Everything I write, almost everything I do, what all of us do is about behaviour. One of the things that significantly affects behaviour is significant world events. World War II has continued to affect behaviour, and 9/11 is one of the most recent modern events that has changed the world’s behaviour.
What does this mean? It means that attitudes change, 9/11 changed affected the way people view Muslims and triggered political and social responses, and importantly it triggered war that is still playing out around the world 15 years later. The motivations involved in this is variable, for some it’s fear, some hate and anger and for some money. Regardless of why, all behaviour has a purpose, a reason and it’s all communicating how we feel. Behaviour is based on cause and effect and this can have a snowball effect, a cyclical and endless pattern of “this happened, so that happened, then this happened, so I did this…”
I recently wrote about the impact of the Brexit referendum on behaviour, the way that it started people behaving in outwardly racist ways, it somehow legitimised in people’s minds that telling immigrants to go home was now OK, their thoughts became reality. Clearly those thoughts were already there, people have narrow minded views based on their world of experience, and humans like to have someone or something to blame for their own situation.
The most recent event to have an effect on behaviour is the election in the U.S.A, Donald Trump won. How his tenure as President plays out is yet to be seen (at time of writing it’s been less than a week) but what concerns me is his influence over the behaviour of others. Many people have spent their lives and lost their lives fighting for equality, equality for race, gender, disability and more. Trump’s campaign was divisive in that all of those issues were thrown out the window, he made fun of disabled people, told the Mexicans to go home, and wanted to ban Muslim’s and referred to women as “bitches”. His behaviour during the campaign spoke directly to those who held these narrow minded views and has led directly to an increase in hate crime (just read Twitter, or the news to see many examples) Like the abuse of immigrants in the UK after Brexit, this seems to have made people in the U.S.A feel like it’s now OK to say out loud what they felt. Can we blame Trump for this? Or do we say that each individual is responsible for their own actions and if they commit an atrocious act, and ignorant or racist act that they are solely to blame?
We do need to hold Trump responsible. People are ultimately in charge of their own behaviour, but our behaviour can easily be influenced by external factors. We behave partially based on the information we receive and our life experiences. Trumps campaign does have frightening similarities to the way Hitler drummed up the German people at the time and we know the outcome of that. I don’t think he’s going to do anything remotely like Hitler but he hopefully will understand that his power is to influence his followers and that people will act upon their interpretation of his messages. He said he thought Mexicans should go back to Mexico, so immediately, before he’s even won the election people start abusing and attacking Mexicans. That is power, the power to influence. It is true that many people do not question what is front of them, that Trump says Jesus is on the side of white Americans… they accept that… Mexicans should be sent back and build a wall… sure, why not? I don’t like Burrito’s anyway… It’s simplistic, but the power of simplistic ideas is strong.
My fear is that this level of hate will continue, like a virus to spread through the world. I feel like I don’t live in the 21st century right now, I feel like humans haven’t advanced much since the Middle Ages or before. What Trump shows is an apparent lack of empathy, there’s many examples of people choosing to make money at the expense of others wellbeing, but even worse is he has agitated other people into losing their empathy, fear doesn’t lead directly to acts of violence or hate crime but a lack of empathy with fear is a dangerous cocktail. It seems there has been an erosion of empathy within the U.S.A towards many people and Trumps clownish hate speech has given people the façade of a licence to act upon it.
The world I have grown up in has made huge advances in equality and by default in our behaviour. Every world event that has an impact on us, positive or negative will result in two strands, one side is a more enlightened view of a particular issue and the other a more extreme reaction of dismissal and denial of the truth in favour of hate and anger. There’s nothing wrong with an emotional response as long as it leads to a deeper understanding. The plight of Syrian refugees has led to many learning more about the situation and responding with compassion, the other side has led to people blaming refugees for the woes of Europe.
Trumps win will continue to lead to further hate crimes but it will also lead to others standing up for what’s right. Maybe this is the nature of people, to always have divides, to always be at odds and to always have two sides. Maybe we are inherently combative. This may be human nature and this continuous cycle of “Us versus them will never end”. There’s no meaning to life, but both sides do feel they are doing what’s right and each side believes in their own values, this black and white way of humans existing is possibly the meaning we all seek, trying to have our say and mould the world in our way and for some is to sit back and watch the war, eat, drink, shit, sleep and die.