Love is a Better Master than Duty*

Indian rape demonstrationsThe recent vicious rape and assault of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in New Delhi has caused rioting and outrage in India. A policeman injured in the rioting has died and most Indian politicians seem to be distancing themselves from having any responsibility for a justice system that allows so many similar crimes to escape unpunished.

This outrage against rape is an important change in a country where most women are stigmatised if they are victims of rape and are, therefore, afraid to ever report the crime in the first place. In order to have any safety or justice it is essential that rape is seen as a crime that is perpetrated by the rapist rather than caused by the victim.  It is an important societal change in India to have the voice of the public blaming the rapists rather than the victim. This public outrage may well help to create at least some will to act amongst the forces of law and order and thereby protect Indian women in the future.

But it’ll take more than just a change in law enforcement to make women in India – and elsewhere – safe.  It’ll take a radical change in attitude amongst both men and women.

Indian schoolchildren

Not just a rise in respect for women and girls and a real appreciation of how a society cannot function properly with one dominant gender any more than a bird can fly properly if it has one wing tied down.

Not just an understanding that rape is not an action of sexual appreciation but rather one of violence and agression.

Not just a fear of being punished by the law and ostracised by society for committing this heinous crime.

All of these things are vital to creating change but they aren’t enough.

As well as these – and other  – changes, there also needs to be a change at the level of the individual human being. A change that makes each one of us see every other person on the planet as something so precious, so special and so vital to even our own welfare that we wouldn’t dream of hurting their feelings let alone violating them in any serious or painful way.

I know we have a bit of a journey before we reach such a place of tender care for our fellow human beings but I believe it’s the place we need to name as our destination.  I don’t imagine that many people would object to a world in which they were held in such esteem and treated with such care and reverence.  I even think most might be willing to try extending this attitude to others.  However, I imagine that a huge number of people might think it impossible to achieve.

And maybe it is impossible.

How do I know.

But what if it is possible?

Isn’t it worth a shot?

If we fail we can just go back to being the way we are now.

But just imagine what might happen if we succeed…


*attributed to Albert Einstein

Maybe It’s True That All We Really Do Need is Love?

What is love?

Is it just the sentimental confection peddled to us in popular culture?  Could it be more than the powerful, visceral emotion we feel for our children?  We live for it and die for it and long for it and hope for it, but even so perhaps we are too sparing with it?

Maybe love is all we imagine and more.  Could it be that love has powers far exceeding the ordinary scope we allow for something as commonplace? Perhaps love is more than a nice optional extra and is, instead, a fundamental reality that drives our existence at a social as well as personal level?

Down through the centuries people like St. Augustine have spoken about love as an energy for social change.  They have played with the idea of love as the connection between everybody and everything rather than simply something driven simply by desire.

Could they have been correct when they suggested that all we need is love?

All Together Now…

Everybody knows the stories about WWII – we’ve all seen the movies – and we generally think that what happened was ‘of a time’.  A black and white era of seamed stockings and chain-smoking totally unlike today.  We believe it is in the past and that we’ll never end up in that awful mess again.  But is that the case?  Here are a few things to think about –

  • Germany was a democracy in 1933 when Hitler came to power.  There was a great deal of civil unrest but it was still a democracy and Hitler and his party were elected in a democratic process.
  • Everybody ignored the Civil War in Spain in 1936 and let Franco take over in 1939.  This didn’t seem like an important conflict that had the capacity to impact on the lives of people outside of Spain.  It was the generally accepted view that it was safe to ignore it and let the Spaniards fight it out between themselves.  The Spanish Civil War was where Hitler and Mussolini tried out lots of the weapons, planes and tactics they later used all over the place during WWII – so, it would appear that the generally accepted view was flat out wrong.
  • None of these things would have happened if the ordinary people thought for themselves and acted on what they knew to be right.

Dolores Ibárruri, a Republican leader in the Spanish Civil War, is reputed to have said, ‘It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.’  While I imagine Dolores and I might have a different opinion of war, I still think she was right. We don’t have to be in a physical battle to need to find the courage to stand up for what is right.  And if we want to ‘defend’ ourselves and keep ourselves safe we need to understand that if we don’t defend people who appear to be far away and therefore not connected to us, we are increasing, not diminishing the risk to ourselves.

We are like climbers tied together scaling a tall mountain. Even enlightened self interest suggests we should look out for each other.

And seriously – after you watch this video do you think you’d mind being connected to any of these kids? (I know it’s unbearably cute but I just love it!)


I’ve Been Thinking…

I’ve been thinking.  Often when ordinary people are inspired to champion the rights of others they are warned off doing anything.  Afraid that they might become so-called ‘armchair activists’, they back away, discouraged.

But perhaps there is work to be done, even from an armchair?

In an article in yesterday’s Huffington Post, Ida Lichter makes a case for ‘adopting’ Iranian women prisoners of conscience.  She encourages ordinary people to work with NGOs to help get these women out of prison.

Women like Nasrin Sotoudeh.  Nasrin is a human rights lawyer who is currently on hunger strike in Evin Prison in Tehran,  Her ‘crime’ is defending the rights of women and children.  The fact that she has been wrongly imprisoned is widely recognised by everyone except the Iranian government it seems.  Nasrin was one of this year’s recipients of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.  A prestigious prize previously awarded to Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, amongst others.

Nasrin has two children – 5 year old son, Nima and 12 year old daughter, Mehraveh.  In one of the many letters she writes to them this is what she said –

I know you require water, food, housing, a family, parents, love, and visits with your mother. However, just as much, you need freedom, social security, the rule of law, and justice. Please be aware that these concepts have not been easily achieved anywhere in the world. Nowhere in the world was the law upheld when written on torn sheets of paper. Our insistence on the rule of law is what brings a law into existence.  Thus, you should know that you and I are forming and building the law together. Sending you a thousand kisses. I suffer from not having held you in months. I hope that the suffering is not in vain.

I love you both,


Do you think Nasrin might like some help?

Even help from armchair activists?

I do.

Girl Power – International Day of the Girl Child

Last Thursday, October 11th, 2012, was the first UN International Day of the Girl Child.  Nowadays most people agree that one of the keys to the well-being and prosperity of the planet lies in the education, protection and enfranchisement of girls and women.  Unfortunately, most people doesn’t include the parents of millions of girls who are forcibly married off every day.  Or the government of Iran who have recently banned women from 77 university courses.  Or the Taliban in Pakistan who shot 14 year old Malala Yousufzai in the head last Tuesday, October 9th, because she had spoken out in favour of the education of girls and said –

“I have rights.  I have the right of education.  I have the right to play.  I have the right to sing.  I have the right to talk.  I have the right to go to market.  I have the right to speak up.”

Fortunately, more and more girls themselves are beginning to object and because many of these marriages are arranged out of love and concern for the child and a fear of stepping outside tradition rather than any cruel motive, more and more parents are also listening to their daughters.

If you have time today perhaps you’d like to read what Desmond Tutu and Ela Bhatt said about this last Thursday – Today, A Promise to Girls.

Or maybe you’d like to watch this short video about one girl’s stand against marriage – and her family’s surprising reaction –

Or maybe you’d have time to see what Mary Robinson and others have to say about child brides –

If you have a minute you might go onto the Amnesty USA page to send a message of protest about the shooting of Malala Yousafzai.

Even if you haven’t got time to do any of those things maybe you’d just think about the problem of girl brides and talk to others about it so that gradually we can all become aware and support those little girls when they say ‘no’.

Not Sure What Will Happen When I Send This…

Hello to anybody who gets this.  I hope you are all well.  Some time ago I changed the address of my blog and made a bit of a mess of it.  Then, on top of that, I haven’t been able to post much for the past while for one reason or another.  Anyway – just in case you wondered that’s the story.  As a result of the move if you were subscribed in the past you may no longer be subscribed.  Now that may be a great relief to you and if so – no worries!  If, however, you’d like to subscribe just go onto and re-subscribe…if you want to…if you get this…if this doesn’t disappear into the ether as well.

Best wishes to you all.


Love As Separation

We see love as a coming together.  A uniting.  And that, of course, is true.  As an end result.

But what is the nature of love?  (Don’t worry, I’m not really expecting an answer – yet…)

I’m pretty sure that love isn’t what most of the notions about it flying around in the world describe.  In particular, I’m certain that the idea of love as a process whereby we are completed by somebody else is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous.

The feeling that we have when we are ‘met’ by someone.  When we are actually seen for who we really are and loved by the person who sees us, is a very potent feeling and one that can delude us into thinking that it is this process that calls us into being in some way. That isn’t true.

We are whole and discrete units unto ourselves.  Nobody outside of us – not our lovers or friends or children or even our parents (and to be honest they might come closest) can fill the gaps or substitute for the parts of ourselves we need to grow in order to be whole. This belief that somewhere there is someone – or indeed something (money, drugs, sex, success) – that can effect our ‘completion’ puts this necessary step out of our own control.

It isn’t only that this approach to love isn’t a nice, modern or independent idea, it’s more that it can’t work.  This approach is more likely to result in an unhealthy hybrid outcome – an entity made from borrowed and mismatched pieces rather than a beautiful and healthy relationship that can function as a powerhouse and engine of change and good and growth for all those involved.

So the first step towards love is separateness.  I have to see my separateness and become who I am and find ways to fill my own lacks and you have to do exactly the same and then we can come together.  Once we are sure we are separate we don’t suffer from jealousy or domination or the need to be in control.

When we are children the situation is complex vis a vis our togetherness and our separateness and just as we are growing physically we are also growing in this way.  We start off being attached, literally, to another person and our journey through childhood is a journey of separation and detachment as well as a myriad other things.

But once we are adults – regardless of the childhood that has created us – we are separate. When we are adults, if a person we love leaves we will be sad, we may even be distraught but we won’t be broken – because we can’t be.  They weren’t completing us – no matter what it felt like.  At best, they were papering over the cracks and that might not be great but when your heart is broken and you’ve been abandoned, one way or another, there is comfort in knowing that whatever else has happened no part of you has been taken away.

Because you have all the parts of yourself.  Even if you can’t always see them.

The job of completion is yours and mine alone.

There’s no denying that it’s a much nicer place when we help each other to do that – and maybe that is love.  Or part of love.  Or a type of love.

Here are a few interesting recent blog posts on various aspects of love that might help us all in our ongoing struggle to find out exactly what this elusive, seductive essence might be.

On Compassion and Control Freaks

Expectations and Vulnerability

I Hate To Tell You this Mom, but… 

Differentiation, Love and Living with Integrity

The Houla Massacre

This last post may seem an unlikely reference given the context, but I think this post graphically describes the lack of love.  It isn’t just that we don’t have chocolates and flowers if we don’t have love – the consequences are much more serious than that.  And sometimes we need to see clearly what something isn’t before we can understand what it is.

There are many, many more posts on this subject that I have read but can’t remember right now –  if you wrote one, or know of one, please don’t hesitate to link (self-referring is positively encouraged!).

So? Anybody Interested in Changing the World?

The people who don’t believe the world can be changed will say there’s no way it can be done.

They’ll say there’s no point.

They’ll ask you – ‘Who do you think you are?’

Ignore them.

The people who think the world can be changed will be willing to keep trying things until we work out how to attempt it.

This is a very interesting talk by Clay Shirky on how we all might start to change the world and how some people have already started…

and just to add to your tool-box –

And finally – a more recent talk by Clay Shirky – this is longer (but will download as a podcast from the Big Ideas site – here – Clay Shirky – Cognitive Surplus, so you can listen later) and it is really a very good sweeping look at the ‘new’ media.