Throughout this trip and through my reading of history, it is a recurring theme that people, many people, died in service of the causes they believed in. Whether this be colonial independence, or simply to get back the land that was rightfully yours, so many good people, friendly people, intelligent people with families who love them have died.
I am most familiar with this in my life through my grandfather’s stories of the deaths of his colleagues during the way, and from my visit to Gallipolli. But, (shallow) understading of the stuggles of the Sikhs, Pakistan, Balochs, the Bahai in Iran, and the Chipko movement in India. These experiences once again, exposed to cultures or situations in history where the relative disposability of human life that contrasts with my selfish ego’s consideration of this body and mind as the centre of the universe.
And, the level of conviction and sacrifice of these people stands in stark contrast to the sacrifices many of us (me) are willing to make for global justice, the right to a decent life, or even the sustaianbility of our immediate community. The more I learn about history, the more I cringe at how little I am often willing to give up to
a) support what I believe in
b) take the next leaps to develop spiritually, so better serve what I believe in
In the first instance for example, businesses financial profit-driven, deliberately unethical behaviour really, really affects the lives of future generations and current generations in developing countries. Really, profoundly, completely it affects them. Yet, businesses can often produce a nice report and most people are satisfied that they are trying their hardest. This represents such a shallow and cursory treatment of what really matters by whole sections of our society that it will be (I am sure) be seen as criminal in the very near future.
And, at the same time at the individual level we have people who are still resolutely unwilling to separate their garbage, or take the bus instead of the car, because they don’t think what they do matters. If they are consciously aware of their real contribution to the challenges facing us are of a greater threat and greater magnitude than has probably faced any other society in the past. In fact, so many people are not even prepared to pay a little bit more and take a little bit more time to switch to green energy, catch a train, or buy local, organic food. Or people who want to ‘change the world’ but only if they ‘get paid a good wage’. I, and most of us have probably still not internalised how serious this is, having been fortunate enough to be sheltered from real hardship, real challenges, what it means to really be part of a community that is working to improve the lives of its members.
I am not saying that sustainability practitioners should engage in ‘to-the-death’, war-like tactics to achieve their aims (that would be a step backwards), but that the depth of conviction and clarity of intention must be of a similar magnitude. This intention and conviction can be realised in non-violent ways, to ensure that the process matches the outcome.
And, if you are not interested or passionate about climate change, loss of topsoil, or the impact of globalised supply chains and ‘free” trade agreements on ‘developing nations’…well, first, you should probably educate yourself. Or, perhaps you are passionate about something else? Well, how passionate? How much does it matter, to you, to your children, to your brothers and sisters in nations far away, or to people seven generations down the line?
The depth of commitment I am advocating for, is something I am only just starting to (re-)engage with. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I feel I have finally ‘grown-up’. And, I realise it has its unhealthy expression in terms of those with fundamentalist religious/economic/cultural/political beliefs who are willing to die, wage war, or sacrifice lives to convince others that they should convert. And, I absolutely appreciate being able to live in society’s where it is not necessary that blood be shed over conflicts (even though the reality is that blood is being and will be shed in my name, for my consumptive habits).
I guess all I am saying is that I have suddenly become infinitely more aware of how hard-won so many of the advances in cultures, nations and globally have been. I am also more and more aware of the contrast between doing things for yourself, ,of for your family, community, the earth or the whole. And, ultimately, I am more prepared to die (physically and metaphorically) and let go of the obsession with my own individual ego and ‘unique and special’ life for the progressions I believe need to occur.
I wonder if this, however inarticulately and simplistically expressed, makes sense to others?