Jessica Hagy’s recent diagram about silence, indifference and incitement to violence is important.
— Jessica Hagy (@jessicahagy) July 5, 2016
We see a rise of “us vs them” behaviour in the world lately and much of it stems from the rise of demagogues such as Donald Trump in the USA and Boris Johnson in the UK. Too often the “them” are foreigners (not a new theme) and Jews (an ancient theme). Despite seeing this happen over and over in recent history, humans still don’t react decisively enough.
You don’t have to go back to that H guy (I’m intentionally not stating his name because he is an easy reference for this trend). We have seen demagogues popping up all over the world. South Africa has Jacob Zuma, we have a few here in Israel.
The difference between imminent trouble and flashes in the pan is when citizens refuse to be silent and indifferent and they speak out. This happened just a few days ago in Zimbabwe when a nation united in peaceful protest against its corrupt and tyrannical president.
Dana Schwartz, a journalist working for the New York Observer, wrote an open letter to Donald Trump’s son-in-law and publisher of the Observer about an anti-Semitic tweet Trump published and later fumbled over:
My final thoughts on Donald Trump's anti-semitic tweet, as an employee of the Observer. https://t.co/oLDNcrhwNp
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) July 5, 2016
Kushner replied to the article (I haven’t read it yet but will).
Returning to Hagy’s diagram and the unavoidable link between silence, indifference and incitement to violence (especially these days), two quotes encapsulate the dangers of this link and the inevitable consequences. The first is by Edmund Burke:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
The second is by the late Elie Wiesel, who Hagy quoted in her blog post:
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
This link isn’t hypothetical. We have seen the rise of anti-“them” behaviour in the wake of the Brexit vote and we see it in the attacks on Schwartz that she included in her article.
I also recommend that you read The Atlantic’s article titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Demagogues’” too. We live in dangerous times when democracy may fail the people.
Featured image credit: Pexels