Tuesday, December 10, 2019

plague of intolerance

A mass movement readily exploits the discontent and frustration

 of large segments of the population which for some reason or other
 cannot face the responsibility of being persons and standing
 on their own feet. But give these persons a movement to join, 
a cause to defend, and they will go to any extreme, stop at no crime, 
intoxicated as they are by the slogans that give them a pseudo-religious
 sense of transcending their own limitations. The member of a mass movement, 
afraid of his own isolation, and his own weakness as an individual,
 cannot face the task of discovering within himself the spiritual power 
and integrity which can be called forth only by love. Instead of this, 
he seeks a movement that will protect his weakness with a wall of anonymity
 and justify his acts by the sanction of collective glory and power.
 All the better if this is done out of hatred, for hatred is always easier 
and less subtle than love. It does not have to respect reality as love does.
It does not have to take account of individual cases. Its solutions are simple
 and easy. It makes its decisions by a simple glance at a face, a colored skin,
 a uniform. It identifies an enemy by an accent, an unfamiliar turn of speech,
 an appeal to concepts that are difficult to understand. 
He is something unfamiliar. This is not "ours." 
This must be brought into line - or destroyed.

Here is the great temptation of the modern age, this universal infection 

of fanaticism, this plague of intolerance, prejudice and hate
which flows from the crippled nature of man who is afraid of love
 and does not dare to be a person. It is against this temptation most of all
 that the Christian must labor with inexhaustible patience and love,
in silence, perhaps in repeated failure, seeking tirelessly to restore, 
wherever he can, and first of all in himself, the capacity of love 
and which makes man the living image of God.

~ Thomas Merton,
from Disputed Questions