Live & Let Live
So here we are, about half way through the year, and let’s be honest so far 2020 has been a real doozy. As governments around the world began to lift the coronavirus lockdown, mass protest swept the planet following the egregious murder of George Floyd. At the start of the year in the article Pivot 2020 I wrote about the idea of using 2020 to look back into the past and forward into the future at the same time. So let’s look back and forward, and see what that tells us about what to do now.
History is the story we tell ourselves about how we managed to get to where we are today. It tends to inform us about who we think we are and how we should live now. History is also written by the ‘winners’. And unless you dig a little below the surface the truth about history isn’t always what you initially thought it was. There was more than one version of Christianity, the Gnostic mystics lost and the Catholic literals won. The people who first used the three lions emblem, that is now on the English national team’s football shirts, spoke French and considered Normandy to be home. The New World, wasn’t ever discovered, people already lived there, they didn’t need ‘discovering’. Yes from a Western perspective the New World was discovered, but only from that perspective. As we develop as individuals and as a society we need to appreciate everyone has their own unique perspective, their own model of the world. And we need to understand that the perspective that most people adopt now is very different from the ones adopted by people who lived in the past. Imagine if today’s UK government decided to criminalise heresy, and with it to bring back the punishment of burning people at the stake. Modern people would be horrified and outraged. Just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean we need to do it today, even as a way of ‘honouring’ the people that we are descended from. We must be guided in the now by the people that we want to be in the future as much, and in my opinion more so, than the people we were in the past. We must stop venerating and idolising the past and start being now the people that we want to be in the future. There are very few people in the present who are in any way perfect and worthy of saintly status, let alone in the past. Nevertheless there are still shining examples of great deeds and achievements from the past. By all means study the past, understand the past, learn from the past, but we must stop making icons of it. Take 15th century English King Henry V as an example, he does stand out as a very heroic figure, in the context of his time. I have just read a book about his famous victory at Agincourt in 1415. During his lifetime he demonstrated a mastery of leadership, personal courage, and military expertise, all of which people today can learn from. But put some of his other behaviours in to the context of today, and we would regard him as an unhinged, violent psychopath. He had prisoners at Agincourt executed in cold blood, as were women and children of French towns that refused to surrender to him. People of the past lived in the context of the past, we live now.
If it isn’t already blindingly obvious, the biggest problem that humanity has had in the past and still hasn’t fully overcome today is our lack of unity. We like to subdivide ourselves by race, religion, sex, sexuality, money, geographical location, education, in fact you name it we like to subdivide and separate ourselves by it. As individuals we must be able to be who we are, and be able to fully express that. We must feel connected to our own sense of personal power, without either feeling fearful of, or seeking to dominate others. We need to have unity in our ability to express our diversity. A common retort to the Black Lives Matter slogan is that all lives matter. And yes all lives do matter, this is where we need to get to, but right now we aren’t there. Simply repeating that all lives matter totally misses the point that, right now, to put it mildly, our society favours white lives. Today we favour a white-male-euro-centric world perspective, which is actually something that needs to be relegated to the past. Of course you may not believe that our society favours a white-male-euro-centric perspective, but that is what the Black Lives Matter campaign is saying. That is how it looks from the demonstrator’s perspective. We need to change our society so that the white-male-euro-centric world perspective resides in the only place where it has currency, which is firmly in the past.
I want to live in a world where all humanity feels able to express who they are, where we are re-connected to nature, and where our focus is expansive, maybe on things like space exploration. Or you could say, where the prevailing perspective is a human-galactic one. Make today a monument to that future.
“The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Mark Twain