This week’s guest blog comes from Craig Millard, Mediator at Cyrenians.
I am privileged to have a vocation that allows me to work with people and get the chance to reflect on matters of the heart and mind, of social inequality, disputes, competition, hunger and desperation. To an extent, I get to see the increasing difference between those who have and those who have not. I know that these extremes are unsustainable on our planet with its limited resources. I ponder at times about how we can try to make a little difference. However, I also recognise I am still trapped in this mechanism of inequality. In some ways I try to offset this but I am somewhat entrenched in it and still play a role in the frightening machine of divide and rule which encourages us to gather and protect in order to increase financial security.
In our organisation I think we all recognise there is an imbalance of money and power across the planet; that there is a fraction of a percentage of people with most of the money and many millions who cannot eat or drink enough to live healthy lives. How can this happen a so-called civil society?
There are some who say “Well, that’s okay, because if folks have worked hard they deserve it,” and some “Well, there is nothing we can do about it.” Still others “Well, we just have to get on with it.” Some will recognise that it’s just not right. They will acknowledge that greed for control and power has orchestrated wars and created and maintained divisions within our cultures and communities. I concede there is a certain helplessness to tackling this, but we try with our pockets of inspiration to deliver a small plaster over the deep wounds of our planet.
So can we challenge inequality on a grander scale?
I think it’s fair to say that greed is rewarded in this sytem and we are encouraged to consume and be measured on our ability to accumulate. When we really look around, we are reminded of how this world works and it is not gentle and caring but brutal with a splattering of equality and peace. Those in control do not act fairly and with a loving heart but with a view to holding onto what they have. We are kept quiet through a controlled media aimed at keeping us consuming.
I have asked myself how this can change, what I can do. I do this only sometimes because sometimes I’m too busy enjoying myself, and other times I’m caught up in the system trying to get my little piece of security. These reflections and meditations have helped me see that my own needs and greed are part of this issue. I fear I would change if I was to inherit £10,000,000. I know I would become more protective of what I have. Maybe tax would take 3 million. Then I give away 1 million to friends and family. Then before I know it, I’m down to my last few million. Suddenly I become more protective and afraid of losing my position and status.
This fear of losing attaches me to this mechanism which has caused the greed and inequality of our planet. So where is the greed and self-preservation in me? Am I really different to those who hold the planet to ransom? Where does my greed and protectiveness manifest? A bad habit, stashing away cash, a need for control, status and power, a craving for food which is not sustainable? Sex? Or is it the greed for attention? I could go on here in my greed and need to be a clever clogs but hopefully this is enough. Maybe I’m giving too much away when I accept that within me there is a primitive instinct that consumes, distrusts and craves; perhaps the same drive that exists in the elite 0.01% that control this terrible inequality.
Considering this reality can be paralysing; if this drive is inherent in me, and if our society is built on exploitation and greed, how can I make the right choices? Do the ‘right choices’ even exist? I think there could be an alternative way of viewing our day-to-day decisions and how they impact the world around us. But that all said, could it be that the good vibe you create offsets a use of the planet’s resources? I’m thinking of someone who has great awareness and discipline around consumption of resources but is extremely negative in their personal relationships; they ‘take’ in the right way, but what they ‘give’ is harmful to those around them. Is this person better or worse than someone light and loving who consumes more than their fair share? Who makes that decision? These ideas are not intended to be objective truth but rather a jumping-off point for a conversation.
I have chased happiness in the same way that I chased money and power, but I mostly realise now that this creates a mirage I will never grasp. The idea that it is always to be found somewhere else will keep the utopia just out of reach. One day in my old age I may wake up and ask myself “What happened there? What was I looking for? What have I achieved in this pursuit? Was it worth it?”
However recently, my questionings have brought me to realise more that gratitude brings happiness. Being appreciative for things great and small creates a sense of peace and wellbeing. Thankfulness creates joy. Maybe looking directly for happiness is a bit like trying to remember a dream. The harder we try the more it evades us, but when we let go of the search it comes back to us.
The aim is not to bang on (well, mostly) but more about how we can shine hope that’s based on gently challenging ourselves. I know that some are further down the road with this already in the way they give much of themselves with their love for others, but others may be like me and need some more support, guidance, structure, and discipline. I wonder if this approach of gratitude and hope for happiness can reverberate through our organisation? Can we harness it and turn it into momentum for change? Can we encourage this sense of wellbeing to be a worthy goal, as important as the tangible work we do? One that can challenge the need to consume and pursue.
So to continue this journey, I ask myself, and take the liberty of putting it to you. Where does greed manifest? Is it fairly tame? Do I also take more than my fair share and over-indulge? Does it cause me ill effect and impact on what I can offer? I feel that first of all I need to accept who I am and the role I play within this game of advanced capitalism. It’s a big challenge to ask myself and to answer truthfully. What do I protect and defend? Where can I take responsibility for myself, including the part of me that may change if the ‘fruits of the forest’ were laid out before me? How would my values change? Would my good intentions be strong enough to keep me on track? Could I reintegrate this new position of being rich or powerful with my self-image based on intentions, values and hopes? What would you do?
So I’ll continue to do the Lottery to tempt fate. I’m waiting for the challenge. Where will my chips fall?