Friday, July 8, 2016

How Elie Wiesel's Inspiration Fosters Diversity


A great man has passed away, yet his inspiring story of quiet determination to live, and his mission to tell the world of the evils and horrors of the most inhumane period in modern history, serve as inspiration for humanity to take up where he left, and not let such atrocity ever destroy humanity.

Indeed, much can be learned from the thoughts of Elie Wiesel - the man who became humanity’s most eloquent spokesman for the indomitable human spirit, as he became the greatest witness to the operation of industrial genocide, a unique and unprecedented atrocity, as Thomas Lifson wrote in his blog article. 

Elie Wiesel, whose voice rose from the ashes of the Holocaust, having lived through and survived that painful episode, and who later became a Nobel Peace Prize awardee - passed away on July 2, 2016, yet he leaves a legacy of courage, of constantly be on guard against the evils that humans are capable of inflicting upon fellow humans, and encouraging each one not to remain indifferent to the sufferings of others.

One of Elie Wiesel's most memorable quotes:
Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

The above Wiesel quote should daily remind us living today in a world at the risk of being drowned by the same all-consuming sentiment that overtook Europe at that time – to fight against any form of injustice, discrimination, exclusion, even in our individual small ways.

What challenges does society face today?

Xenophobia, bigotry, racism, ethnocentricism still plague the hearts of many, and add to this list of life-threatening attitudes, opposition to immigration. These tear at the fabric of humanity, thus global peace and solidarity, diversity and inclusion are at constant risk.

Elie Wiesel had something to say about immigrants: You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is ‘illegal’. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?

Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, Wiesel wrote. Indeed.

Antisemitism

But hatred of other human beings is as old as history. In the case of Jews, long before Hitler who only saw them as a race to be exterminated, and other humans as tools for his megalomaniacal visions, anti-semitism had long been in existence since the early church.

From an article on the Holocaust by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, here's an excerpt:
The racial antisemitism of the National Socialists (Nazis) took hatred of Jews to a genocidal extreme, yet the Holocaust began with words and ideas: stereotypes, sinister cartoons, and the gradual spread of hate.
In the first millennium of the Christian era, leaders in the European Christian (Catholic) hierarchy developed or solidified as doctrine ideas that: all Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ; the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the scattering of the Jewish people was punishment both for past transgressions and for continued failure to abandon their faith and accept Christianity.

Another excerpt, on the reason for the Holocaust: The Jews’ presence in the German-occupied parts of Europe was seen as a problem and a great annoyance. At best, they were to disappear from the face of the earth, so that the Nazis could reach their goal: a Greater Germany free from Jews. 
 
Yet not only the Germans harbored this anti-Jews sentiments: The Germans, like the Poles, Austrians, French, Croats, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and others, were all taught, almost from the moment they could understand language, that Jews were evil, that they worked together with the Devil [...]long before the time when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the various peoples of Europe already viscerally hated Jews.

Thus, such was the all-consuming hatred that sealed the fate of Elie Wiesel, and systematically exterminated millions of Jews, including members of his family.

Wiesel was compelled to write about this dark night in their lives in his widely acclaimed memoir, Night:
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed."

Elie Wiesel's Night trilogy should be a must-read as a grim reminder of that dark period in the history of humankind, of how more savage than beasts humans can be capable of becoming, of our worst selves, a specter haunting us as sureb ly as death, and so this horror should NEVER be allowed ever again. 

Yet today, because of extremism or fanaticism, terrorism has become the greatest threat to world peace. Because of ignorance and fear of others, prejudice and racism still pervade.

In America, despite collective efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics suffer discrimination, unfair treatment, and violence at the hands of whites who believe they are more supreme than other races.

To make things more complex, ignorance and fear are not the only factors underlying prejudice and racism, which can be addressed through education and meaningful cultural exposure and interchange.
Whether we are talking about ethnic cleansings, group hatred or retraction of equity laws under the guise that these are unfair, the underlying issue is the same. One group, threatened by the perceived loss of power, exercises social, economic and political muscle against the Other to retain privilege by restructuring for social advantage. - See more here

Blaming others for one's problems also cause discord in society.
"We're in a mode where we feel like we have to protect ourselves, where we feel that everyone who is clearly not 'us' needs to be scrutinized," says Ervin Staub, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an expert on helping, altruism and the origins and prevention of ethnopolitical conflict. "When people are victimized as individuals or as a group, it creates a diminished sense of self, a view that the world is a more dangerous place."
Most Americans would never overtly act on the feelings of mistrust that may have developed since the attacks. But a small proportion of Americans have participated in incidents ranging from name-hurling to full-blown hate crimes.
 
Thus, the inspiration from Elie Wiesel's holocaust experience, his insights and writings must compel us to become active advocates for humanity's dignity, each time any of these negative factors hinder us from forging closer ties and understanding with our fellow humans.

And as the article above just mentioned, one way is to apply our own American values--inclusion and the right to free speech, and ensure diversity working in society every time, everywhere.



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