Cathy Towtongie has some sage words about the importance of forgiveness in light of the Pope’s visit to the capital this month.
“Be better than the priests or the nuns or the teachers,” she said, dismayed about what she has seen as a rise in bitterness among the young generation about past crimes.
There can be no doubt that the evil of the residential school system and crimes of individual actors within it more than justify lingering and current feelings of hate and anger, but Towtongie is right that universally, in all situations, hate does not combat hate, and instead breeds a vicious cycle of self-destruction.
Towtongie’s sense that bitterness has risen in the young generations seems accurate beyond the experience of Indigenous people in Canada, too.
There has been a cultural shift in the last decade caused by a convergence of many different factors.
Gallup’s Global Emotions Report for 2022 found the mood of the world to be at its lowest point since the survey began in 2006, with happiness trending down consistently for the last decade, showing the results are due to more than just the pandemic. The poll surveys adults in 122 countries on their levels of stress, physical pain, sadness and anger.
Anecdotally, political civility seems to be on the decline, with many younger people calling for blood in the wake of policies, institutions or decisions they don’t like.
The Western World’s economy is not helping the case, as more and more, there is a general sentiment that the gulf between the haves and have-nots is increasing, and there is less reason to prop up a system that is not working for most.
There is even a prevalent idea now that different ends of the political spectrum cannot talk to each other – not just that they can’t agree, but that communication itself is useless, and one side must simply hold power to move forward. Without communication to settle differences, all we have is violence.
Towtongie is right that the path forward is in being the best individual one can be and leading by that example, not in becoming the monster that has beaten you down.
An important distinction is that this approach does not mean you take injustices lying down, but that justice beats injustice, not “an eye for an eye.”
Of course, that’s all easier said than done. Being a good person in good times is much simpler than maintaining dignity in chaos.