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Provocations and Insults
read in Macedonian


The Geek elections last month set me to thinking about the whole issue of provocations and insults.  We go through life being insulted and provoked, usually (and thankfully) not every day or even every week, but from time to time, we all experience this most unfortunate of behaviors.  It is a part of being human.

The issue that started my thinking on this was when a Greek man running for parliament, Mr. Kasidiaris of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, was on a TV talk show with other individuals running for parliament.  One of the other members on the guest panel, Liana Kanelli, said something and Mr. Kasidiaris didn’t like and Mr. Kasidiaris flew into a rage attacking Ms. Kanelli, physically.  While he was quickly removed from the show and locked up in a room while police were called, he soon escaped and went into hiding showing all Greeks his true colors as a coward.  But that’s beside the point.

Golden Dawn, again showing their true colors, issued a statement the next day stating that Mr Kasidiaris was provoked. “If you want us to condemn our fellow fighter for this truly unfortunate moment, you must first condemn the insults and attack of Liana Kanelli or you are nothing more than sad hypocrites.” So, if I am to read Golden Dawn’s statement correctly, it is OK to physically attack another human being if you feel provoked and insulted.  We all know this to be false however.

We see alleged provocations and insults at a personal level (as in the case above), but also at other levels.  North Korea, for instance, routinely and belligerently tells the world that it has been insulted and provoked.  Macedonia too, is routinely – and genuinely – insulted by Greece and not too few elected and unelected officials from around the world.  And many Muslims accuse the world of insulting Islam and Mohammed.

But in the example of our Muslim friends accusing Christians of provoking and insulting them, especially when the Muslims reside in a democratic country, like Macedonia, well, I am sorry, but that is the price you pay for living in a free, democratic and open society.  If you want to live in the freedom that representative democracy combined with a capitalist economy brings, then from time to time I promise you, you will be insulted and provoked by something.  Living in the United States, I am routinely insulted and provoked by a) what some politicians say, b) what some in the media say, c) by disgusting forms of so-called art, funded, no less, by my tax dollars, d) what some religious leaders say, and e) by what many in the public say, among others right here in my own country.

(Of course, an insult and provocation is often in the eye of the beholder.  What the North Korean Government claims as “insults” are not, at least by any sane person.  On the other hand, a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed to many is funny – to a devout Muslim, not so funny.)

But while we are all occasionally insulted and provoked, how we respond to insults and provocations is the key.  It is a matter of how you chose to behave in the face of provocations and insults that is really at stake.

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us not to provoke and insult each other…and that is good advice to follow.  There really is little to gain from deliberately trying to insult and provoke someone.  But that is just one side of the equation. When we do respond to provocations and insults with anger, ranting and even violence, we are the ones who have the problem.

For me the Bible is always a good source of wisdom, especially the writings of King Solomon.  Here’s what he wrote about those who respond to insults with anger and violence:

Proverbs 12:16 – Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 – Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

It seems that one word becomes clear for King Solomon when writing about those who respond to insults and provocations with anger and violence: they are fools.  One dictionary definition of a fool I found is “a person lacking in judgment or prudence.” Another noted “A person who acts unwisely or imprudently; a silly person.” Whichever definition you choose, a fool is obviously not someone to be taken seriously.

We can all insult and provoke each other individually, or we can insult and provoke entire groups of people or even countries.  We should not but we all do, from time to time.  But how we respond – our behavior – is of equal importance if not more.  For while an insult or provocation can escalate into something much more – war for instance – turning away from an insult diffuses the situation and restores calm.  Better to be the one known for bringing about calm than the one known as a fool.

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Jason Miko
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