We make automatic assumptions, don’t we? And the criteria we use to judge both strength and weakness, learned as they are in early childhood, tend to be amongst the most automatic and often least well thought-out.
It really pisses me off, the way we venerate the bossy, the controlling, the domineering – those who hog conversations, bully their way to the top, take over countries.
It annoys me just as much that we see a mind which will never bend, or change, or consider anyone else’s viewpoint as evidence of strength, of character, of firm resolve.
Certainty is not always a good thing. Limitless self-confidence can be extremely dangerous. Strong convictions, especially of a religious nature, can be little more than bigotry and hatred wrapped up in acceptable (to some) dogma.
Why do we give in to those who think they know best? Those who are sure that their version of how life should be lived is not just the right one, but the only one? Why do we feel that we lack the power, the voice, the basic human right, to disagree, to do things differently, to overturn the corrupt tables of government, to question the stupid initiatives thought up by politicians? Why do we have such a childlike response to those who lead? As if they, by their position in the hierarchy, are, by default, superior human beings. As if, by accepting the mantle of Top Dog, they also inherit omniscience, omnipotence and the epitome of wisdom, goodness and truth. As if their rules are indistinguishable from the great sayings of the famous prophets throughout the ages.
Why do we find it so hard to stand up to bullies? To tell them that they are dangerous, overweening, Narcissistic lunatics; to make it clear to them that their generalised prejudice and loathing does not translate into helpful rules for the betterment of mankind; that saying it loudly and vehemently, shouting everyone else down, does not make what they are saying any more palatable or right.
Why? Because, my friends, the tiny pocket dictator, or misogynist, or religious fanatic who dwells deep within so many of us is secretly swayed by this revolting rhetoric. Because the Bible has been used to support anti-gay sentiment, to endorse the idea of women as second-class citizens, to condone xenophobia. Because the major religions generally are being used as justification by those hell-bent on getting their own way – and, in too many cases, their own back.
We admire adamantine behaviour and views – unless, of course, they are held and expressed by a woman, or a LGBT person, or a person of any colour other than white or, indeed, anyone who dares to believe in a different God!
Trump’s bans are bloody terrifying, completely predictable – and, I daresay in the eyes of some, evidence of strength of character. They are also, unfortunately, a reflection of the small Trump who dwells inside all too many people; the part of those people which condemns Muslims en masse, believes that women actually are inferior and is certain that homosexuality is wrong.
Why is the world putting up with such bullying tactics? Why have we not learned from the chilling history of Hitler and his fiendish regime? Why does anyone, even for one second, say or think, ‘Oh, well, maybe he’s right; maybe he’s got a point…’?
Some actions are just plain wrong. They do not confer the dubious description of Strong Character upon the one doing them. They cannot be justified by adroit twisting of the basic rules of decency and humanity.
Dominance is not strength. No matter how much it looks like it. Strength, to my mind, is more about the willingness to control, to dominate, one’s own inner demons and prejudicial thinking. Giving way to the worst humans can come up with and making laws based upon the lowest common moral denominator: How can that be dressed up as strength?