I’ve been cooking up a blog post on the backburner for over a month since I wrote the last one but today seems to be the day to bring it to the table – hopefully it doesn’t cause you indigestion. The theme to kick off 2015 is the one I signed up for today through avaaz.org and its timely arrival resonated with me and gave me a reason to write.
To cut a long URL short, I signed a pledge to:
show kindness and respect, strive for wisdom, and practice gratitude:
and I invited others to do so too. The responses in themselves were interesting since each invitation was a personal message address via FB messenger which kind of requires a personal response too. Some folks were genuinely enthusiastic and signed up immediately because I guess it resonated with them too. Others wondered why such values need a pledge in the first place while one, initially taking the message as spam until I confirmed its legitimate status,dismissed the whole notion of lazy clicktivism ( a point I have to agree on while still acknowledging the incredible power of networks to propagate ideas both good and bad). One other questioned the validity of the platform and wondered whether it would affect his online reputation but a quick discussion online settled it and he too was on board.
Now the reason I used this long pretext to introduce this blog post was because looking back on the past few years and in the light of the recent Paris incident, it seems that the world is suffering from what I can only describe as a compassion deficit. I’m not just talking about the Daesh wrecking crew in Syria and onwards whose vile inhumanity can only engender further inhumanity (which I can see is their clear aim), Boko Haram in Nigeria who continue to kidnap, rape, murder and enslave their fellow Nigerians and the Taliban whose commitment to keeping their country in the stone age and dragging Pakistan there too, is enforced with great prejudice – particularly against women. Leaders of the ‘free world’ also play starring roles in this continuing cycle of violence aside from the obvious villains – they just have better public representation.
Drop a pin anywhere in the world – even on the borders with Europe and you witness despicable inhumanity and total indifference to the natural world which supports us. And our response to this is? SoMe campaigns, outpourings, shrugs and sighs behind screens, sometimes vicarious gasps of horror when viewer discretion is advised. The recent mass march in Paris undoubtedly included people committed to peace and conciliation but it was also a grandstand for leaders seeking re-election or public favour or indeed a jutting platform for rightwing groups to turn public feeling against Moslems to eleven.
Ordinary people cannot comprehend the brutality they have witnessed on screen short of being on the blunt receiving end of it – surely enough we feel the misery of others but are either disempowered by our closed-in lives or simply experiencing a compassion deficit overload of our own.
Which brings me back to the simple pledge that I signed up to and to which I had already made a commitment earlier in my life – a commitment to compassion, which as the Buddhists themselves describe it is the ‘wish fulfilling jewel’. If you have never heard the description it might sound strange but if you take time to consider it, compassion, which I believe is not exclusive to humans alone, is the building block for humanity, our humanity. Without it, there would be no society, nation states or communities. Great dreams become reality through the agency of compassion – without it, humans behave not like animals but capricious gods filled with righteous indignation armed with guns, bombs or knives or simply words of hate.
So, my pledge today is not something I will forget in the general tide of misinformation today, next month, next year or next life and I celebrate Avaaz’s attempt to connect us all with the values that make us better people. I welcome you all to consider your pledge daily to kindness, wisdom and gratitude, even in the smallest of acts for they are truly the three antidotes to the heady poisons that corrupt this earth: anger, ignorance and greed.