Common Sense?

As I said on facebook the other day, “common sense truly is the least common of all senses”. I feel honoured to have many friends who do possess it, but I am afraid we may be in a minority. I find it sad to see so many people are drawn to prejudice and discrimination, I think it is because they lack feelings of self confidence and self worth.

At the moment this world is a dreadful mess. There are so many unhappy people. People who should have no cause to be unhappy. I often feel I should be doing more, doing better, or at least doing different.
But I find every day is a struggle, as it is for most people. We all do the best we can, we don’t have the emotional, let alone financial, resources to do better.

When we look hard enough we can see that our governments keep us under pressure and isolate us as much as they can. It means we don’t have the resources to do anything about them or the systems they attempt to impose on us.
Currently our system seems to attempt to destroy self confidence and feelings of self worth, self respect etc. especially in the young. The education system is under constant pressure to under educate and undervalue the very people it should be supporting and building up.
The welfare system is designed in such a way that it is difficult for people to get the benefits they are entitled to. There is no automatic payment of entitlement, but a constant stream of hurdles and disruptions, that make survival all some people can manage (and others can’t even manage that).

This is all backed by a political system which doesn’t penalize those who deliberately misuse their power. They see their system as a fair entitlement, even though they have far greater resources at their disposal than the people they vilify and demonise. The slackers and the shirkers are not in the grass roots, they are at the “top”.

Added to a corrupt and self-serving government we have a media that has bought titillation over information. Over the last nearly one hundred years, since the inception of the BBC in the UK, the televisual media has moved further and further from it’s stated aims of informing and educating. Instead of revelling in the huge variety of audiences that are available to them, they have constantly focused more and more on the lowest common denominator. Instead of inspiring, TV is numbing. And they wonder why their popularity is waning.
We are immensely complex beings when we are allowed to be. For our mental health we need to indulge in a variety of activities and interests. We are multi-dimensional beings, not cogs in a big machine. But there is so little recognition of this that it is not surprising that many people feel they have no interest in the culture that they live in.

What we see from the people who should have our interests at heart is basic divide and rule philosophy. This is typical short term, short sighted thinking. We are all human and we are all in this boat together. Sometimes we need specific space to work through issues, but male, female, young, old, gay, straight, any skin colour, any physical or mental health problems (or lack of them), any religious affiliation (or not) we are on this beautiful planet together. and we need to see where we have shared interests in keeping both ourselves and our planet alive and thriving.

To counter all this negativity, all these attempts to drive us apart, all this pressure to conform to a more and more limited selection of stereotypes, we need to combine and subvert. We can do that. We will all benefit from doing that. And, we can do that with love and forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness for those who did not understand, did not see. They have problems and demons that make their lives too difficult to look up, to see the bigger picture.

Understanding will have to serve for those who did what they have done, who have been short sighted and selfish, with awareness and deliberation. And that understanding will give us a starting place to build our society so that such people can never hold positions of power again.

We can build a better, more loving world, we need to do that firstly by taking responsibility for ourselves. So many people seem not to be aware that only I am responsible for my actions, no one else is; I am not responsible for anyone else’s actions, they are.

In all honesty I can’t make you do anything you really don’t want to, and you can’t make me do anything. We can exert pressure on each other that may make us feel that we have to, but everyone has a sticking point, beyond which they will not be pushed.

If we talk to each other, if we are willing to see each other as valid human beings, we can learn new things, not by force, but by negotiation, mutual understanding, and, compromise (compromise is not a dirty word, unless you are talking about compromising your moral stand point).
Compromise is how humans (and many other animals) get on. It is meeting in the middle and everyone giving a little bit of ground, so that no one is standing on anyone else’s toes. Give and take, balance, mutual respect…

That has to be a good starting point. It seems like common sense.

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Happy And Healthy

So, I’m thinking the question is “what does a human being really need in order to have a happy and healthy life?”.

I’m guessing most people would include different things. But let’s start with the real basics like access to enough food to maintain health, and preferably a shelter that would protect from the worst vagaries of the local weather.

The question is what else do we actually need? I think we need people around us, to love, support and challenge us. I think we also need activities to give us a sense of purpose and usefulness. We need self respect and a small dollop of self reliance. We also need beauty, maybe human made, maybe nature.

For me, that covers pretty much everything. The interesting bit is how we go about meeting those needs. At the moment, in most industrialised societies, not all of those needs are being met. People are increasingly isolated, they interact with others via computers, missing out on the joys and challenges of face to face interaction. And like many skills, the less you do it, the less confidence you have in your ability to do it, so the more you avoid it.

People are a challenge, and a delight. A hug from a good friend is more health giving than a bushel of veggies or fruit (fresh veggies and fruit are very good for you). But, in Britain, my generation are pretty much the first generation that have not grown any fruit or vegetables as a matter of course, to supplement that which we buy. We have already lost many of the skills that previous generations took for granted.

The health giving virtues of growing your own, are not just contained in the goodness of the food, they also stem from the confidence, self respect and self reliance that comes from having done it yourself.

Having the skills and ability to build your own shelter, is another great confidence boost. I’m not suggesting that any one person should have all of every skill, this is why we need communities. We all have strengths in different areas, we need a community of people we can rely on, who can rely on us. So that between us we have most possibilities covered.

No one skill is more important than another, they all have their place… we need thinkers and planners and doers and makers: cooks; washers; diggers; builders; carvers; knitters; needle workers; gardeners; dreamers; story tellers; weavers; negotiators; the list is very long. Some people will have more than one skill, that still doesn’t make them more valuable. Hierarchy is a nasty, divisive way of thinking.

Mutual respect is much healthier. It needs to be part of the new story we are all trying to write for the future. We need a healthier, happier future. One with fewer unnecessary distractions and divisions in it. One where each one of us is valued as a whole human being.

What Could Be

I’m very tired of living in a city where many people are too scared to look you in the eye. They are too scared to engage with you even in the simplest ways. I’m not sure what they are scared of. But my experience has been that when you engage with other people, they turn out to be other human beings. I’ve not met any monsters or aliens by making eye contact with other people as I’ve walked down the street.

This inability to engage comes over to me as rudeness. It costs so little, in the way of effort, to be polite. It makes a huge difference to everyone involved to when that effort has been made. It can change a really difficult experience into a pleasant one. It can change a pleasant experience into a really lovely one. It is almost always worth the effort to be polite.

People will tell you that manners are to do with respecting other people, but this is only part of the story. Manners are also to do with self-respect. Actually, manners are more to do with self-respect than they are to do other people at all.

How you, or I, feel about ourselves impacts on everyone we come into contact with. People who don’t like themselves can be really difficult to be around. But I’m not looking to allocate blame. The blame game is unproductive and self-defeating. It hooks everyone into staying in the same place, calculating and allocating blame.

Negative ways of thinking seem to be being reinforced by the trash in the media. Blame, fear, bad manners, selfishness, are common place in all aspects of the mainstream media. This is because these negative ways of thinking stop us from realising how unhealthy our culture is, how much we have become lost, where the real problems are.

The real problems are not other people, most other people are just like us, struggling to survive and make sense of this mad world we find ourselves in. The real problems are how the wrong things have become important. Do you know someone who has, at some point in time, lost all their worldly goods and status? Have you ever talked to them about it?

If you get the chance, do listen to them.

I had a student many years ago. A nice man, lovely wife, interested and interesting. One day he told me about how he had lost everything, money, status, his family. He didn’t regret any of it. He said it had made him realise what was important. He had rebuilt his connections with his family, and made a new life that he found fulfilling.

He’s not the only one, I have met many people over the years who have rejected what they were told was important, they built their lives around what they knew to be right. Not because they are selfish, quite the reverse, because they are generous and caring people. These people are the true heroes of our time. They are trying to spread love and understanding. They are trying to live by values that make sense of the world as we should all understand it.