Here in Cape Town, South Africa, where I live, as we are approach the solstice, the days are shortening and winter is asserting itself. Stormy periods of gusty winds and driving rain are thankfully punctuated by pristine spells of warm sun and clear blue sky. I have grown to enjoy the contrast that enhances the experience of both the mild and the extreme.
There are extremes in human behaviour that are showing up in the world in these days, more evident than ever before because of our modern technology and also sheer weight of population. All too often the negative extremes create inequality, suffering and conflict—extremes of violence, poverty and environmental degradation to name a few.
An ethical concept called Ubuntu, that is part of the traditional Southern African indigenous culture, refers to ‘human kindness’ but more than that, refers to a way of life that accepts that, in the words of African historian M. O. Eze, ‘A person is a person through other people…. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am.’
As I witness the various political activities that are being reported in the media; the flurries around the US presidential election process, the divisive debating about the UK’s membership of the European Union, the political machinations in my own country as we move closer to local government elections in August this year, and many more, I’m struck by the glaring absence of something that was referred to in the previous extract—that of fundamental respect, one person for another, a political party for another, an ethnic group for another, a religion for another and, indeed, a nation for another.
A conscious, deliberate lack of respect—disrespect—can be used as a powerful tool for emotional manipulation, as demonstrated in politics and religion. Influential leaders declaring someone else to be bad or wrong can whip up followers and result in otherwise sensible, peace-loving people becoming prejudiced and confrontational.
Recorded history is full of examples of religious differences leading to division and conflict, both within and between countries. Terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of a god. Only the dehumanising and objectifying of people who are seen to be different, can make this behaviour possible.
In a recent Facebook post entitled American Bishop Explains how Religion is ‘Made Up’ and Used to Control People, (https://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/05/31/), Jon Shelby Sponge, a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church said the following:
“I personally believe in the soul and other non-material phenomena, as well the idea that life does not end here on Earth, and I believe there is enough evidence in various forms, aside from my own intuition and gut feeling, to support this stance.
What about you? What do you believe? What it all boils down to, for me, is respect. We must learn to respect each other’s viewpoints about ‘what is.’ We need to work with each other and accept our differences so we can focus on helping the planet, our shared home.”
The absence of respect at any level inevitably leads to separation, disagreement and, ultimately, conflict and destruction. The many ways that separation has been deliberately created—as in establishing arbitrary boundaries to delineate different countries—have seemed to be logical at the time but have almost always, because they were often rooted in a self-serving, fear-based paradigm, led to loss of respect between those countries that have been divided in that way.
In 1961, the philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote the following:
“We have broken up the earth as yours and mine—your nation, my nation, your flag and his flag, this particular religion and the religion of the distant man. The world, the earth, is divided, broken up. And for it we fight and wrangle, and the politicians exult in their power to maintain this division, never looking at the world as a whole. They haven’t got the global mind. They never feel nor ever perceive the immense possibility of having no nationality, no division, they can never perceive the ugliness of their power, their position and their sense of importance. They are like you or another, only they occupy the seat of power with their petty little desires and ambitions, and so maintain apparently, as long as man has been on this earth, the tribal attitude towards life. They don’t have a mind that is not committed to any issue, to any ideals, ideologies—a mind that steps beyond the division of race, culture and the religions man has invented.”
He infers that it takes a higher perspective, a holistic view of the world, a way of living that transcends the baser inclinations of a human being, to see and treat the world, and the people in it, in a way that brings it all together as one harmonious system.
He continues his note
“Sitting there, high above all the trees, on a rock that has its own sound like every living thing on this earth, and watching the blue sky, clear, spotless, one wonders how long it will take for man to learn to live on this earth without wrangles, rows, wars and conflict. Man has created the conflict by his division of the earth, linguistically, culturally, superficially. One wonders how long man, who has evolved through so many centuries of pain and grief, anxiety and pleasure, fear and conflict, will take to live a different way of life.”
Man, you and me and the rest of the human race will live a different way of life, one that is compassionate and kind, one that brings healing and blessing and selfless creativity, when we finally accept our common source. When we wake up to the fact that a future devoid of those elements is a painful one of short duration.
We must regain the ability for fundamental respect—respect of self, of other and of place. The differences and disparities in the human psyche are just overlays on the natural state of Oneness, of universal brotherhood and sisterhood.
The key is the realisation that the Divine is to be found in everyone and everything, in ourselves and each other. When that is fully accepted, fundamental respect is a natural consequence—one aspect of God acknowledging another.
We can, if we are willing to embody and express that true identity, live into a new paradigm of collaboration and shared purpose. A new era of universal mutual respect is what’s possible when those who know it for themselves and express it in their lives, extend the powerful invitation to the rest of their worlds to do likewise. Let’s be about that!