Friday, December 24, 2021

Continuing to beat the drum for a united human race...unquixotically!

Reconciling the notion that humans are all metaphors, all of equal and significant value, with the notion that we are also infused with a divine spark….

Perhaps we might begin to envision our selves, our identity, our place in the universe as a member of a single tribe, not of disparate tribes, not of conflicting ideologies, not of separate and competing races, not of different nations and nationalities, not of disparate educations or incomes, or access to health care and opportunities for work with dignity. Perhaps, now that real time makes everyone potentially able to witness and thereby experience events, both disasters like fires and floods and pandemics and stories including detailed data about all of them, together as a single human tribe, we might begin to consider the ways by which each representative of “the other” might contribute to the health and wellbeing of the whole.

This common humanity notion, as an identifying and humbling and uplifting perspective would immediately re-configure how we ‘see’ each other, regardless of our respective histories and conflicts and wars and threats from the past. Just yesterday we read a news story that reported the suspension of a town councillor for 90 days without pay from the town council, on a decision from the integrity commissioner of the town, for having bullied citizens against taking COVID-19 vaccines. This morning we read of a story in the Financial Post written by Diane Francis, advocating the concept of requiring those who refuse to be vaccinated to pay for their own health care, in Canada, where national health care is a long-established law and tradition.

Every day, we are learning about the specific decisions being taken around the world on how to manage the pandemic, and potentially all leaders in all nations are learning and benefiting from the best practices regardless of the geographic or religious, or linguistic or cultural source of those practices. Similarly, we are able to access stories, for example, in The New Humanitarian, about human tragedies, terror, starvation, homelessness, refugee migration and destitution around the world. Also just yesterday, on local television, we saw the arrival of mini-homes for the homeless in what is called an Olympic Park, with interior washrooms and kitchen facilities, new homes for physically disadvantaged homeless in Kingston Ontario. The story included the announcement of a specific strategy to incorporate social and health service professionals to visit new residents of the new community, with a view to re-integrating them back into a society that has for too long excluded, or at least turned a blind eye and ear to their plight.

Such stories are not exclusive to Eastern Ontario. Other urban centres at least in Canada, are “stepping up to the plate” to address what has already become, and will inevitably grow, a common shared human story, far beyond statistics.

Those pictures, if they were to be shared around the world, (as they undoubtedly have already been), offer hope not only to the homeless in Eastern Ontario, but also to other towns and cities trying to offer hope. We can only hope that this is not a “good-feeling” Christmas story, prompted by the spirit of the birth of Jesus in Christianity. Compassion for “our brother” is not exclusive to Christianity, nor to any of the major world religions. Indeed, it is our human capacity not only to envision such real-world compassion and empathy, but also to bring programs into reality to take responsible action on our better instincts and angels.

Of course, as part of a world human tribe, we also read yesterday that $100 Billion was siphoned off from the pandemic relief program in the United States by illicit fraudsters who applied, even though they were not eligible, and thereby deprived those in real need of those funds. “Speed over efficiency” was the explanation from government sources, when asked about how such a sizeable fraud might have been committed, with the lax complicity of official Washington. Names were not checked, addresses were not checked and background checks were not performed to ascertain eligibility of recipients. Similarly, of the millions of vaccines promised by nations committed to COVAX, the regime to collect and distribute vaccines equitably around the globe, barely half have been delivered. And we all know that without all people on the planet being vaccinated, no one is safe from contracting it and the longer it continues to plague us (individually and collectively) the greater the opportunity it has to mutate and continue to evade vaccines and therapeutics.

Every single person alive has been awake to the legendary global reputation of the United States of America as the “beacon on the hill” where hard work and diligence will bring great financial rewards and recognition, and the freedom to live as one chooses. That story, embedded both in the mind and heart of all Americans, has been spread overtly and covertly for more than a century, intricately enmeshed in the American psyche, emblazoned on the shoulders of men and women in the American military, encapsuled in the limousines and suits of diplomats and corporate elite and “sold” to whatever needy or innocent or greedy of unsuspecting ‘buyer’ wherever American prowess was implanted, or attempted to be inculcated.

That story, however, is suffering from a severe erosion both at home and abroad, leaving considerable room for others (think China India, Brazil, Russia at least) to leap into the vacuum left by the U.S. No one celebrates the “bloom-fading” from the American rose; however, the global population can see both the American beneficence and the American greed on full display everywhere. And, while opportunists naturally take advantage of their American “example” and role modelling, others are more able to see how to push back against the most militarily powerful nation in history. Putin is engaged in that process today, and the world is watching. His moderate tone and words of hope for a resolution are a benign glimmer of light on a potentially ominous border between Ukraine and Russia. NATO’s next moves, while still unknown to the world, remain a constant reminder of how profoundly inter-connected the world and its people have become.

Similarly, with the Iran Nuclear Pact, and the disastrous American withdrawal under trump, we have all experienced steep rises in energy prices, as we also have given the stealth of the pandemic. In that vein too, we have all witnessed, and many have directly experienced the plague of those who refuse vaccinations, protest health care workers, doctors and health care workers around the globe. Just in Canada, consider by both natives and outsiders to be a relatively peaceful and somewhat polite tribe of people, in the last month, incidents of threats to health care workers have risen 59%, leaving many in the field to consider or even to act upon urges to withdraw from the profession…just when that profession is an integral component of our shared survival.

The forces and the winds, and the fires and the floods, the tornadoes and the hurricanes, the desperation and poverty, the hopelessness, as well as the lawlessness, lies and deceptions we all know are universal. And it demands a universal collaborative, co-ordinated, sustained and muscular response to address the dangerous threats from all of these forces. The forces themselves know no favourites, no winners or losers, no rich or poor, no educated or non-education, no Christian or Muslim or Jew, no Arab or Asian, and no western or eastern culture. And, although it may seem ironic and paradoxical, perhaps even those horrible forces might be what it takes to being us all to a new consciousness, a shared consciousness, and a shared and deliberately responsible strategy to address those forces.

The forces themselves, cannot and will not be defined by a criminal code. Nor will they bend to the will of any legislature, or law or medical treatment plan. They cannot be excised by surgery, or assassination, or nuclear bombs, or cybercrimes, or space invasions. And they most certainly will not be complicit to pouring trillions of cash at them.

We have a moment to come to “jesus” as some Americans would say. In that moment we have to realize and accept that our defences are swiss cheese in the face of the global threats. We have to realize and accept that we cannot buy our way out of this vortex. We have to come to grips with the reality that our knowledge and our best minds do not have, and are unlikely to have, a silver bullet to counter these forces, although serious and laudable steps will bite small pieces off their face. We have to come face to face with the notion that our nationality, our religion, our race and ethnicity, our wealth or poverty, our education or its lack, our political status or none, are all individually and collectively inadequate for the moment and for the foreseeable future.

Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a Village to Raise a Child” has global implications, and those implications are not ethereal, ephemeral , or inescapable. And the village is and cannot be reduced to a single town, or a single neighbourhood or a single province/state or a single nation. We are all engaged, whether we acknowledge it or not, in a process of educating, role modelling, inspiring/destroying the millions of children around the planet. And our individual and our collective actions will spell and define the nature of the kind of air, water, land, and institutional supports those children will inherit.

And if we are unable to take that responsibility seriously for our own generation, then surely we can begin to consider the option, still available yet vanishing by the minute, to grab the apple, that proverbial metaphor of taking responsibility for the next several decades. We can all make the kind of contacts with our leaders that will prompt their own shift in priorities, with a view to reducing the incidence of bullying whether in a schoolyard on in a town council, whether in a diplomatic negotiation or on a frozen battlefield in Ukraine, whether on the streets of Hong Kong, or in the Amazon Forest, and whether on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Athabasca tar sands, to bring about decisions that respect the humans in  their respective circles, not only for today, to avert what might be an immediate spark of ignition of something no one wants, but also for a much longer term.

More and more families are considering gifts in kind, to charities of choice, including environmental protection agencies and philanthropics, United Nations UNICEF/UNHCR, SOS Childrens’ Agencies,  World Vision, Amnesty International, OXFAM…and the list stretches for miles. And this individual and collective cluster of initiatives will not only have immediate material benefits for those who needs are in the focused lens of their respective help agency, but they will also have the longer term impact of modeling new ways of thinking about how we each spend our limited cash.

We are not merely consumers, nor political pawns in the chess games of the powerful. We are not either ignorant or insensitive to the global situation and the needs of human beings everywhere. And we can no longer use the perverted excuse “out of sight, out of mind” as our way of justifying our detachment and our insouciance to the plight of the world.

Compassion, while embodied in a new LEGO set for a child, and while that set might expand his or her imagination, will not feed a dying child in Africa, nor rescue a refugee in Lebanon. Nor will it scrub the smoke stacks of the developed worlds’ industrial manufacturing plants. We are, and we all know it, consuming to excess, eating to excess, drinking and medicating to excess, and our excesses are no longer slowly but rather rapidly suffocating the planet’s capacity to breath, to access fresh water and to engender a new spirit and attitude that is based more on how we can be part of the solution than an intimate and long-lasting participant in the problems.

We are not unconscious of our determined complicity in our own demise. We cannot be blind to how we share responsibility for the rape of the Rain Forest, for the extinction of species, for the suffocating pollution of the oceans and rivers and lakes. And we are not crippled without options to make new and different and LIFE-SAVING decisions in our personal lives, and then in exerting pressure on our leaders to shift them in the direction of the survival of the planet and its people everywhere.

Bullying in the playground is not any different or reprehensible than it is in the board room, on the union shop floor, in the United Nations, The WHO, or on the Eastern Border of Ukraine, nor in the legislature of Hong Kong. Bullying is still bullying and stamping it out demands a change in all of our attitudes and approaches. ‘

It was Martin Luther King who reminded us that our most serious threats are not coming from “bad people” but from the silent complicity of good people.

In his letter from the Birmingham jail cell, King wrote:

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” (Leonard Pitts Jr. January 20, 2019) 


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