist in their school has either their heads in the sand or a culture where students are afraid to speak up. My philosophy is not one of doom and gloom rather it is based around us wanting to be a community that faces up to an issue and tries to empower all in the community to be a part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. In my eyes a good school is not one that says that there is no bullying at the school rather a good school is prepared and willing to do something when actions like bullying rear their ugly heads.

Prayers

I would ask the community to please keep Seamus (8 Conn) and Sean (5 Treacy) Duell and Henry Chudasko (4 Nolan), and their families in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of Seamus and Sean’s Aunt and Henry’s Grandfather. We hope that the passage of time will help heal the pain of their passing.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, may perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace. Amen.

With best wishes

Michael Senior