Dona Nobis Pacem
Peace is coming...I hope.
Most folk who blog for peace today already have the right idea. Most know they want a better world with less hurt and pain and hunger, with more love and friendship and laughter...it is the natural condition humans aspire to.
We all hope for peace. Not only for war to stop, but for the poor of the world not to suffer; for those who disagree with each other to accept that we can't all agree; for those who agree with each other, and those that don't, to join together to make a better world...and for prejudices to be re-evaluated and demolished....
If you look at a poor household, a poor family, one might think everyone within it might fight for the last scrap of food, but one sees over and over how in the poorest homes of the world, the last scrap is divided and shared, and occassionally given to another more needy to help them survive.
Laughter can be seen the world over, even in some of the poorest and/or war torn areas...except where hope has gone.
Friendship is not exclusive to the 'First World', the 'well-off' or 'the lucky'. Friendships permeate some of the worst conditions. We can all probably think of a story of friendship that might have surprised us. Sometimes a friendship crosses social boundaries, or between folk that 'shouldn't be friends' (perhaps because they are the 'wrong' culture, religion, sex or 'social class'). I like these stories. They hold up hope that, even if we can't all be friends, we might all get along...
You see a TV program about a reporter visiting a remote Amazonian/African/Indian/Chinese/[any poor area you can think of] village, and being welcomed with smiles and open hearts, shared meals and shared homes. Some of these folk can barely keep themselves alive, yet they share everything they have with a person who has had three full meals most every day of his life, who has never truly suffered the knowledge he could die of starvation, as some folks he stayed with might.
The idea we have is that the poor are to be pitied, to feel sorry for. They are charity cases, who need clean water, mosquito nets and basic food. We feel bad for them, because they haven't got what we've got. They haven't the security of a permenent income, three good meals a day plus snacks when we want, a warm, comfortable home, an education, free cash for such things as mobile phones, the internet, social activities. We have these things, even some of the poorest people in our own cultures have these things, and so we feel raised above those who might never have them in other countries.
They are poor, and we are sorry enough, guilty enough, we give to charities to make their lives better and to make ourselves feel better.
Now, let's turn the whole picture round. Let's imagine ourselves as a poor person in a poor family, barely scraping enough to keep alive.
We know there are people richer than ourselves, who wear clothes without holes and loose threads, who have an education, jobs, decent food every meal, windows without drafts... Sometimes one of these comes round to our home with medicine or food, sometimes someone comes to the area and takes pictures, or puts in a tap with clean water, or preaches religion to us.
These people come for a while, and then they go again. We see them eat good food, and occassionally give some to us. They have magic pockets with a never ending supply of money in. They can buy whatever they want to. In the market, they barter a price down, then pull out a wad of money that could have paid the full price of the item they wanted several times over. They sometimes give us gifts too, like tools for the land or blankets. We like these things. They make life a little easier, sometimes a lot easier. Then the rich folk go again, and we are left wondering why they have all these things, and we don't. Sometimes that makes me angry, sometimes it makes me sad, but most of the time I think, 'that's the way it is'.
When we go back to our homes, sometimes we have so little food on the table. We make sure the men of the house and the little ones have most of it, and sometimes I've seen mum pretend she doesn't want any when there isn't enough. The men and older ones need the strength to work in the fields or work for the rich people, and the little ones need to stay alive so they can grow up and bring home some food. If we are lucky enough to reach old age, we'll need our children to look after us.
But where we can, we help each other. We look after each other. When it comes to the end of the day, we are all we have. We sit at the table together and talk about what happened that day. Sometimes something funny happens, and we laugh about it. Some days aren't so good and we share that too. And then, after the meal, the adults might talk a bit longer, and the children go and play for a while. Later, we all sleep in the same room, the children cuddled into each other for warmth and comfort. The adults too.
There are three generations in the house. The old people, the grandparents, often look after the little ones during the day. They have much to teach them, a whole lifetime of experiences, and they are gentle and kind. They are the centre of the household, and everybody listens to them, because they know so much. They provide wisdom and guidance and are an invaluable part of the family.
Then there are the parents, and sometimes uncles and aunts, who have so much work to do all the time. They do what they can to help each other, and often talk together about how to make things better. They hear stories from their work places or the market and share these with the rest of us. They tell us what's going on in nearby villages too. We often hear them laughing about a silly thing that's happened to someone. Sometimes they cry too, and one of the others puts their arms around the sad one and comforts them. We are all there and share this too. There are few secrets between us. We are close, because we live as we do.
Sometimes one of the ones who work for the rich people tell how they all live in seperate rooms in a big house, and they don't do anything together. They sometimes don't see each other all day, and when they do they don't talk together. Sometimes they don't even eat together. The children play in their own room on computers and the parents don't see them hardly at all. It is very sad for them they don't even have the grandparents living with them. Where are the old people? Have they died? They must feel so lonely, all of them.
Then there are the children. Often the parents and grandparents talk about how good it would be to have a proper education and get better jobs, but we all know there's no point really. What good is learning to read and write if you have to work in the field anyway? or if you have to work for the rich people. They don't care if you can read or write. They only want you to do menial things anyway. Maybe they don't think we can do anything else. It would be nice if having an education meant having good jobs and more money, but not many are able to do that anyway, because as soon as a child is old enough to work they have to go to work and bring some money home. For many, there isn't time to go to school.
In the next village, there's a school, but it's too far away for our little children, and nobody has time to take them anyway. One of the grown-ups went to see it once, and said it looked good. The children there seemed to be happy. The teacher said, if the children have an education, then they can get better jobs when they grow up. But we know they won't. They will have to take whatever jobs they can get close to home. Maybe if there were more work places close by they could, but not as it is. Still, we seem to get by. At least we are together.
This might be a bit of one person's view of the world.
Yes, this could also be a stereotype. We live with images of the world, and people of the world that we have put into mental 'boxes'. This is actually a natural way of processing the world. As we might lump all fruit together, or trees, or colours, so we do with people. We can't deal well with too many different images/ideas of people (or anything, for that matter) so we create generalised images and ideas. We put whole races, religions, sexes and people with similar sexual preferences, politicians and their beliefs into neat little mental boxes, but then forget the differences within those boxes are as big as the ones between them.
In order to attempt to stop war, poverty, prejudices, we have to look at the generalisations we make of people and races, and break down the stereotypes, to see each and every individual as their own person; to recognise within cultures, races and religions the differences and similarities are as broad as in any other culture, race and religion. There are good and bad people, happy and sad, rich and poor, educated and uneducated in every place in the world. We should not assume anything. And by realising every place in the world has it's heroes and heroines, as well as bad characters who benefit from others' fighting and death or poverty, we realise we aren't so very different.
Closer to home, when we look at our neighbours, so often we see them just as they are, as people they seem to have become. And very often we put them into a mental box: the mum struggling with young children, the old guy sitting alone in the pub, the smart-suited man on his way to work, the shopkeeper or school teacher...each one has a place in our head, and we generalise about them, if we think of them at all (As you read that last sentence, a generalised image probably popped into your head.) But each of these people was once a child. Each has grown up, gone to school, taken a job or several jobs. Each has had happiness and sadness and personal disasters, and each has had to deal with these in their own way. This makes each person very different.
So, that mother with her bundle of children? She might've once been a top class executive, until she changed course in life, or she might still be. The old guy in the pub might have travelled the world, or might have helped dozens of people make their way in life, or might have always been on his own wishing not to be. The smart-suited man might dress up every day in a suit, and go to a job he hates, and home to an empty house at night. We just don't know. But we think we know.
My point is, we so cleverly put everyone we know and don't know into these mental boxes, and forget that it is only our own perception of them that puts them there. They have no such box round themselves. They have memories and a lifetime of experiences.
How war happens is when we think of a whole race, or religion, as in the same box. Each race has broader thinking people as well as zealots. Every religion or political party has the same. What I think many forget is that there are good and bad everywhere (yes, in those poor communities mentioned above, too, I'm sure there will be those who would quite happily take the last scrap of food and make someone else do without). But, if we can imagine a whole race of zealots with different beliefs from ourselves, it is easier to fight them, to not care about them as people.
Somebody I used to know used to say he thought everyone was bad unless they proved themselves good. Perhaps that was more a reflection of himself than of people generally. I prefer to think most people are good, unless they show themselves otherwise. Everybody was born an innocent child. If they have grown up unacceptable to society, it is probably because society hasn't been good to them. So, I like to give people a chance; I like to not look at what a person appears, but get to know them and find out for myself. It would be lovely if everybody could do this. I think, perhaps, there would be more understanding, and less seperation of people into apparent groups. And perhaps people would give someone they don't know a chance, when they wouldn't otherwise.
My hope is that, one day, we might all see each other simply as another human being. Today, on this Blogblast4Peace, I would ask each and everyone to think of a neighbour, and look at them in a new light, as a person who has lived a life we don't know about, and maybe consider getting to know that neighbour, finding out who they are, what makes them happy or sad or angry, what their dreams are...who knows, that person might one day be your friend.
Find other folk who believe in peace, who have ideas they want to share at:
BlogBlast for Peace ("Mimi Writes", blog of Mimi Lenox, founder)
Write a peace post, or put up a peaceglobe to unite with others today, then go sign the "Mr Linky" at the bottom of Mimi's peace post, so others can find you.
What BlogBlast4Peace is all about (the history and philosophy)
How to Get your Peace Globe
BlogBlast4Peace facebook page
BlogBlast4Peace facebook event
|A picture I came across that is so apt! :-)|