Friday, 26 January 2018

Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted

There have been a number of cases highlighted recently in which careless talk on Twitter has caused upset to others. Ill-considered and unconsidered tweets about other individuals, and even about other countries, other races and religions, often do not seem to have any basis in fact. They seem to come out of someone’s fingers without first going through their brain! This extends from those in positions of power or influence, to young children at school. It seems that people are not taught to be kind to others, and people are not even expected to be nice!

In schools now, they are increasingly trying to teach the pupils how to cope with “online bullying”. Why is this happening? Why aren’t we teaching all the pupils that they have a duty to be kind and considerate to others? Why aren’t we teaching them that it is wrong to spread false or misleading information about others? In essence, libel is often going unchallenged. In an increasingly inter-dependent society, there does not seem to be a generally-agreed moral code laid down – or even offered – stressing the need for us to be forgiving, charitable, pleasant, welcoming and constructive. Because these positive qualities are among the ones usually promoted by religions, the politicians and educationalists seem to have generally left them within the realm of religion, and they have not been given their due attention within society.

The Bahá’ís have been urging for some years that “World Citizenship” should be included on the school curriculum. This would directly include how citizens should behave towards one another. At the present, the Bahá’ís world-wide are building up community children’s classes, focussing on things such as self-respect, kindness, honesty and generosity. Speaking to adults, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the Son of Bahá’u’lláh) said: “Do not be satisfied until each one with whom you are concerned is to you as a member of your family. Regard each one either as a father, or as a brother, or as a sister, or as a mother, or as a child. If you can attain to this, your difficulties will vanish, you will know what to do.”

Tweeting, texting and messages on other social media are an extension of speech. Bahá’u’lláh said on this subject: “The tongue is for mentioning that which is good. Pollute it not with evil speech.” He also speaks out against unseemly language: “Defile not the tongue with cursing or execration of anyone.” Many people have been caught out recently by things they wrote in the past, unfortunately proving the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s words when he said: “For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.”

One of the main goals of the Bahá’í Faith is the unity of the entire human race. Having individuals sniping at others is detrimental to the process of building up this unity. Yes, we definitely need unity at a world level – unity between states. But unity as a principle also applies at the local level: unity within a country; unity within the town; neighbourliness among the people living on the same street; unity in the classroom. Unity within any group is important, as it cements a building block together. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá put it: “Peace must first be established among individuals, until it leadeth in the end to peace among nations.”

In the headlong rush towards free expression, society has forgotten the need to educate people on how to live in harmony. Every culture in the world has to have structures which hold it together, to make it viable and enable it to advance into the future. In the past, every religion has taught that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated. In the Hindu Scriptures it states: “This is the sum of righteousness – treat others as thou wouldst thyself be treated.” Jesus advised: “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them.” Muslims were instructed:  “None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” In Judaism, it appears as: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” This teaching, found in every one of the world religions, is often known as The Golden Rule. In the Bahá’í Writings, Bahá’u’lláh encourages us to take the Golden Rule even further, when He states: “Blessed is he who preferreth his neighbour to himself.” Maybe, if we all tried to follow this teaching, people would begin to tweet about others as they would wish to be tweeted about themselves.