In the wake of Australia’s recent election results, many of us are reacting - the winners with the shock of elation, the losers with the shock of disappointment.
It’s natural to react: if nothing else, it proves we are still alive!
But reaction is just a first step. We are all familiar with the reactions of toddlers learning to assert themselves and establish an initial sense of self-identity by saying, No. A toddler’s first reaction to not getting his or her own way is often just to scream; or to reassert their desire for whatever it was had grabbed their attention.
As the toddler matures into an adolescent and then into adulthood, different abilities come into play: responses become more complex and nuanced.
In a recent edition of The Guardian, I read the story of a village in Wales, beautifully situated between the sea and the hills and now threatened with inundation as the sea levels rise; to the extent that the local authorities have decided that the village will eventually have to be ‘decommissioned’, returning the land to being a salty wetlands buffer between the sea and the land.
Naturally the inhabitants are shocked, some into denial, others into indignation, bitterness, and despair, others into confusion as they face the prospect of being the UK’s first climate refugees.
As we are all faced with shocking events, one way or another, it can be useful to reflect on how best to respond and to recognise that, whether we are dealing with personal misfortune or national loss, there is a process that happens. We can choose to engage with that process or not.
There are no easy answers to this dilemma. Do we act to preserve what seem to be our own immediate interests or do we look more widely to work out how to take into account a wider range of concerns and interests including the interests of those who will come after us? And if we choose to 'neglect' our own interests, then who will look after us?
I am heartened after reading Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness: 10 Reasons We’re Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, described by Bill Gates as ‘One of the most important books I’ve ever read - an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.’
Factfulness is a story of human progress and how our distorted perceptions so often misrepresent the facts.
I believe that we are moving - albeit far too slowly - to a more respectful, inclusive, supportive world. How we will get there is in play.
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