There are many people who cannot give praise, encouragement or a kind word. It’s almost as if they are regarded as sparse commodities that might run out.
The point is that they are a give, a gift, from one person to another (or many others), they are the expression of an innate regard for the well being of another, but not in a way that’s self denial because giving the gifts of kindness, care and consideration to another puts us firmly in the frame. We have to be there to give the gift. We are the well spring from which it is drawn up and given, we are only selfless in that moment in that our ego is necessarily muted. If it isn’t the whole thing reeks of self interest and is received as fake.
Do goodery is not the same thing as kindness and it is well said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions because good intentions are essentially egotistic. They are the imposition (usually without seeking permission) of an intervention defined by ourselves regardless of whether it is merited or even welcome.
Kindness, care and consideration are essentially other regarding and they send a powerful message that we’re paying attention.
As a community and youth worker the question came up from time to time, what is the best thing I can give my children? My response was always, your time and attention. These days, with family life under direct attack as wages plummet and work is ever more insecure, it is expected that parents work (singles or couples), and children are expected to spend a significant part of the day in child care.
At its most toxic, the pressures of life and struggling to make ends meet can lead to children growing up starved of attention (which high quality child care can pick up on and address). However, growing up with an attention deficit, can lead to a narcissistic need for attention and an inability to give it, which very much includes praise and encouragement.
However, the story is bigger than that. Capitalism is a champion of personal insecurity, it powerfully encourages narcissistic self regard and, at the same time, insecurity. Advertising, capitalism’s mouthpiece, is an industrial purveyor of insecurity.
On a side note, I use an ad-blocker in my browser and increasingly websites are blocking access if you use an ad-blocker and ask you to whitelist their site. Advertising has inveigled its way into becoming a source of income for sites and users who block adverts are rogue users who have chosen not to be the target of marketing. Not wanting to be targeted by adverts is regarded as selfish. It’s positively Orwellian and part of our modern dystopia. It’s not ok to not be a consumer beyond what we actually need and to be self determining about what those needs are. In that sense, advertising is infantilising, it’s the promotion of need above our individual self defined needs.
Needless to say, I really, really, don’t like adverts, they are the antithesis of kindness, care and consideration and self affirmation and giving affirmation to others and, indeed, self determination. I don’t like nagging and adverts are nothing if not that, especially on television, where they are subject to endless repeats at short intervals and the primary reason why I do not own a television. If companies want to pump adverts at me then they should ask me and be prepared to pay me for my participation. Currently, and absurdly, we pay for them to do it in every form of commercial media.
People have become just another product or resource. We are reduced to our usefulness in servicing the free markets through our profitability, a profitability which is a one way street. Tens if not hundreds of millions of workers across the world are profit makers but denied a share of the profits they create. Asian factories producing iPhones fitted suicide nets to prevent workers from taking their own lives in despair.
A sign of our times is the growing dysfunction of our humanity, especially online. Trolling and abuse is rampant, but that requires a suspension of humanity to treat others with contempt with complete disregard for their well being as real people. Death threats being the ultimate expression of the degradation of life, value and meaning.
C S Lewis wrote: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
The world is crying out for want of kindness, care and consideration. We live in times where the affirmation of others and helping others are revolutionary and yet dismissed as coming from bleeding heart liberals or lefties.
On Wednesday this week (30th November 2016) a homeless man was found frozen to death. Far from finding this horrific, there are plenty of people who will be gratified that another useless eater and waste of space is dead and no longer a burden on their, self focused, narcissistic, humanity.
Against such degradation, which is promoted from the very top by government, holding on to our humanity has become something that requires our best attention. (Lord) David Freud, who is thankfully leaving the Department for Woe and Persecution, said in 2014 that disabled people are not worth a full wage. In fact, not being worth a full wage is the norm for millions of people. It is government which sets the minimum wage (or the so called new living wage which isn’t) (introduced by Labour as a protection from the worst iniquities of the market, which quickly became the industry standard), and is set as less than that what we need to live on. Money has become the measure of our worth and lack of money the measure of our unworth, disregarding entirely that the measure of our unworth is systemic, imposed by government and yet it is government that leads the way in blaming poverty on individual failing.
Resisting the tide of the degradation and erosion of our humanity has become a vital necessity for mental wellness. Today, Gandhi’s saying, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’, is in affirmation and in giving kindness, care and consideration and it is demanding of our best attention to survive the onslaught of right wing marketeers who are destroying our way of life, depriving us of security, homes, food, warmth and health care for profit. The most basic of human rights.
From personal experience it is like living with a gun at your head, never knowing when they are coming for you through the next iniquitous policy to deprive us of the means of survival and of life.
David Cameron said, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” Resisting such government extremism is the battle of our times, whether the attack comes through sanctions, depriving disabled people of vital support, being denied a pension, being priced out of housing through unrestrained housing prices and rents, denied health care and the loss of vital front line services, yet the biggest battle ground is for our own minds and our essential humanity.
We must not forsake our selves, every suicide is a cry for our humanity to fight back for everything we hold dear. And to fight together, and acknowledge that we exist through co-operation, as social creatures who rely on each other for everything, including our well being. As John Donne rightly said, “No man is an island, entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” The alarm bells are ringing and it is our humanity which must and does respond. It is innate, but we must protect it from being drowned out by those who mean us harm. Revolt is expressed through attention, through kindness, care and consideration, by being the opposite of their intent; holding on to our humanity with every fibre of our being and being bold in giving the best that we are, both to ourselves and to others.
When I stopped writing the letters, I’d come to the end of my resources and am still recovering. It was hard to see and hard to acknowledge that I am broken hearted and I have wept bucket loads of tears as I work to recover. It has made me realise as never before, how precious life is and yet how fragile and precarious it can be against unscrupulous forces and this government in particular. I’ve said it before and will doubtless say it again, as now… We are better than this!
KOG 02 December 2016