Persons of the dialog: David, Amy Hipsterical
Setting: A park.
David: Excuse me. What is going on?
Amy: We’re just finishing up, so I’m afraid you missed your chance to join in!
David: Join what?
Amy: This was an awareness march. It’s basically a protest march to raise awareness for a worthy cause.
David: I see. What cause were you raising awareness for?
Amy: We were raising awareness for the fact that we all need to (points to sign) coexist.
David: Interesting. What does that mean?
Amy: Well, a lot of people are hating other people these days. They say it’s in the name of some religion or belief, but I think ultimately all religions say that we should love one another. So this sign is a reminder that we need to love people, even if we have different religions.
David: I certainly agree that we need to get along. Do you see violence between these groups?
Amy: Well, I think there are certainly places in the world where they actually go to war against one another, but not here in America. But that is only one small portion of what this is about. In the safer places in the world we still have hatred, and that’s probably even worse than war, if you think about it.
David: I see. So what do you mean by hatred?
Amy: Well, I think it’s a refusal to love people, and that comes out in different ways.
David: Alright. How do we go about loving people?
Amy: That’s a good question. I think it has to do with choosing to be nice, even if you disagree. I mean, you can disagree with what someone believes, but you don’t have to hate them for it. You should just keep that to yourself, you know?
David: I’m not sure I follow you. What if you want to talk about the things you disagree about? Is there a way to do that where you don’t end up showing hatred?
Amy: Yeah, but I think it’s tricky because we live in a society that has made it easy to hate, you know?
David: Ok. So what advice would you have for me if I wanted to talk to someone about something we disagree about?
Amy: Well, I think you have to be really loving about it. Just because you think someone is doing something wrong doesn’t mean it’s wrong for them. Like you might think a certain belief is wrong, but that might just mean it’s wrong for you, and not wrong for someone else. We need to be really tolerant of other people. That’s a big part of what it means to coexist.
David: That’s an idea I’ve heard a lot about lately. So how does that work when you want to have a friendly disagreement with someone? Or think it’s an important discussion to have.
Amy: Well, I think it’s important to realize that if they’re not hurting anyone, then what they are doing is ok. I mean, ultimately, if we have disagreements it’s really more of a matter of taste. For example, we might like different types of music, and so it’s ok to discuss why we like what we like, but I don’t think it would be right to tell the other person their type of music is bad or wrong or something.
David: Hmm. That may work in terms of music, but do you think it would work in more important areas?
Amy: You mean like religion?
David: Well, I think there are all sorts of areas that are more important than music taste. Religion would be one of them, but even politics and public policy or banking have more significant consequences on life.
Amy: In these areas, it’s important to remember that all sorts of things can work. It’s just a matter of different cultures, and if the religion or political system doesn’t hurt anyone, then it doesn’t really matter what else they do.
David: So I’m getting the idea that you’re ok with just about everything, so long as people don’t hurt one another. Is that accurate to say?
Amy: Absolutely! If you don’t hurt people, then everything else really just boils down to differences in taste, really.
David: Why is it important not to hurt people?
Amy: Well, would you like someone to hurt you?
David: No, I certainly would not.
Amy: Then there you go. Nobody wants to get hurt, so therefore it’s wrong to hurt people.
David: I get that. But I can think of instances where it might be ok to hurt others.
Amy: I can’t.
David: What about if someone tries to attack someone you love deeply? Would it be ok to defend them, even if it means hurting the attacker?
Amy: Well, I suppose so. But that’s an extreme case. That’s self-defense.
David: So, in at least one case, it is ok to hurt someone else.
Amy: I don’t think I would phrase it that way. I would say that it is ok to defend yourself or someone you love.
David: Ok. So would you say that if someone has an idea or belief that says it’s ok to hurt others, that that would be a bad belief?
Amy: Yes, certainly.
David: And would you think it would be a good idea to talk about why that idea is a bad one?
Amy: Education can fix a lot of the ignorance in our society, and I think it can solve a lot of problems.
David: Sure. But even outside of a strictly educational context, would it be a good thing to do? Like if you meet someone who has a religion, for example, that says that you must convert or die. Would it be a good idea to try and discuss why you think that religion is wrong?
Amy: It doesn’t sound like it would be safe!
David: Haha, well let’s suppose that this person might not be a practitioner of that aspect, for the sake of argument.
Amy: If I would be sure that I would be safe, then I suppose it would be a good idea to discuss it, sure.
David: How would you go about having that discussion? It seems like you can’t go the “whatever is true for you, works” route, since you feel so strongly that hurting people is almost always wrong. Yet since that belief is there, it is important to discuss it.
David: To quote Jack Sparrow. If I may lend a machete to your intellectual thicket.
Amy: Haha. Go for it.
David: I think you need to develop a lot of your ideas. I think you have a genuine heart for people, and that’s a good thing. However, in order to be effective, I think you have to better understand what tolerance, love, and hate are.
Amy: What do you mean?
David: There are some older ideas about what those words mean. They aren’t very popular these days, and nobody marches to raise awareness for them (though maybe they should). However, I think they are more sustainable, and they make dealing with difficult situations a bit easier. Maybe we can meet up and talk about them over coffee some time?
Amy: That sounds like a good idea.