"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.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The spirit of community survival - empathy and imagination

When times are hard people pull together. This was seen in Britain in the Second World War. Is it at all possible that the deep global problems of this new Millennium will engender a similar spirit of community survival? I hope so.
History has shown us that even warring factions can forget their differences in some circumstances. There were the famous Christmas truces in the trenches in the First World War when the German and British soldiers exchanged small gifts, sang carols and played football together.
In the Crimean War British, French and Russians at quiet times also gathered around the same fire, smoking and drinking. And in the American Civil War Yankees and Rebels traded tobacco, coffee and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of the same stream and even collected wild blackberries together. (1)
On 29 July 2007 millions of Iraqis, Shia, Sunni, Kurds and Christians, became united for a brief interlude to rejoice over their football victory against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup Final. Shots were fired in the air in jubilant celebration rather than for political squabbling and killing. Iraq had been momentarily unified by eleven footballers! But the euphoria was short lived. In no time the city had reverted to its politically fuelled bombings and shootings.

The truce in war has a long tradition and is surely a sign of hope for the world?
If we can all unite for sport and athletics, and in No Man’s Land, why can we not work together peaceably for our own futures?

Sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer in his book Terror in the Mind of God (University of California Press 2000) wrote: “It is difficult to belittle and kill a person whom one knows and for whom one has no personal antipathy.”

Ian McEwan reflected on the Twin Towers collapse on 9/11:

If the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity [my italics]. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality…The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanizing hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination. (2)

That is why I believe that culturing empathy is so important in our world. And any attempts and endeavours to cross boundaries of race or creed, to build networks, to gain knowledge of others’ ways of life, must also surely be of huge benefit for our future, and should be encouraged and nurtured.

Adapted from the book Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton

2. McEwan, Ian, The Guardian 15 September 2001, ‘Only love and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against their murderers.’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/sep/15/september11.politicsphilosophyandsociety2

No comments:

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


Total Pageviews