I’ve been hearing a lot about being stronger for this, tougher for that, harder on miscreants of all sorts and kinds.
Little, however, on being kinder to anyone.
Imagine, if you will, that our pre-school environments taught our toddlers to be unforgiving, aggressive, eavesdropping human beings. If it ever happened, we would surely rue the day it did. We’d be creating from hugely formative years various unspoken and traumatising resentments it’d take thousands of highly trained psychologists – even, perhaps, and infirmly enough, psychiatrists of sad intervention – years to unpick in later, adult, life.
Thank goodness this doesn’t happen.
I despair, sometimes, at the short-sightedness of those who plan these things. They rightly care about our security, of course. But very rarely about our humanity.
Why, then, is it seen as being stronger to be tougher and not stronger to be kinder? Our Judeo-Christian heritage has always attempted to teach the latter – and at least on the Sabbath it would appear still to be the case. But during the working-week, a week which now encompasses at least six days of the seven for many workers, this all gets forgotten. In a society where kindness used to be both an example for those who committed bad deeds and a reward for those who committed good, it’s now more a case of being a sign of significant weakness for anyone who cares to base their life on its manifesting.
It’s not strong to be kind but weak.
It’s not hard to be tough but strong.
It’s not a world where fear must be overcome as a sign and marker of a wider wisdom but, rather, a community where fear has forced its being into our ways of thinking – twisting slyly until it seems natural to discard our humanity; right and correct to ignore our societal responsibilities to each other.
So it is we now identify three-year-old humans as little more than creatures to be tracked and predictively controlled.
They always said we lived in a liberalism of free will.
Meanwhile, this rank giving in to fear has, miserably, succeeded where centuries of superstition failed. As a species, we accepted for so long the caste-controlling concept of destiny: the believing that none of us was a sovereign entity; that we were all ruled by the gods and a natural order.
And so what the past forty years or so have achieved all on their lonesome, in the otherwise admirable pursuit of society’s wider safety, is to replace freedom of thought, action and belief – the greatest gifts liberalism has managed to bestow on our civilisation – with the paganism of a played-out paucity of thought: a dreadful poverty of imagination and creativity.
We have, effectively, gone full circle – replacing a hard-won free will with the tyranny of once-vanquished fate.
Why I’m beginning to feel more and more strongly that if we want to create better societies, we cannot depend on those who would watchlist three-year-old children. In a hyperlocal context, surely it will be up to us to redefine how we wish our immediate environments to function, and how we wish such environments’ inhabitants to behave.
The challenge will be to avoid a casual replication of the stronger-as-tougher mindsets, currently serving up their sorry conflicting of minds. The challenge will be to avoid the restrictions of the small-minded.
They do it out of the best of intentions – but we all know where that road generally leads …
To all of us living and working in Chester, then, I set the following challenge:
- let us work out how to better understand the implications and history behind the question I pose in today’s title;
- and then let us strive to work together to create an oasis of free citizens, able to show other communities that it’s possible to create societies of efficiently transparent functioning which also demonstrate – and act out of – multiple kindnesses.