Kindness is Genius


The world seems so ungentle on occasions. We appear to have lost a sense of kindness.

Of late, political discourse both here and elsewhere has been brutal. A recent research finding has reported that the human brain is predisposed to learn negative stereotypes, which explains how prejudice develops. If something is repeated often enough, we are biased to believe it whether it is factual or not. Our politicians instinctively know this as they divide us with poisonous sound bytes. It is such a relief to dip into writings and opinions that are kinder and gentler.

Michael Leunig in one of his recent occasional pieces for The Age wrote of his growing creativity as a child who believed in fairies and created “installations” for their benefit and entertainment. In the article, Curly World: Early Works of Wonder, he muses on the artistic impulse of “love, innocence, sincerity, nature, devotion, offering, imagination, invention and a belief against all odds in an enchanted spiritual dimension that could be of value to a sane society.” He mourns that this is increasingly lost in the bickering clamour of the competitive spirit. He argues that Art must incorporate love and that, without it, its expression becomes a form of pollution.

The writer and journalist, George Monbiot, also calls for kindness. He recently opined that governments “seek to atomise and rule” – a form of divide and conquer. Fortunately, he says, the human’s need to connect undermines this attempt and some people escape and promote different messages from those that promote resentment, anger, and hostility, both physical and verbal. The current outcry against the decision to water down Section 18 C of the Racial Discrimination Act is a case in point. Professor Luke McNamara of UNSW points out that the section represents “a genuine attempt to set some parameters for civil and respectful communication, and for making a declaration that, as a society, we recognise the human dignity of all, irrespective of colour, ethnicity or country of origin”. The question to ask is why some people think that it is okay to insult and humiliate others, and, more importantly, why does the government think that people should not be protected against such actions, whether verbal or physical? The dissemination of bilious prejudice is easily spread through the internet. The resulting poison is not a bomb to be dropped on cities and towns, but is just as lethal creating a myriad of psychological injuries directly and indirectly as well a putting people at risk physically.

Monbiot points out that neither state provision nor community action is a substitute for the other. We need both. Effective community action and bonding make it hard for governments to shirk their duty to all citizens.

At times of disillusionment and distress it is spiritually refreshing to dip into the art and whimsy of someone like Leunig as well as authors such as Alexander McCall Smith whose various stories, whether set in Botswana or Scotland, remind us of that human impulse to connect with kindness. To open a book and read about a community people, each like any of us with their flaws and imperfections, who are kind and concerned about each other and go about their lives in a gentle, essentially friendly way, where the musings and conversations are about goodness, caring and love of all life, of concern for creatures both great and small along with the places where they live, is refreshing. As Leunig says, kindness is genius. Can we not all be geniuses?

Published: The Miner: 24 November 2016

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