Where are we coming from and where are we heading?

–          Part 1 –

2012 was a restless year, loaded with violence and suffering in several places of the world, people mistrusting people and institutions, television — and mainstream media in general — besieging us with alarming news, terrifying people, increasing the sense of helplessness in front of greater, visible or invisible, powers deciding our destiny.

In Europe (as in USA), a systemic crisis reduced to a financial crisis has left millions of jobless and substantially increased the homeless at the same time that the number of empty houses grew, and new luxury residential resorts started to being built. Obscenity as normality.

Commiserate the famine in the Horn of Africa, and getting clean conscious via banking transference reminds somehow of the indults in the Middle Ages, and diverts attention both from misery at home — already existing and emerging (millions and growing), and from own responsibility in generating misery far from home.

Health, Education and Social services were the main sectors undergoing surgery (or better say amputated?), and the former steps in building a welfare state — in Spain for instance — have been not only sacrificed, but even demonized; speculation was not a topic (or very little has been said in this respect) in the talk shows, nor in political discourses or in newspapers; local autonomy and social expenditure being all along associated with prodigality – immigration a major scapegoat once again. To the end, the past year was so depressing that many people were comforting themselves with an end of the world presumably predicted in a distant ancestral culture. But the world did not end. As it appears, the Mayan culture was misinterpreted.

What shall be done now, that we are trapped and condemned to continue in this world? Each one on its own behalf showed no long term benefits so far, and punish the other – of different skin color, origin or belief — did not bring bread on the table, nor a roof, neither is the guarantee of future stability, as the other is not the cause of our suffering and we know it ever more. The cause is transcending people, cultures and borders, and so does the solution. What can we do? We, in west, frequently hear a phrase that is so much untrue as it is used to justify own passivity: “What can I do? I cannot change the world.” Well, we actually can do it and it is exactly what we must do now, that the world did not end and it appears will not anytime soon. But how? Historically, massive misery produced by massive exploitation and oppression (= violence), have led to massive violent uprisings. Historically, this kind of changes have reproduced exploitation and oppression and here we are again. The circle of violence must be broken, yet people disappointed by church and state, have lost faith both in religion and institutions. Most significant ideologies so far failed to provide equity, some even fastly increased inequality. What is left then?

Social equity, human basic needs and rights and Nature’ rights are not ideals, they are imperative realities. And the way to achieve them is not by violence, nor by expectation of a higher hierarchy to solve things for us. We miss a culture of involvement, of seeing ourselves as part of the solution. And we miss a culture of peace, by peace understanding not only the absence of wars, but the presence of harmony and equity; a society where the conflicts are received as opportunities of self improvement, looking for mutually beneficial solutions. A culture where the past traumas are recalled not for revenge, neither to justify violence, not even for forgiveness; but for changing the future through deep understanding of what and why has happened in the past. We need to build such a culture.

And how to do it, it is simpler than it seems, although not easy. Good will and perseverance are a must. First of all look inside oneself, beyond official titles and non-official labels. See what the best that lies in is and cultivate that, let it out to inspire others, to complete others. Look for others’ positive potential to get inspired and get completed. Compete with oneself to improve, and work together with others for the benefit of all. Meditate on the quantum satis of one’s life; attain every necessary ingredient and just how much is needed of each, not more. Share what is left with others. Much of these are already happening, many of them in distant places and cultures, some of them beginning to crop up very close to us. And listen to the elders, the women and the children. The first for their wisdom, the second for their solution oriented mindsets. And, more importantly, listen to the children, for they have pure hearts and they are closer to the mystery of life that we are. They are the future, and the future can be brighter if we shape it carefully, learning from them how to teach them, unlearning what we’ve been taught about the Other; learning from them how to love the Other for a world with no Me and Other, but a world of Us and for us.

For a deeper and more global 2012 and future overview, please see also Johan Galtung: Against World Revolution – Constructively. http://www.transcend.org/tms/2013/01/against-world-revolution-constructively/


–          Part 2 –

2013 begins with chats around the holidays, with too much food (for some), gifts and family gatherings. At school, the collective imaginary is the subject of the first week.

Globalization has created new multicultural places. Andorra is one. However, learning to live in diversity is a slow process that requires little, but deep, changes in the cultural code of a society.

On the occasion of the winter festivities, many adults are experiencing dilemmas facing so many magical characters. The local imaginary is rich with the universal figure of Santa Claus, el tió from the popular culture, and the Reyes Magos at halfway. While being beautiful, we must recognize that it can be problematic to the pocket of many, and in terms of values ​​for some. The situation increases in difficulty when mom and dad are from two other different cultures, so we get more popular figures added for the winter celebrations. Dealing with so many magical Beings (we have at least five), raises several questions: First, how can we prevent the festivities from becoming waste peak season, fueling commercial interests at the expense of nature, of the poor areas of the world — multiply exploited so that we could find an accessible (although not cheap), market offer — and ultimately against our annual budget? Secondly, how can a family incorporate a figure that does not belong to their culture or is even incompatible, without feeling culturally repressed by the host society? And third, how can this be resolved in favor of the child, not to feel odd, excluded for having different habits at home?

All these questions touch a common theme: education. A good solution aims to send positive messages to children and make the holidays an opportunity to learn how to become a conscious and responsible consumer towards nature and a solidary citizen to the world.

The festivities are also a wonderful opportunity to discover the richness of diversity, as it was for children 4-5 years old who go to an Andorran school and that one day had discovered another personage who brings sweets and gifts to children in a different country and that it gets even to some houses in the Principality. The children were delighted to reach the conclusion that “there are many magical Beings working together, helping each other, for children to be pleased and happy”. It was a wonderful discovery and, enthusiastically, they asked the child who had spoken about this new being, to tell them more. There was an interesting exchange of observations. Within the magic of the moment, they also reasoned about more earthly aspects as the physical ability of one or another mysterious character, or on how fortunate they (the children) are to live in a world with so many fantastic creatures who want to see them happy.

The dialogue, masterly stimulated by the educator — herself a magical person for knowing how to listen the little ones and guide them in the world of diversity through magic — has revealed that children of young ages have not only the capacity to welcome different cultures, but they are also highly creative in searching for the positive potential of novelty, recognizing the richness of diversity.

This little episode has many meanings. By giving them the opportunity to talk on a subject that is so close to their hearts, the teacher worked more than a subject of winter traditions. She has been working with children verbal and emotional expression, inclusion and group cohesion, skills for dialogue, and has guided them to a very important learning for self-esteem: different is richness; she also helped them cultivate creativity. All this in less than half an hour.

Certainly there must be many educators as the one in my story. What we need is make them visible, making it possible for others to be inspired by them, believe that one can, although not always easy. Remember that despite the institutional framework, the school – likewise society — is made of people, and in the first place of educators and pupils.

This is a brilliant example of how the school has a major role and opportunity — to share with parents and civil society, indeed, but even more important for children because of the time they spend in school and due to certain authority teachers have (especially if exercised with love) — to act for improvement of a culture, to change a culture of I into a culture of us; go from a culture of responding with violence or run away in front of a conflict, towards a culture of dialogue and joint search for solutions. Parents may one day discover that their sons and daughters are turning into — and helping them become — more conscious consumers. And all together they could find ways to sustainably celebrate so many cultures that are present in the society in which they live. Beginning with school that provides space for incoming cultures to be known, following the example of the teacher in my real story, using dialogue to enrich the host culture and to build a culture of peace.

Aura Trifu, mediator and peace worker

January 10, 2013


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