"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Healing Imperatives for a Fractured World

Ripples of Hope – Healing Imperatives for a Fractured World
‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’
Robert Kennedy Speech 7 June 1966 Cape Town
I am a child of the fifties. In those early post war years we had freedom to play outdoors all day with our friends, with minimal adult supervision. We cycled or walked or bussed to school in all weathers, often alone. We had little money and we lived simply. But we were happy. Changes since then to our material "well being" have been immense. But they seem to have come at an extreme cost. Material wealth does not apparently bring us happiness, peace and contentment. 50 years on we now live in a culture where "success" seems to be based on celebrity status and wealth. We buy too much, we own too much, we hoard too much, we throw away too much and we do not recycle enough. The material possessions of others often create envy and greed, and this fuels its own social problems. We have ethnic and racial problems, terror, violence, public disorder, crime waves, the ‘yob culture’ on our streets, binge drinking, metal detectors in schools to combat knife crime and terrorist attacks in our Western European cities. We feel the need for gated roads and secured driveways. Many of these problems were unheard of, even unimaginable, in my own childhood and youth.
And whilst we live in this material splendour, real poverty is rife. 1 billion in the world live on less than the international poverty level of $1 per day. More than 850 million of the world’s 6.55 billion population starve. These statistics are an affront to our humanity. The injustices of the rich/poor divide bring discontent and envy, particularly with the globalisation of information. Poverty brings disease and lack of education, which itself perpetuates that poverty. Lack of resources also increases vulnerability to natural disasters that in the developed nations we are broadly speaking better able to handle. Inadequate and poor quality housing exacerbates the impact of floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. And how many of these are linked to man’s own arrogant interference with the planet?
We have a love affair with our car, our house, and our material possessions. And we all love a bargain. So much so that many of us are unwilling to pay the premium for fairly traded and fairly priced organic or local goods. We love our sanitised, standardised, pre-packaged meat and perfectly blemish free fruit and vegetables. But when we chase the cheapest mass-produced goods we are at the same time casting aside any ethical considerations regarding the production of those goods. We really do not want to think about the possibly sweat-shop conditions of the labourers, the unrealistically low wages that may have been paid, the cruelty inflicted on helpless animals, that our purchasing behaviour may be promoting.
My generation remembers the Cold War, with the Suez crisis of 1956/57 and the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962. We recall the sense of euphoria when the Berlin Wall, symbol of the Cold War since 1961, was dismantled in 1989, marking the end of European communism. We hailed a New Era and a new and peaceful world. How wrong we were!
In his Acceptance Speech following receipt of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize the 14th Dalai Lama remarked: ‘As we enter the final decade of this century I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century.’ Sadly his prediction looks unpromising as we start the new millennium. We now live in a more perilous world than we could possibly have foreseen as children of the fifties.
Nick Clegg recently observed, with reference to Britain under the Labour Government in November 2006, that: ‘If legislation was a guarantee of greater public safety, this country would be the safest nation on earth.’ It seems that throughout the developed world Governing and regulatory bodies try to combat every ill of society as it arises by what can only be interpreted as knee-jerk legislation.
Small businesses find it difficult to keep up to date with the continual red tape handed out to them. Private investors have to be protected with an overly complex Financial Service Act and Money Laundering regulations for the simplest of transactions. Schools and hospitals struggle to cope with more tests and targets and league tables. In fact life is becoming far too complex and stressful for us all.
Over zealous legislation not only stresses us. It also takes away our individual sense of ethical, spiritual and social responsibility. And we do have personal responsibilities; towards ourselves, towards each other, towards our communities, our nations and ultimately to our living planet earth Gaia. And of course legislation fails to address our underlying behavioural problems, our selfishness and aggression, our greed and our envy, the seemingly prevalent albeit petty dishonesty amongst so many of us, fuelled by attitudes displayed in popular "soaps" on the TV and in films. Even the normally law - abiding citizens amongst us sometimes ignore the rules and regulations. Simple examples are the widely disregarded restrictions on speeding and the use of hand held mobile phones whilst driving. Such behaviour is obviously selfish. It exposes our fellow road users, pedestrians, cyclists, horses, pets, wild life and other vehicles to mortal danger. Why do we do it? Would we change our driving behaviour if we knew that every other user on the roads around us was a cherished friend or relation or even pet? Of course we would! If we always drove with consideration and care and indeed love for every other person sharing the road with us, traffic regulations would not be needed at all!
It seems clear to me that lasting and real solutions to the many and seemingly intractable problems of the 21st century world in which we live will not be found in Government interventions and interference. The world’s many fractures will not be healed in that way. Positive change must come from within our own hearts, through a healing of our own wounds and our own behaviour. To achieve that we have to rediscover our own spirituality, recognise with new eyes the spiritual in all our material experiences, whether at work or at leisure, and feel that spiritual awakening in our own individual consciences.
This is a healing imperative for our world. ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root,’ wrote Henry David Thoreau. We all have to start striking at those roots.
This has been précised from my book in progress "Ripples of Hope – How to Heal our Fractured World," that explores how healing our own behaviour rather than relying on Government interventions is the real key to solving the world’s problems of climate change and violence that threaten our very existence. For more see www.eleanorstoneham.com

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