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pan·der: n. 1. a procurer, pimp 2. one who helps others to satisfy their vices, etc.
Pandering: what an ugly word. Leaders, and those with ambitions to lead, pander to gain popular support by appealing to and stirring up the lowest inclinations of human nature—even though they, themselves, may not totally buy what they sell.
Panderers refer to ugly realities with veiled allusions. Panderers avoid and disguise the harsher epithets of racism, sexism, prejudice and xenophobia with carefully-crafted euphemisms to indirectly make their points. Panderers arouse the deep suspicions and fears of their constituencies, not necessarily based on reality, but hopefully just enough to exert control over the next vote.
But panderers walk a thin line. They court cynicism and delusion in the belief that people and outcomes can be controlled forever. They lead their followers along the cliff’s edge, trusting that no one will fall off. But, however hidden the message, people do get it. They know of a certainty because of the feelings the panderer stirs up within them. Contrary to what the purveyors of this technique would have us believe, people have more capacity than they think.
Pandering is very effective in gaining and maintaining power over people, until one day when it isn’t. In the Bible, Hosea, 8:7 states it well: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” The Baha’i teachings put it this way:
The only division that is real is this: There are heavenly men and earthly men; self-sacrificing servants of humanity in the love of the Most High, bringing harmony and unity, teaching peace and goodwill to men. On the other hand there are those selfish men, haters of their brethren, in whose hearts prejudice has replaced loving kindness, and whose influence breeds discord and strife. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 149.
When the earthly men have sown the wind, the formerly manipulated begin to find new leaders who believe and, with conviction, will say out loud the hateful and previously hidden ideologies. Now the true message comes out, stated plainly and undeniably, for all of us to see. The message resonates with disillusioned and desperate people; and now they really understand at a deep level what was being fed to them. Previously controlled forces have been unleashed, the whirlwind comes, and destruction follows:
All prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness. It is a grave malady which, unless arrested, is capable of causing the destruction of the whole human race. – Ibid., p. 146.
When these whirlwinds arise they bring with them a fearful, frightening time. However, as strange as it seems, they do serve a purpose. Racism, sexism, prejudice and xenophobia infect the body of humanity, and sometimes those hidden infections lie disguised, appearing to be something else and unrecognized for what they truly are. Undetected, not confronted, they weaken their subjects and consume the body and spirit. But when the disguise is removed the disease appears, and in a flash of recognition we all see the reality. We finally see the veiled commentaries for what they really were, and they hold up a mirror to our society. With this mirror, we get to decide if this is who we truly want to be.
Despite this darkness, the Baha’i teachings promise us hope:
My hope is that in this enlightened century the Divine Light of love will shed its radiance over the whole world, seeking out the responsive heart’s intelligence of every human being; that the light of the Sun of Truth will lead politicians to shake off all the claims of prejudice and superstition, and with freed minds to follow the Policy of God: for Divine Politics are mighty, man’s politics are feeble! God has created all the world, and bestows His Divine Bounty upon every creature. – Ibid., p. 150.
Of course, whirlwinds not only consume the perpetrators, but those caught up in them as well. Each of us has to decide whether we want to be part of the whirlwind, or stand up with another message of hope for humanity.
Therefore it is our duty to put forth our greatest efforts and summon all our energies in order that the bonds of unity and accord may be established among mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 50.
If our duty is clear, if we understand our purpose as human beings, no matter what religion, we can unite to bring the loving, unifying vision of all the messengers of God to fruition. We can motivate ourselves with the certain knowledge that infections can be cured—but only if we admit they exist. The prophets, divine physicians all, have shown us the way.