25 April, 2014

The perception of tolerance in Lithuania: I hate you, but I let you exist

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Category: National campaigns, Opinion
Aileen Donegan
12 pm

by Dovilė Jablonskaitė

Internet, self-expression in virtual space, online hate speech and it’s prevention – Lithuanian national No Hate Speech campaign “Love Panda” organized a discussion with people, for whom the nature of internet is no longer a secret.

Thoughts on living a virtual life were shared by blogger Mykolas Kleckas, comic – Paulius Ambrazevičius, online program „Žinių naujienos” author and host Timūras Augucevičius, musician and producer Viktoras Diawara, expert of media  psychology Ilona Česnienė, director of Lithuanian Human Rights centre Birutė Sabatauskaitė, assistant advocate for European Human Rights foundation Evelina Baliko and Lithuanian Liberal Youth representative Aušrinė Armonaitė.

The dirt continued for several days

Angry, full of spite and even threatening reactions are dealt with by almost every single one of the participantsbecause of their opinion shared in public.

“I uploaded picture from the parade and expressed my civil position. I was expecting a reaction, but I have never thought that I would get so much dirt spilled on me. One “guy”, who liked me before, started sending me quotes from the Bible about homosexuality. For three days my facebook wall was flashing with comments and private messages that were really full of hatred” – said translator, comic and  social media activist  Paulius Ambrazevičius, who dealt with hatred after last year “Baltic Pride” parade in Vilnius.

Internet surfers’ resentment was earned multiple times by witty blogger M.Kleckas. He said he was threatened multiple times. Moreover,, furious opponents five or six times tried to convince him they would come and kill him . “I gave them my address and even told them when I work. Not a single one of them came.  That’s why we have to distinguish where hatred can become brutal aggression and where it’s just intolerance and fear of the unknown” – proposed M.Kleckas.

Tolerance? Rather respect!

Musician V. Diawara drawn attention to the fact, that people understand the term of tolerance completely differently. Dictionary tells us that tolerance is endurance, leniency. “That is the main problem, because majority of the people understand it like this: if you don’t do what  I don’t like or see – I don’t care, but if I see it – you will regret. People interpret the definition of being tolerant by making it twisted and no longer tolerant.”

“I also believe that tolerance is not quite suitable word. Firstly, I wish that people  respect each other. Now tolerance means that I hate you, but I will let you live. I don’t need your permission!”  – said B. Sabatauskaitė. Women that worked with roma children for several years is convinced, that tolerance is just a convienient cover. “Teachers usually say – we are tolerant, we let them go to school. But after three months I hear the child saying that he is unhappy there. When I started  questioning where this sadness comes from, I found out that teacher has never checked the childs excersice book. This kind of ignorance has a direct impact on the study results of the primary school student. The position sounds like that – child is sitting in the last row of the classroom, but he goes to school, therefore he’s being tolerated” – presented an example B.Sabatauskaitė.

“If there is no respect – there is no tolerance. If you can be with person in one room, but still don’t respect him – it’s not the tolerance”- summarized V.Diawara.


Television – both amusement and culture

Joining the debaters T. Augucevičius remarked that if you understand and accept, you don’t need to tolerate: “When you are afraid, you usually keep a distance, but when you do understand, everything becomes clear. When you are angrier, more easily persuaded on myths and stereotypes, it is easier to control you”.

T.Augucevičius said he is convinced people from regions being more afraid of innovations. “When person has already found a way to survive, it is not likely he will be willing to change: innovations can only destroy everything that is already hanging on  a thread” – considered TV host. In television and other media sources he misses normal, articulated word about races, nationalities, sexual orientation etc.

“In Lithuanian TV you can only see a black man playing drums or hitting the gong, therefore our development  towards the West could be described as slow. To change thinking and understanding in Lithuania, we have to meet “different” people. That could be quite a challenge, especially if you live in the province. When a Chinese restaurant opened in Telšiai (little town), they hired an Asian person, who was not Chinese. However, all the citizens named him nothing but Chinese and children in the streets were mocking him. I believe that regional policy in Lithuania is frustrated. It’s bad enough, that the only source of culture for some people is the pleasures of remote control”- sighed T.Auguscevičius.

Vilnius and other parts of Lithuania

“I would agree with Timūras that something wrong is going on outside Vilnius. In regions people tend to be more vulnerable and education is really falling behind. Citizens have no other sources of amusement and no opportunities to look at the world differently. Therefore, the only amusement they can afford is television, which, as we see, promotes hatred. It’s not necessarily the colour of skin, that we mock, we started to laugh even from the fallen strap. From TV that taunting goes on to the internet and boils over to the social networks” – said specialist of  Internet psychology I.Česnienė.

When discussion went on comparisons of the way city and village residents see the world and the values, hand from the audience was raised with an observation from Živilė “I feel that if I am not from Vilnius, I don’t know something because my education was wrong…”

“At this point we use Vilnius not as specific city, but as symbol of well-educated, broad-minded people. Though your remark is quite right. And it illustrates that every word we say, might cause different feelings. Those feelings rise from our experiences and people that surround us, with the environment in different schools, different communities and after all – our society” – explained I.Česnienė.

The thin line between joke and hate

“All political memes express political position. If you write, that Graužinienė is a fat  b**** and she needs to be killed – that’s hatred. But if you make a meme with „Tuti tuti tuti ta“ – that’s a way to oppose by showing stupidity of the politician. For instance, real hate is when you start making fun of people, like the girl from One.lt. With memes the boundary between hate and joke is really thin”- said M.Kleckas.
“We cant laugh from general characteristic that people were born with – thats mean. Clever mocking is sarcasm” – tried to draw the line T.Augucevičius.

“I believe everything is really simple: there are insults and biting satyre. If you are insulted, you will understand immediately” – convinced V. Diawara

Before creating a meme assistant advocate for European Foundation of Human Rights, Evelina Baliko, encourages to ask a question: what is my purpose?

“To laugh? Or maybe to insult , to humiliate? It is all hatred. The question is weather it is covered by the law“ – explained E. Baliko and reminded that for comments with hate, disrimination against ethinic minorities and sexual orientation is punished by law. – “A person can be sentenced up to 2 years in prison”.

According to B. Sabatauskaitė, the worst case scenario is when people in high positions or even parliament members use insults: “For instance, Petras Gražulis, creates his political power by making himself a laughing object. Therefore his public hatred is no longer noticed. But it should be noticed, especially by people of his own rank”. She is convinced that there are too many jokes about Jews, Poles, Armenians and etc. in our society. “If you say that these jokes are not funny, suddenly you become a person with no sense of humour” – expressed a regret B. Sabatauskaitė.

Silent resistance is the worst

M. Kleckas warned that bullies will remember their victims forever: “In fifth or sixth grade we were all making fun of one classmate. To this day I remember the mocking and I’m ashamed. I met him some time ago, apologized, but it is still uncomfortable when I think of it. It will follow me my entire life. Unfortunately, those who bully have no understanding of the consequences for themselves”.

Participants of the discussion agreed that passive or silent resistance, when you support the victim only by your thoughts, is the worst.

“It’s difficult to react as you never know when you’ll be a victim of hate speech”, – said B. Sabatauskaitė.

Fighting mocking and defending yourself is a hard work because you need to react swiftly, reasonably and so on. People search for entertainment on internet and would rather watch 30 “Youtube” videos than write few comments arguing why you shouldn’t talk down on this person”, – M.Kleckas

“If a person, ever written something hurtful, wants to keep further communication, I try to understand and convince him that everything is not the way he thinks it is. Often rage and agression rise because of uncertainty. You are afraid of something that you don’t know, but at the same time you are too afraid to ask. But when you talk to the agressor as the human being , if the person opens up, all the arguments can be broken when you show that you can choose mind over emotions. In such Internet battles you can really test your beliefs” – tries to see the brighter side T. Augucevičius.

How to handle emotions?

Psychologist I. Česnienė stated that all cases of unsuitable behaviour should be reacted properly. We must tell that this sort of behaviour is unsuitable, insulting and unwelcome.

“Person sitting at the other side of the screen might think that all he is doing is a joke. Though, if after warning he still spreads hatred and insults people, it is advised to address suitable institutions. Passive resistance is unsuitable, because hatred will spread further”- explained psychologist.

She said that in our society people have no control over their feelings and can’t understand them. It is easier to direct their emotions at someone else. “We have to understand that hatred is only one of the emotions: a very strong one, indeed, but it’s completely normal to feel it. The question remains, what to do with it? It is very important to know yourself: why I feel hatred? Maybe I don’t feel safe? Maybe I’m afraid? Every strong emotion that is unnoticed  may lead to aggression”, – stated I.Česnienė.

Panda invites to live with joy

I LOVE PANDA campaign is the national campaign of joy, which is based upon positive attitude and the values of human rights. The campaign stands for human rights, equality and diversity. Panda has been chosen to become the symbol and the ambassador of the campaign and is encouraging everybody to build up as much joy and kindness in their everyday lives as possible.

I LOVE PANDA campaign is a part of programme “All different – All equal: Human rights, active participation and variety”. It is a part of NGO Programme Lithuania, funded by EEA Grants (www.nvoprograma.lt).

The source: http://www.15min.lt/

Original article

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