Who Remembers Quiet Sundays?
In these lockdown times, and despite the harrowing numbers of deaths caused by this virus, much else appears to be happening of the positive variety. In the way the world was developing - and particularly in respect to climate issues - it seemed we needed to literally halt and take in the reality of the world's plight. It would hardly have been possible to engineer that "halt", but circumstances have made it possible, now, to take stock and reconsider our future options.
Surely we should regard this as an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how our beliefs, values, and institutions shape our relationships?
In fact, this time of lockdown has brought about a situation of quietude for many. Not only have most of us more time to reflect on what's what but Mother Nature has also done the same. Our country - the UK - no longer (literally) vibrates as it did three months ago, the waterways have become more purified and even the Sun's solar flares have apparently subsided.
In fact, the state of affairs causes me to think back nearly 30 years, to the days when many used to treat one day in the week as a Holy-day, or at least as a family day. That day in the week has not been erased from the calendar. It was - and still is - called Sunday.
But, in 1993, Sunday trading laws were changed to enable high street shopping; the day of rest had gone. Indeed, the advent of all-day television, increasing numbers of TV channels, personal computers, video games and mobile phones completely changed the lives of most in the last decade of the 20th century. Making Sunday into virtually just like any other day seemed logical in the way life had been developing, but those who had known the really quiet Sundays of 40 years before were at the point of losing all peace on Sunday because of the imposition of commercialism.
Today, none of the younger generation have known a life that is not dominated by electronics and shopping and an overwhelming entertainments industry. And working round the clock. Do we understand how to constructively utilise our time anymore? Up to the time of lockdown, was that how we were meant to live? By placing so much of our time in such activities we were not only potentially upsetting our sense of reality but also placing a huge demand on dwindling sources of energy.
Furthermore, our lives had become subservient to the world of competition. But we are all one, and only the relatively few ‘win’ the game of material competition. We cannot all be ‘Olympic champions’. Ideally, all those with sufficient earnings should contribute voluntarily as a spiritual duty, but that day has not yet arrived. Meanwhile, the issue should not be left to the whim of individuals and whether or not their consciences decide to play a part – particularly those who have obtained a very sizeable bank balance, even though they may have worked for it.
The rich may decide to live behind barred gates in the city or in a purpose-built house in the countryside, but the vast majority of people do not have that choice. Indeed, I suspect that the great majority would not want that choice as they find, amazingly enough, that co-mingling with their neighbours can be quite rewarding. It must be a big headache to be holding so many riches that you effectively have to construct a fortress in order to keep it safe!
Surely, only by the mandatory imposition of an equitable portion of one’s income towards the needs of the poor, elderly and infirm can a society even begin to claim itself as being civilised, with ‘the rich’ paying their equitable share in particular (motivated, hopefully, by the thought that they are stewards of what they have gained as part of God’s Blessing). And people requiring such support must be equipped with enough to be able to live in dignity.
Having said all that, all should be properly educated to learn about personal responsibility, too, and the spiritual reasons for why.
These questions do need to be addressed. Hitherto, I suspect that most of the 'successful' ones have behaved as though what has been accomplished in their lives has been purely down to their own efforts. Have they? Are they sure of that? I suppose the atheist would think so. For the last 300 years and more, Western man has tended to think he is the doer, but as time goes on that sense of ego has led to serious and deleterious results.
In preference for materialism, Man somehow found it easy to dispose of the notion of a God that sustains the universe, probably as a result of God being relegated to a being that sits on a cloud.
Some of the rich may believe that the poor are jealous of their wealth, but it is not a question of jealousy but what is fair and equitable according to what opportunities life has presented to each one of us. What seems to be an increasing number of rich people - and some of them are getting even richer as a result of the current lockdown - tend to find all kinds of excuses why the poor and the disabled should not have a fair share of the financial ‘cake’, particularly claiming that those that do not have money cannot have worked hard enough.
Many people are simply prevented – for all manner of reasons that are usually out of their hands – from being able to attain wealth. Mistakes get made, misfortune occurs, and some prefer to be employed in giving service, such as in the caring professions, where bonuses have hitherto been frowned upon. And many of those would enter the winter of their lives without the requisite support if it were not for the help offered by a benign society (or state).
However, in the stories that have recently emerged from communities and hospitals, haven't we seen that humanity, after all, does possess a natural source of generosity - a willingness to work for one another, and usually without personal gain? Selflessness is a commodity that is worth more than anything that Amazon or the shops can sell us.
Gandhi – once regarded by many as the scourge of the British Empire – observed that there are seven social sins that create blockages to establishing real justice:
• Politics without principleWhy should we not use this ‘model’ as a basis of values for change and thereby generate a profound sense of community based on our current experience? I can visualise that many of Britain’s modern generation would blanche at a statement warning about “pleasure without conscience”, but what is the argument against its validity? If we want our leaders to show the example we expect, then we should sign up to fight Gandhi’s seven social sins.
• Wealth without work
• Commerce without morality
• Pleasure without conscience
• Education without character
• Science without humanity
• Worship without sacrifice
With our values based on Gandhi's principles, and in order to avoid a climate catastrophe, we must surely use the current opportunity to join in creating an economy that (borrowed from this article):
- Meets our basic needs while simultaneously healing and securing the health of the human community and Earth’s living systems; and
- Prepares us to respond rapidly and appropriately to the array of significant future emergencies likely to arise with alarming frequency.
- Shift power from profit-maximizing corporations to self-organizing, self-reliant, life-serving communities;
- Achieve an equitable distribution of power and resources among and within these communities; and
- Limit the human use of resources to those applications (such as recycling and regenerative agriculture) that increase the well-being of people and nature while eliminating those (such as war and financial speculation) that consume massive resources to no beneficial end.
But how much is this just 'talk' designed to not motivate much by way of real change? Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said:
We are seeing the internal documents from industries indicating that they are trying to use this moment where public money is being put back into the economy to prop up their industries, whether it be the aviation industry... [or] the oil industry,
It’s just really important, particularly with the oil industry, to note that this type of volatility that we’re seeing right now, it’s a rehearsal for what climate chaos will bring to the oil market in the future, These are risky investments. They were risky investments before this crisis, and they are risky investments moving forward.We are entering a really decisive period in the history of the Earth. Can Man measure up to the challenge? Well, with selflessnes and faith in what is real and not the ephemeral, I believe we can. But are we ready to (what is commonly said) "shift our bums"?
Thank you for reading this.