The proper purpose of being human, is to help other humans.
This was AL Kennedy’s response to an audience member who had fallen ill being assisted by both audience and staff at Edinburgh’s International Book Festival. In that sentence she echoed many others.
Some of the world’s greatest thinkers pass through the Festival every August and this year they all had variants on the same thought:
In an age of hate, choosing to be kind is a political act.
Too many dismiss kindness as weakness, and in doing so reveal weakness of their own. Anger and blame are easy and thoughtless choices. The choice to be kind is not a simple quirk of temperament. In an age of rising, violent hate choosing to be kind is a radical, political resistance. Let others forage for unkindness. Let others view the world with deliberate grotesque inattention. I refuse.
Fascism, populism, xenophobia. These stand on the shoulders of division and dismissal. Regimes that rely on these divisions are always built on quicksand. To choose unity and considered attention is to shake their very foundations. We are the species that hopes and loves, and attempts to divorce us from that nature are always vulnerable to the simple sword of empathy.
And so I will echo the refrain of the speakers of 2019’s Book Festival from AL Kennedy, through Sue Perkins and Ann Cleeves, to Arundhati Roy: I will not do your job for you. I will not submit to your hate and your fabricated fears. I will choose to be kind. I will seek to understand. I will pay attention. I will choose, repeatedly, my humanity over your greedy fear.