Indeed, 2016 has been the year of intolerance: the increase of hate speeches, the rise of extremism and ultra-conservatism, along with terrorism grounded on religious differences, xenophobia, homophobia and racism; and examples are not lacking to illustrate this all.
Where will we get by acting like this?
1. Terrorism and islamophobia in Europe: Last year in Europe, a wave of terrorist attacks were committed. There was the attack in Nice, France — where a gunman deliberately drove a truck into crowds celebrating a national day, causing 86 people to die and 434 to be injured, what includes children and babies —, and there was also the case of the 85-year-old priest who had his throat cut off by two ISIS radicals, also in France.
This shows us not only the power terrorist groups have gained, spreading violence and hatred, inciting fear and killing innocents — such as the Christians crucified by them in Middle East —, but it also demonstrates the increasing of islamophobia in Europe and America, which was followed by the biggest refugee crisis in the world, emphasized by events such as Brexit and Trump’s campaign, as well as a “revival” of ultraconservative parties, like the National Front of Marine Le Pen in France, who defends, for instance, the aversion towards immigrants.
2. Brexit and the refugee crisis: In a historic referendum in June 2016, the British people voted for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union — threatening the European project of integration — claiming, among other aspects, greater control over its borders. As a result, the number of hate crimes increased 41% in the month after the vote to leave the European Union, with 5,468 hate crimes committed, new Home Office statistics confirm. The most striking of them was the murder of a Polish man, who was bitten by a group of six youngsters after they heard him speaking his native language.
About three months later, the image of Alan Kurdi — a three-year-old Syrian refugee whose family was trying to reach Europe — lying lifelessly on a Turkish beach made global headlines, shocking the world. As stated by data from the UN Refugee Agency, in this year there have been 352,093 arrivals of refugees by sea, and 4,733 dead or missing bodies of people attempting a dangerous crossing in need of international protection, fleeing war, violence, and persecution in their country of origin.
3. Trump’s campaign: also in June 2016, Donald J. Trump — American businessman and television personality — formally announced his candidacy to the post of president of United States, setting the beginning of a campaign based on a wave of intolerance throughout the country.
According to the organization Southern Poverty Law Center, between November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of November 14, 437 cases of hate and harassment have been reported, in which many of them contained direct references to Trump’s campaign or his slogans. Immigrants (136), blacks (89) and homosexuals (43) were the main victims, while dozens of attacks on Muslims and women also occurred. Furthermore, in at least 30 cases, a swastika — symbol adopted by the Nazi party in Germany in the 1920s — was used. One of the most alarming aspects of this data is that most of the events occurred in primary and secondary schools, where a reflection of hate speeches from the election campaign had previously been detected.
4. US racial tension: the scenario of distrust and racial tension increased this year in United States, stimulated by the growing number of black deaths, police impunity in justice, and the lack of effective policies to address the problem. In September, the death of two unarmed black men in the states of Oklahoma and North Carolina caused commotion and uprisings in the country. According to UN Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, the excessive use of force by the police against African Americans in the US is a regular occurrence, seeing that these individuals are reportedly shot at more than twice the rate of white people.
5. Orlando attack: in June 2016, 50 people got killed and 53 got injured after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The crime, with clear homophobic underpinnings and believed to be the worst massacre in the US since 9/11, was described by Barack Obama as “an act of terror and hate”.
Where will we get by acting like this?
Well, what we seem to witness is a contemporary society in which there has been the opposite of human development.
We see a hypocritical Europe that — after exploiting the rest of the world, making colonies in the Americas and Africa, exterminating natives and stealing resources, creating empires “where the sun never sets” — refuses today to open its doors to desperate immigrants seeking for shelter.
We see a racist society, which is still ignorant enough not to assume that skin color does not define character, nor does it presuppose any kind of biological superiority.
If today’s society continues to be based on intolerance, failing to follow the ideals of love, charity, and altruism, and rather following the principles of selfishness, hatred, and foolishness, what we will presence is humanity walking each time closer towards its moral ruin.
What has kept our species alive for all history is our sense of community; it is our unity and cooperation. We have not survived until this point in history to be torn apart now. As very well said by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator, alike”. For the sake of a better world for all of us, let’s cultivate tolerance so to reap peace.