Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Call to Action

I have not blogged for a while. Reason being I have so many things going round my mind I wasn't sure which issue to write about first, and of course it all takes time, which is forever in short supply.

This post explains a fundamental belief that I have recently consolidated that underlies many of my motivations, and other posts that I wish to write, hence I decided this would be the best place to start.

This is my belief:

It is the inaction of the good that allows the bad to happen.

Put it another way:

'Minding your own business' or 'turning a blind eye' makes you guilty of the bad that occurs, that could have otherwise been avoided with your intervention.

When talking of all the bad things that happen in this world, many people conclude that there is no God, or at least not a loving God. My husband put it another way to me: It is not God who causes bad things to happen, but it is God's intervention that stops bad things happening. When you look at the chaos of matter, it is apparent that God intervened to bring about creation. Looking at the beginning of life, from the very start of conception, the forming of cells, the growth of the fetus to the delivery of the baby into this world - from the very beginning there are so many things that can go wrong, the fact that anyone can even get so far as to be born is evidence of God's intervention.

Bad things happen, all the time, chaos, and it is 'the good' that must intervene. Others would have it that the bad must be stopped. But my argument is that 'the good' must intervene, rather than the bad stopped, or chaos will reign.

It is not OK to be ambivalent. It is not OK to live your own good life, in your own little shell, when you have the power to do otherwise. Not if you believe in justice.

We all have varying degrees of ability and power. Our action in this world must take into consideration the resources available to us. We must make the most of what we have to intervene and with the purest of intentions, for if our core motivations are selfish rather than altruistic, or if we are dishonest with ourselves and fail to admit our own failings, we can easily fall into the trap of self-rightousness that could lead us to become part of an even bigger problem than that which we think we are trying to solve.

The belief is a religious one, since without the fundamental belief of God, a unifying force of goodness, and also justice, it makes little sense. The justice part is important - those with ability, power, conscience, they are the ones that must act - but there has to come at the end of it all some kind of reckoning, some kind of judgement as to how well we have performed, some kind of reward for those who do well, some kind of punishment for those who do bad, some redistribution of the wealth, some recompense for those who have had their unfair share of suffering - or else justice has no meaning. But I think the principle is common to all religions - and even my friend 'the humanist' may share some of the same ideas.

As a child I learned how to share and how to care for my dolly. I learned how to forgive my brother for kicking me under the table and all those nasty 'Chinese burns' he liked to inflict on my arm, as I came to realise that the bullying he experienced at school and the punishment inflicted on him by my father were bound to result in him finding some outlet for his aggression - I just happened to be a convenient punch bag, he really didn't mean any harm. Early on I came to understand a little about chain reactions - memories of war resulted in my grandfather drinking to forget, which resulted in maltreatment of his family, which resulted in emotional instability in my father, which resulted in him coming down really hard on my brother, which resulted in him finding it hard to make friends, which resulted in him getting bullied, which resulted in my brother taking it out on me. None of it was really anyone's fault, so I learned a lot about forgiveness, which was a good lesson to learn. I made some special friends and took on board their feelings. I learnt that lying was a bad thing and that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated ourselves. I enjoyed school, doing academically well without any major effort, found it easy to make friends, and also enjoyed doing things on my own and especially creating (all kinds of things) in my own little bubble.

As a young teenager I started to understand that there were some really awful things happening outside our relatively cosy environment. The issues with my brother and my father's quick temper were minor problems compared to the threat of nuclear war. The images of emaciated children in Ethiopia that found their way onto all our TV screens were a complete shock to me that I struggled to comprehend. Every morning I always picked up whatever was nearest to me to read over my breakfast; increasingly it happened to be a copy of the Amnesty International magazine that would hang around in my parent's post. Stories of electrical shock treatment and prisoners of conscience digested with my Weetabix.

I remember the moment when I decided not to read or watch that stuff any more. It was during the 6 o'clock news. I don't remember the story that was being recounted but I have a vague recollection of images of tanks and explosions. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed; my confusion and feeling of inability to do anything about such events led me to shut the door on my compassion. My reaction was to choose to block out such information. I would live my life, the best I could, and the rest of the world could get lost. What other option did I have?

And from that day on I left the room whenever the my father was watching the news. I stopped reading the newspapers. I concentrated on me and my future, and did everything that a rebel teenager could do to have a good time and fulfil my desires, utterly self-centred, sprinkled with self-indulging moments of empathy that served to excuse my selfishness. The only problem was that it was a road to no-where, and as I grew older, wisdom started to beckon; a void within started to ache; a voice of depression and despair emerged. Somewhere deep down there I lost everything, and was left really with nothing of my own except a small flicker of faith, which became my rock on which to build a future.

It was a long process to find the strength to face up to the dilemma of existence, good versus bad, the meaning of life, and only just these recent days that I have consolidated just what it is that I believe to be true regarding injustice and evil, and what my response can and should be.

The belief that it is my obligation to do the best I can to make a positive impact on society changes everything for me. It is not enough for me to 'live a good life' looking out for me and my family, minding my own business, ensuring I don't do any harm to anyone, for I have been given intellect, resources, freedom and health, and therefore the obligation to respond accordingly gives me purpose that changes my life. The consequence of doing anything other than my best, of keeping silent when I know something is wrong, is that one day I can expect to be held accountable for future atrocities - this is terrifying, to be considered in some way responsible for the horrors that exist is my call to action. Such a terrible thought is what actually gives me power.

This reasoning forms the basis of my future.

(If you just stepped into my blog here and like this post you may also like the 'Make a Prayer' video that I posted next.)

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