This week a dear friend shared with me that a brilliant young man we both know (let's call him Tom) has recently become radicalised to alt right philosophies and was keen to attend speaking tour of Canadian alt-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux in Auckland recently.
I was shocked to hear this, as the young man in question is sweet, smart, savvy and very polite. Not that this means he is immune to hate speech and the philosophies that go with it, but because I finally knew a real person who believed these ideas and he didn't fit the bill of my preconceptions one bit.
There is lots of anger out there in the world and according to my 14 year old son there are lots of young, white men who feel threatened by feminism, immigration, government interference and many other things. And there is a concerted campaign on social media to gather and harness this anger and hate and make young people passionate about changing things in all the wrong ways.
WhenI was at University it was all about the Women's Room, and fighting for Palestinian human rights, and listening to ever more alternative bands in the quad and local pubs.
We were free to think what we wanted and to form our own opinions while the government paid our fees.
Things are so very different now. University is a business decision and kids are making choices based on what will buy them their first house, rather than an ideological ideas about what the world actually needs in order to move forward.
I've no doubt that kids are much smarter than we were at the same age and in the long run I have great faith in the way the way our society will grow, change and evolve over the next few generations.
But thinking of lovely Tom becoming passionate about such hateful ways of seeing the world broke my heart a little. It's so easy to live in our own little bubbles of those who think the same way as we do, and who echo back our own views of the world.
But to make a difference and to counteract the tribalism and "us and them" mentality that is growing globally we have to be prepared to really listen to those on the "other side" and understand where they are coming as much as we possibly can.
Judgment is easy, but what is not easy is to really open up a compassionate dialogue with someone whose views are polar opposites of our own. There must be valid reasons why Tom feels the way he does and if I can understand them, and then help him understand them then I have hope that we can bring more true compassion into our world.
We live in uncertain and volatile times and perhaps Tom just wants to put his trust in something, to rely on something that will not keep changing and will give him a sense of purpose in the world. Perhaps he has been wounded by a woman, or by his mother, who was wounded herself and so he is threatened by feminism and all that represents.
All the things that separate us come from a lack of love. When love is present we can embrace each other and find our common ground. When we are lacking in love we see this lack all around us, we are angry and we want to bring justice to the world and to make others pay for the wrong that has been done to us.
And it doesn't matter whether we are left of left, or alt right, this lack of love and the wrong decisions that it leads us to, take us further away from each other and from a world that is kind and free and sustainable.
My new book Freedom Song embodies my hopes for the future in exactly this way. It is all about the strange, disconnected times we are living in, and asserts that if we can drop our judgments of one another we will see that we are all fundamentally the same.
Love is not some esoteric, romantic word, it is the strongest and most difficult and powerful word in any language. It is also our only option, our only way forward, our only way back to ourselves and each other.
I truly believe that love and compassion can work magic. I want so much to gift Tom a copy of Freedom Song, and then ask him to let me know his thoughts.
I think I'll do just that and let you know how it goes.