Saturday, 20 February 2016

Values Of The Heart

Dear Reader,

The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us has made headline news with the release of Oxfam’s latest set of damning inequality statistics, which make an irrefutable case for sharing the world’s wealth and power more equitably.

There are many ways in which this emerging call for sharing is already being expressed across the globe – including the ongoing advocacy for tax justice, the emergent focus on ‘de-growth’ as a catch-all framing for the great transition that lies ahead, and the urgent need to protect the basic human rights of desperate refugees in order to let “peace and love flow without borders”. 

A diverse group of the world’s largest NGOs and other progressive organisations have responded to this mounting injustice by forming a global alliance to fight inequality, in a bid to gather the momentum needed to achieve their stated objective of tackling the systemic causes of inequality.  

Meanwhile, the evidence suggests that 2016 will witness an unprecedented escalation in popular protest in both the Global North and South – a trend that is likely to persist for as long as governments ignore the real solutions needed to address pressing crises, such as the devastating impacts of extreme poverty and climate change.*

The Share The World's Resources website refers to the United Nations' "World Day for Social Justice 2016" and highlights the affect on the poorest.

Where the benefits of growth have reached the poor ... it is often in spite of market mechanisms. Government reforms – such as socialised health care, state education and minimum-wage legislation – have allowed greater access to the benefits of growth, along with political pressure from parties and unions that won these reforms. However, as government regulation has been relaxed, inequality has again increased.

Agitations such as those reported here are to be welcomed, in my view, but so much needs to be done to spread a deeper sense of true Human Values, especially to those who are in the "have" rather than "have not" category.

Karen Armstrong (a famed writer on religions) has made her own point about this:
Each world tradition has developed its own version of what has been called the Golden Rule – always treat all others as you would wish to be treated yourself – and insisted that this is the core of faith and the test of true religion, taking precedence over all other beliefs and practices; they have also insisted that we cannot confine our benevolence to those we find congenial. ...
Yet even those in the West who are not mega-rich seem to have the view that their own hurt is greater than others, even though we inwardly should know that we are all the same - we all breathe, we all feel, we all love, we all have hopes ... we all die.

Ms. Armstrong continues:
After the terrorist activities on the 13 November in Paris, Europe was – naturally – plunged into mourning.Yet the day before the Paris atrocities, some forty people had been killed by IS in Beirut and the Lebanese noted wryly how quickly their tragedy was forgotten. Nobody thought to fly the Lebanese flag alongside the tricolour. Some two weeks before the Paris shootings in January this year, 145 Pakistani children were killed by the Taliban; shortly afterwards, 2,000 men, women, children and the elderly were slaughtered by Boko Haram in Nigeria.Yet compared with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, these atrocities received meagre coverage. Compassion is not an emotional feeling of goodwill; it does not mean pity; it is rather the principled determination to put ourselves into the place of the other. For many of the Syrian refugees who are desperately seeking asylum in Europe, the horrors of 13 November would have been an almost daily occurrence – yet the talk focuses all too often about how we can keep them out.
This myopia does not go unnoticed in the Muslim world. If we live according to the Golden Rule and pride ourselves on our humanity in the West, we cannot confine our sympathies to our own compatriots. If we want a peaceful world and to win the battle for hearts and minds, we have to learn that we are not the only people who suffer at the hands of extremism and reach out to our global neighbours with true empathy – and not just with bombs.
Read more: Karen Armstrong

I feel there's no need to say more. We all have to do better and not so quick to elect political representatives to ensure that we are OK. For example, please think carefully about the EU referendum question: leaving the EU could throw us back into a modern form of the dark ages.

* The opening four paragraphs are taken directly from an e-mail notification I received from the STWR organisation. I have done so as they exactly encapsulate what I intended to say.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Sons, and Their Duties in Love...

Dear Reader,

Today being February 14th is an opportunity to reflect on "Valentine's Day" and its quite interesting source.

Saint Valentine is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint who - though little is known about him - is associated since the High Middle Ages (1100–1350) with a tradition of courtly love. Now that ("courtly love") in itself was a phenomenon of that period in that it is also associated with the troubadour tradition which is of an interesting source.

A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry. It is commonly believed that the troubadour school or tradition began in the late 11th century in Occitania (and subsequently spread into Italy and Spain and related movements sprang up throughout Europe). But reading Idris Shah's book The Sufis gives quite a different slant on the origin.

The true source of the troubadour  appears to have come from European contact with a branch of the Sufis, who even today exist as a mystical development of Islam, but in various guises. And the Sufis -who include such spiritual giants as Rumi and ibn al Arabi - proclaim love as their raison d'etre. Not ordinary (human) love, but divine love. 

Such, therefore, is the now relatively mundane tradition that is maintained every February 14, little realising its high origin - of remembrance and love of God. But Jesus, of course, said that the Divine Law is essentially two-fold: remembrance of God ("with all thy might") and also to love thy neighbour "as thyself". Jesus's commands are therefore akin to the Sufic traditions referred to earlier and are common to all true religion.

It would be wonderful (would it not?) if we were all to reflect today on those words of Jesus and help to transform the morass of selfishness and hate that visibly exists in the world today. There are those, of course, who still live by love for others, but there are so many examples of selfish behaviour, even by sons towards their mothers.

The mother represents the highest form of human love. She bears her children and brings them up with willingness to sacrifice all for their benefit. Yet it is often the case that when the child gets to a certain so-called adult age that they think they know it all and dare try to take control of their mothers, sometimes in a subtle way. While enjoying Valentine's Day with their partners they even say hurtful things to their mothers. I believe that to hurt one's own mother is a mortal sin which is very difficult to eradicate: we often seem to fail to transmit this so-important value to our sons and daughters.

If there is righteousness in the heart
There will be beauty in character;
If there is beauty in character
There will be harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home
There will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.
(Sathya Sai Baba)