Every now and then, a barbaric, senseless tragedy strikes the world. It casts a shadow on our hopes that we, as a species, are progressing. Although such tragedies often seem unexpected, after closer inspection we come to a stark realisation. Evil doesn’t come from nowhere.
In January, such tragedy struck my homeland, Poland.
A liberal politician and Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, was killed. He was killed on stage, in front of thousands of spectators. He was participating in a charity event raising funds for children’s medical equipment.
The perpetrator was shouting words of hate towards Mr. Adamowicz’s political party. Despite this, the mainstream Polish media proclaimed that this was not a politically motivated or hate-driven murder. Instead, they focused on the fact that the perpetrator was mentally ill and had criminal history.
I disagree. This murder was driven by hateful political speech and committed because of hate.
This was a crime of hate against Mr. Adamowicz’s party, against his liberal ideology, against his support for LGBT movement, women’s rights and refugees, and against his calls for freedom and compassion. Not calling it by its name trivializes the crime itself, and also the deeply rooted causes. These causes are shaking not only Poland, but many other parts of the world, too.
We must face the fact that none of the the tragedies we’ve seen in the world would have taken place if it weren’t for small – and at first sight insignificant – seeds of hate. Seeds that are planted in our everyday lives. Seeds that we ignore and forget, because of comfort, or because we want to get through a day without confrontation.
Yes, this individual might have had predispositions to commit a crime, perhaps even such a violent one. But it’s the seeds of increasingly institutionalized hate and discrimination – as well as the silent approval of aggression and violent speech from the government, media and society – which are the real, terrifying causes.
Seeds have fallen on fertile ground, and bloomed into hate so tangible it can take lives, whether in Gdansk, London or Christchurch.
As a white European woman, I am privileged. I am rarely a victim of hate, racial discrimination or morphed prejudice that turns violent. But it is my duty to stand up to racism, hate and bigotry precisely because of this privilege. It’s a duty that, too often, I forgo. Whether out of tiredness, fear or pure ignorance, the reason is irrelevant. I am guilty nevertheless. But enough is enough.
Seeds of hate are sprouting in our own garden. We must stop them now before they grow into something unstoppable.